In the first few minutes of the fourth quarter of Thursday’s America East tournament semifinal against Binghamton, UMBC had watched a 10-6 advantage dwindle down to 10-9. It eerily reminded coach Don Zimmerman of the regular-season meeting on April 6 when the Retrievers couldn’t hold onto a 6-4 halftime lead and route to a 13-7 loss.
But UMBC, the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, went on a 4-0 run to cement a 16-10 victory over the second-seeded Bearcats (7-8) and advance to Saturday’s tournament final.
Asked on Friday morning if he had a feeling of déjà vu, Zimmerman said, “You can’t help but let that creep into your thoughts, but I have a lot of confidence in this team. One thing this team has done is it has learned from our previous outings. I think there was such a sense of determination in that huddle, that we were going to turn things around. I was very, very confident when I just saw and felt how the players were reacting to that. I mentioned that we had to show a lot of poise down the stretch, which they did, but it’s really the players who took control and won the ball game.”
The Retrievers (8-6) were powered by the starting attack of senior Matt Gregoire (South River), sophomore Nate Lewnes (St. Mary’s) and freshman Max Maxwell. That trio totaled 10 goals and six assists – a far cry from their combined three-goal, two-assist effort in the earlier setback to Binghamton.
“I thought Matt Gregoire really stepped up as a leader both on the field and at our pre-game meal,” Zimmerman said. “He asked to speak to the team, and he really gave them an inspirational message. So I think our mindset was different and the determination really played a huge part in that attack unit being much more productive.”
UMBC earned another shot at No. 13 and reigning tournament champion Albany (10-5), which outlasted Stony Brook, 17-16, in overtime on Thursday night. The Great Danes won the regular-season meeting, 18-14, on April 19 thanks to a 7-2 advantage in the first quarter, and Zimmerman said the team has to avoid a repeat of that predicament.
“In our first meeting, Albany jumped out to an early and commanding lead, and we have to be ready to come out like we did yesterday,” he said. “We have to have possessions and take advantage of our possessions. We can’t afford to have a slow start.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun