With a 1-0 win against New Hampshire on Saturday, the UMBC men’s soccer team is in position for its first America East regular-season title since 2003.
The Retrievers, who moved from No. 7 to No. 5 in the latest Top Drawer Soccer’s national rankings published Monday, improved to 12-1-1 overall and 3-0-1 in the league and leapfrogged the Wildcats for first place in the conference. It’s a comforting feeling for the program, which has finished second place twice in the last three years.
“It was a good win, a great win because they play a very defensive style of soccer,” coach Pete Caringi said Monday morning of New Hampshire, which dropped to 9-4-0 overall and 3-1-0 in the league. “They were in first place, and going into the game, we didn’t build it up as the biggest game of the year. We just said it was an important game, and obviously, our guys knew that they were in first place. And I thought we played our best soccer overall. That was the most important thing. We want to get better late in October, and I thought we played a full, 90-minute game.”
UMBC has three more America East games left on the schedule, but the Retrievers appear to be in control of their postseason fate. But Caringi was quick to note that nothing is set in stone yet.
“We still have three more games, so we’re taking the right approach,” he said. “That was a game, and now we’re getting ready for Binghamton. You want to finish in first place because you want to get that bye, but having been around this league a long time, it always seems to be decided on the last day. We want to put ourselves in position to get that bye because of the travel in this conference. You want to finish in first place because that’s the goal at the beginning of the year. So to be there today is great, but we want to be there in a couple weeks.”
The Retrievers’ three opponents -- Binghamton, UMass Lowell and Stony Brook -- are a combined 3-6-3 in the conference and 11-26-5 overall. Meanwhile, the Wildcats still have games against Albany, Binghamton and Vermont, who have a combined record of 4-5-3 in the league and 14-18-10 overall.
But Caringi said there is no plan to take it easy for the rest of the schedule.
“You would think it would play in your favor, but if you look all around the country, you see teams playing in their conferences and I think the biggest problem that most teams have is they look at conference records, and they go, ‘Well, obviously, they’re not having a good year,’” he said. “When you see conference games around the country, you always see upsets because teams play a lot better when they’re playing against one another in-conference because they’re familiar with one another. So I think we’re mature enough and smart enough this year that we’re not going to look at records.”