Undefeated after 11 games, the UMBC men's soccer team wonders where its ranking is.
It almost arrived this week. The Retrievers (10-0-1) gained votes in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll but not enough to make the top 25.
Maintaining the school-record unbeaten streak and winning the Northeast Conference lead UMBC's priorities. Yet the players crave national recognition.
"We talk about it. It'd be great," said junior midfielder Matt Gormley (Whitman). "It's an incentive for us to continue playing well."
The Retrievers' schedule is holding up the process of acclamation. The fact that they've played one regionally ranked team, LaSalle, suggests something of a soft slate. On the other hand, UMBC foes Howard and UNLV beat No. 19-ranked Jacksonville and then-ranked Gonzaga, respectively.
Practicality also justifies any indignation UMBC might have. A ranking encourages an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament if UMBC loses in the NEC postseason tournament.
UMBC is one success story in what has been a solid season for college soccer in Maryland. Men's teams from Johns Hopkins (8-1-0) and Salisbury State (8-1-0), ranked No. 10 and 15, respectively, in Division III, meet at Homewood Field today.
The No. 12 Hopkins women (11-2-1) battle with Western Maryland (7-2) for first place in the Centennial Conference. In Division I, Loyola's women (7-2) and men (6-3-1) are having strong seasons. So are Towson's men (5-1-3).
UMBC men's coach Pete Caringi said the increasing success of youth programs in developing local talent has strengthened area college teams.
"It used to be that all the teams were nationally ranked, back in the '70s," Caringi said. "In the 1980s, there may have been a bit of a downward trend, but now, everyone's doing well again."
Lambert to retire
Coach Ward Lambert, winner of more than 400 men's basketball games at Salisbury State, will retire at the end of the upcoming season, his 30th.
Lambert, 61, has the second-longest tenure of any two-year or four-year college coach in Maryland, behind Mount St. Mary's Jim Phelan, who has been coaching 45 seasons.
Lambert's decision was revealed earlier this week but made long before then. After the 1991-92 season in which the Sea Gulls went 28-2 and were ranked second in Division III, he and his wife, Sally, started thinking about retirement. She wanted him to quit in five years; he wanted to quit in 10. They settled on eight.
"I'm not ready to retire, but it's time to let someone else do it," he said. "My wife said it's a young man's game; give someone else the chance to get in there."
Since then, Lambert's teams have a 416-350 record, with five NCAA tournament appearances and quarterfinal play in 1992 and 1997.
"I've done it. The die is cast," he said. "It's kind of scary, because I have no plans."