A UMBC men’s soccer team that leads Division I in winning percentage at .895 (16-1-2) and is ranked sixth in the most recent RPI rankings and National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll may not have needed much motivation for the upcoming NCAA tournament.
But the selection committee certainly added fuel to the Retrievers’ fire by giving them the last of 16 seeds. After a first-round bye, the team will play Sunday against either Quinnipiac (9-4-7) or Connecticut (11-2-6) in a second-round game, but coach Pete Caringi Jr. said the team won't forget the snub.
“You use it as positive energy because I think across the board, we’re all upset,” he said Monday. “I think everyone here at school is upset. This is one of those rare years in school history. ... The whole school has been behind us. The place was packed today for the announcement. So I think today, we’re in a little bit of shock, but I think tomorrow, we go into using that as any kind of advantage to get ready to play. At the end of the day, you’re going to have to play a really good team, and that’s what you’ve got to put all your energy into. You can’t sit here being mad on Sunday. They can use it as motivation, but nothing’s going to change it.”
If UMBC wins Sunday, the team could meet top-seeded UCLA (11-3-4) in the third round. It’s a daunting challenge that would include a draining cross-country flight to play on Dec. 1, but Carinigi said he is sure that the players would welcome that task.
“I think this is a very tight-knit group,” he said. “It’s a group that is not going to be intimidated by who we play. We have a lot of pride in our team and who we represent.”