Even though Jack Andrews and Nate Lewnes grew up in Arnold and graduated from St. Mary's, the attackmen had not played together until this season at UMBC. So pardon Andrews if there was a starstruck quality to his voice when asked about playing alongside Lewnes.
"I went to the same high school as him, but I never was on varsity with him," Andrews, a freshman, said after the Retrievers' 14-11 victory at Mount St. Mary's on Tuesday night. "I'd say our chemistry's pretty good. So it's going well."
The same could certainly be said for Lewnes. The senior scored six goals against the Mountaineers, and his final tally with 10 minutes, 34 seconds left in the third quarter gave him 100 for his career, making him the 12th player in program history to reach that milestone.
"It's really meaningful," said Lewnes, who has scored 23 of his 24 goals this season in the team's past six games after returning from a bout with mononucleosis. "It's been an awesome experience here at UMBC, and I give all the credit to my teammates. They make it happen. I'm just glad to be a part of the team."
Coach Don Zimmerman sounded appreciative of Lewnes' performance, but noted that he also picked up four ground balls, which was tied for the second most among the Retrievers (3-7).
"I thought he was great," Zimmerman said. "He's a terrific player coming off a month without playing with the mono. Just really stepped up. Nate's doing a great job. He's a terrific player and captain. You saw the goals, but he had some big-time ground balls early that helped get us those goals."
Circling back to "Three Things to Watch" …
1) Mount St. Mary's man-up offense. After going just 1-for-6 in Friday's 15-10 setback at Bucknell, the extra-man unit converted just one of four chances against UMBC. Unlike Friday's loss, the Mountaineers (5-5) did not waste the opportunities by committing turnovers, but the inability to finish those situations is a recent issue for a man-up offense that had gone 50 percent (10-for-20) in its first eight contests.
"Tonight, we got shots. We just didn't finish them," Mount coach Tom Gravante said. "Some of the shots we actually took might have been some of the pipe shots that created a ground ball situation and off they went. That's something I can't coach. We will continue to shoot more in practice and hopefully, we will do what I'm looking for in terms of getting hands free, taking high-to-low shots within 10 yards."
2) UMBC's faceoff unit. The Retrievers, who entered the game having won just 33.5 percent (71 of 212) of their draws, claimed just 28 percent (7-for-25) Tuesday night. But the numbers disguised their ability to force Mount St. Mary's into turnovers after faceoff wins. For instance, in the first quarter, the Mountaineers won three of six draws, but UMBC caused turnovers on two that the offense converted into goals to fuel a 5-0 run spanning the first two periods.
"We've told our guys this," Zimmerman said. "Sometimes statistics can be a little misleading. We said, 'Look, even if their faceoff guy gets the ball, let's stay on him.' We've worked on switching and everything. I thought our guys were aggressive and put the ball back on the ground."
3) Mount St. Mary's defense. In their first three losses, the Mountaineers had allowed an average of 9.7 goals. Now in back-to-back setbacks, the defense has surrendered 29 goals. Senior goalkeeper Frankie McCarthy made just five saves, which could be an issue. But UMBC found gaps too easily in the defense, and Gravante said Mount St. Mary's must make some corrections before Saturday's Northeast Conference showdown with Hobart.
"We just have to do a better job with execution on that end of the field," he said. "Look, [Lewnes] might have hit us for one big shot on the outside on the extra-man, but they're throwing it in tight to him and we're not covering up a kid like that quick enough where he's going to finish. A kid like that with the stick that he has, he's going to finish. Our commitment to execute and how quickly we need to get to spots and get on hands, we need to speed up that process."