UMBC's 2014 campaign has been separated into five segments, according to coach Don Zimmerman.
The first phase encompassed the first four games of the season, the second involved the second four contests, and the third entails the five America East regular-season games.
The fourth and fifth groups include the America East and NCAA tournaments, respectively, but the Retrievers (4-4) are concentrating on opening conference play against Stony Brook (4-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
“The guys know that this is the key stage,” Zimmerman said on Tuesday morning. “We broke our season up into five stages, and this is the beginning of stage three, which is the America East regular-season games. Guys came out yesterday and were excited. We had a very good practice to start off the work week. This morning, we started at 6 a.m., and I thought the guys had another very good and productive practice. The guys know that when it comes to conference play, you throw out all the records and every game is going to be very competitive. We have a lot of respect for Stony Brook. They’re a good ballclub, and we’ve got to keep moving in the right direction.”
Of the six teams in the league, only Vermont (5-3) will begin play in the America East with a winning record. UMBC is one of three programs with .500 marks along with Hartford (4-4) and No. 12 Albany (3-3), which is the reigning conference tournament champion.
The Retrievers snapped a two-game skid with a 17-7 rout of Mount St. Mary’s on Saturday, and Zimmerman said he is encouraged as the program attempts to qualify for its 11th America East tournament in as many years.
“I think we’re continuing to work hard,” he said. “Our guys are improving. I’ve always felt like our effort has been good, and certainly that goes a long way out in the improvement area. I think their confidence is growing because they can see themselves improving, and we still haven’t put together a complete game. I think we’re still scratching the surface. Both the players and coaches feel like there’s a lot left to improve on and we’re excited about that.”