Saturday’s 2-1 win in double overtime against George Washington helped the UMBC men’s soccer team tie the second-best start in school history – a 9-0-0 record that the 2009 squad posted.
The Retrievers, who are ranked No. 11 in the most recent Continental Tire/National Soccer Coaches Association of America Coaches’ poll, are also in the midst of an 18-game unbeaten streak (15-0-3) that is the longest since the 2009 team went 19-0-2 in the regular season. Those accolades are nice, but coach Pete Caringi Jr. more is at stake than just a winning streak.
“It’s somewhat meaningful,” Caringi said Monday evening of the perfect record. “For [fifth-year senior goalkeeper] Phil Saunders, it was only five years ago when that happened. So it’s still fresh for some of them. It’s not like it was a record from 20 or 30 years ago. Some of these guys were in the program when it happened. The thing about that was, I think we got caught up into that streak, and then when we lost, it took a lot of wind out of our sails. So we’re proud of what we’ve done so far, but I think we understand. It’s a much more mature group. The streak is one thing, but it’s not something that we’re going to get so wrapped up into. ... We understand the historic significance of it, but we just want to play every game and do well and continue to play winning soccer. I think the main focus for us is, the conference is coming up, and I’ve said all along that we want to play our best soccer at the end of October. I think that’s more important to me than a winning streak.”
Maintaining the team’s perfect opening has become more difficult lately. After winning the first four contests by 3-1 outcomes and the fifth game by a 4-1 score, UMBC has won three of its last four contests by one goal – including two in double overtime.
The recent trend of narrow victories may cut a little too close for comfort for Caringi and the players, but he also noted that he is pleased to see the team’s perseverance shine through.
“I think it says a lot about the character of the group,” he said. “They know how to win. But realistically, we weren’t going to be able to continue to win 3-1 games. I think there are tapes of our games, and people have adjusted to us. I think there’s a lot of respect when someone comes in and they’re playing eight or nine players in the back just to stop our attack. I think we understand that. The further you go into October, everyone has kind of adjusted their games because of a lot of scouting reports out there. There’s one part of me that says that they have a lot of respect for us. There’s another part of me that says as a team, we have to adjust, too. [Senior forward] Pete [Caringi III, who is tied for the Division I lead in goals with nine] was scoring a lot of goals early, and teams have come here to UMBC doing everything they can to stop him and our offense, and we’ve had other players step up. So I think that says a lot about the character of the group, that we have more than one or two players that can score goals. If you try to stop us in one way, we can be successful in other ways.”