Maryland coach John Tillman has already voiced his intention to go with Wednesday night’s home contest against UMBC as planned despite the impending approach of a storm forecast to dump as much as eight inches of snow on the Washington, D.C. area. Retrievers coach Don Zimmerman feels the same way.
“We scheduled to play this game, and the guys want to play,” Zimmerman said Tuesday afternoon. “When you have a chance to play the No. 1 team in the country in a venue like Byrd Stadium, that’s what kids dream about. We know it’s going to be a challenge, but that’s why we do what we do. So there’s no part of me that says, ‘Perhaps this game won’t be played.’ I’m moving forward, my staff is moving forward, and the team’s moving forward to play this game.”
Wednesday’s game kicks off a three-day span in which UMBC meets the top-ranked Terps (4-0) in College Park and then No. 10 Johns Hopkins (3-1) in Baltimore on Friday evening. It’s an arduous and ambitious stretch – a fact that Zimmerman conceded.
“It does [put UMBC behind the eight ball], no doubt about it,” he said. “It was scheduled for Tuesday-Saturday and then [Blue Jays] Coach [Dave] Pietramala called me and said, ‘If we bump our game to Friday night, we can play live on ESPNU.’ I said, ‘Well, that’s a no-brainer. Tuesday-Friday, it works.’ And then six weeks later, Coach Tillman called me and said, ‘Listen, if we bump to Wednesday, we can play live on ESPNU.’ I didn’t right off the bat say yes. I thought about it, I talked with my staff, I talked to [athletic director] Dr. [Charles] Brown, and it’s an opportunity to give our program some exposure, our university some exposure. I think kids are more resilient than sometimes we are led to believe. And so I went for it.”
Zimmerman said Thursday’s practice will just be a walkthrough for the players. But he pointed out that the two teams that are fortunate enough to advance to the national champion game on Memorial Day weekend must survive a similar process, playing the semifinal on Saturday and the final on Monday.
“It’s all part of the big picture,” Zimmerman said. “Not only putting this team through a rigorous first half of the season, but also preparing for life and realizing there are going to be times when they’re going to have to handle adversity that’s tougher than this. It’s a lot to bite off, but I’m confident my kids can handle it. If I didn’t think my kids could handle it both from a physical and mental standpoint, I wouldn’t have done it. With that said, it’s a heck of a challenge.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun