UMBC women's soccer locks up first America East tournament berth in eight years

Sunday’s double-overtime loss to America East foe UMass Lowell did not help, but ultimately, it did not hurt the UMBC women’s soccer team, either.

That’s because Vermont lost, 2-0, to Hartford, which paved the way for the Retrievers to clinch a spot in the six-team America East tournament, the program’s first postseason berth since 2005.

UMBC (9-5-2, 4-2) is tied with Stony Brook (9-5-1, 4-2) for third place in the conference with 12 points and can finish no worse than sixth. But if the team wins against either league-leading Hartford (10-4-3, 5-2) on Thursday night or New Hampshire (4-6-6, 2-1-3) on Sunday, the Retrievers will earn a quarterfinal berth at Retriever Soccer Park in Catonsville next Thursday.

“I think we’re extremely excited, but we’re taking it game by game, and with each game, there’s another goal,” coach Leslie Wray said Thursday afternoon. “We were saying that we want to make it to the America East tournament. Now I think we have an opportunity to play for a home game and maybe even a bye. That’s our next goal. So we keep climbing the ladder, and we want to keep improving on the opportunity that we have to be as successful as we can with a win in the America East tournament.”

UMBC has a shot at earning a bye by upsetting Hartford. A win Thursday night would lift the Retrievers into a tie with the Hawks with 15 points, but UMBC would have one more conference game left and would hold the head-to-head tiebreaker over Hartford.

“I feel like this game is the decider,” Wray said. “This game is really going to catapult us into having a good seed in the America East tournament. I think if we don’t [win], we’re still in. We just really have to fight for a home bid. But I think this is the decider, with two of the top teams in the conference going head to head.”

The Retrievers will play without freshman midfielder Megan Kowalski (bruised lateral collateral ligament), who has one goal and three assists in 11 starts this fall. But Wray said the team has no intention of folding.

“It’s just full steam ahead,” she said. “We’ve been like that from the get-go. Every game is a winnable game, and we’re going to treat every game like it’s our last. We’re not holding back. We’re going to keep attacking. That’s the kind of mentality we’ve had from the beginning of the season.”

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