Don Zimmerman

UMBC coach Don Zimmerman claps during his team's game against Johns Hopkins last month. (Kim Hairston, Baltimore Sun / March 8, 2014)

With Sunday's game at America East rival Binghamton, UMBC has a shot at earning a 2-0 start in the conference for the ninth time in 11 years. Those 2-0 starts have been critical to the program's success in the league.

The Retrievers have parlayed back-to-back wins in America East play into regular-season championships and the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. The Retrievers (5-4 overall and 1-0 in the league) still have to tangle with No. 19 Albany (4-4, 1-0), Vermont (5-4, 0-1) and Hartford (4-6, 0-1), but coach Don Zimmerman agreed that going 2-0 in the America East would be significant.

“I think the one thing we knew going in and now some of our younger players have experienced this whole conference play thing, it’s just a whole different level of demands and expectations and knowing that each and every game is so important,” he said Thursday morning. “It really boils down to a five-game season when we start to do the round robin. And if you have a five-game season, obviously every game is very, very important. There’s no doubt that it’s great to start off being 1-0 and after the first week, there are three teams that are 1-0 and three teams that are 0-1. This next week is really huge as far as being able to come back and continuing to play well at Binghamton.”

UMBC has won 12 of 14 meetings with the Bearcats, but they edged Hartford on Saturday and battled No. 8 Syracuse to a 10-8 loss on Wednesday. Zimmerman said the Retrievers should be prepared for a tough matchup with Binghamton.

“They had a great road win at Hartford,” he said. “Last night, they gave everything that Syracuse could handle in the Dome. As we expected, this team has gotten better and better as the season has progressed. So to have an opportunity to go up there and play at Binghamton – which is always tough – to come away with a win would be huge.”