As we enter our post-Ravens world here at B’More Birds’ Nest, my first post is going to be on college lacrosse. I played lacrosse in high school (and some club in college), and I know that many of my fellow Ravens/Orioles faithful, being Marylanders, are also fans of “lax.” If you’re not, well, first off – you don’t know what you’re missing, but secondly, I’m sorry to hear that. Feel free to ignore any and all lax posts from here on out. We’ll get some more O’s-centric stuff going here shortly.
gif c/o 24seven.laxallstars.com
Just prior to faceoff Tuesday evening between the Maryland and UMBC (University of Maryland, Baltimore County) men’s lacrosse teams, I tweeted that I wouldn’t mind seeing my Alma mater (B.S. ’04, M.S. ’09) Retrievers knock off the heavily favored Terps. While I was confident that Maryland would be able to recover from an early season setback such as a loss in Catonsville, I also realized that Don Zimmerman’s team could use the confidence going forward. UMBC entered the contest at 1-2, with losses to Robert Morris (blegh) to start the year and a 10-9 overtime defeat at the hands of #17 Fairfield sandwiched around a win at Rutgers. Falling to 1-3 with a matchup looming against the #2 Johns Hopkins Blue Jays on Saturday at M&T Bank Stadium would put the squad squarely behind the eight ball before even beginning play in the tough America East conference.
As for Maryland, they had played better than most expected over their first few games, with decisive wins over Hartford, Georgetown, and #11 Duke. However, there had been times where the young Terps (only eight seniors on the roster) had shown flashes that their overachieving ways may be due to give way to some growing pains.
Tuesday night at UMBC though, those worries seemed to be quickly pushed aside as Maryland built a quick 3-0 lead, and sustained that margin through the half, which they entered leading 5-2. My hope of a Retriever upset seemed quite far-fetched, as UMBC struggled to find any offense through the game’s first 30 minutes.
However, after the half it was a different story.
Sophomore attackman Conor Finch (Boys’ Latin) fed Scott Hopmann (St. Mary’s) with 11:19 to go in the fourth to close the deficit to 6-4 before scoring himself to make the game 6-5 Terps with 9:24 to play.
For Maryland, we had seen glimpses of this kind of collapse before. Against Duke, they jumped out 5-1 in the first quarter and led 7-2 at halftime, and 9-3 at one point in the third quarter, before being outshot 25-6 by the Blue Devils in the second half and holding on by a 10-7 final.
When UMBC tied it up at six each just five seconds after Finch’s goal on a faceoff-to-net score by Phil Poe (DeMatha), the only question was whether the Retrievers would be able to, unlike Duke before them, finish off the comeback.
Zim’s squad answered with a resounding “yes” as two goals from Junior attackman Scott Jones put the home team up 8-6 with 6:08 to go. Despite going down a man twice over the game’s final six minutes, UMBC managed to hold on and edge out their cross-state rivals 8-7. It was UMBC’s first victory over the Terps since beating them in back-to-back regular season clashes in 2008 and 2009.
If the Retrievers can use this victory as a springboard to a Saturday upset over #2 Johns Hopkins, it would cap off one of the most memorable week’s in the program’s history. However, after watching the Retrievers completely dominate the faceoff circle (15/19) and clamp down on the potent Maryland attack, head coach Dave Pietramala and the Blue Jays won’t take UMBC lightly. Even if they fall to Hopkins, a solid showing should boost their confidence moving into America East play as they look to get into the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2009.
As for the Terps, they now have a chance to either prove me right about being able to rebound from this early season letdown, or to disappoint all of us by letting it derail their budding successes. With home matchups against unranked Marist and #12 Villanova before traveling to #8 North Carolina (reeling a bit in their own right at 4-2 after a loss to unranked Penn), how this young team responds to some adversity will be a huge factor as they begin to jockey for NCAA position going into April. They start next month at home against #1 Virginia – the team that knocked them off last Memorial Day in the NCAA Championship game – so things get a lot tougher very quickly.
After making 14 saves against Duke, Maryland sophomore goalkeeper Niko Amato managed only four against UMBC. He’ll have to put this sub-par performance behind him and see the ball a bit better moving forward. Just like the Terps’ men’s basketball team – which is also quite young – the name of the game for the lacrosse team needs to be consistency. They can’t keep playing like world beaters for 10-12 minutes at a time only to go into huge lulls for extended periods – it will take a string of solid 60-minute performances for Maryland to find themselves again taking the field on Championship weekend.