Even before UMBC's 8-7 loss to Penn at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville on Tuesday night, the team knew its season had a definitive ending point.
Saturday's 14-10 setback at America East rival Vermont left the Retrievers with a 0-4 record in the conference and the knowledge that they had been eliminated from contention for the league tournament. It was a sobering pill to swallow, said coach Don Zimmerman.
"Our guys know we're not going to make the tournament, and we're all disappointed," he said Thursday morning. "But we still have two games left. We have our last away conference game [on Saturday] at UMass Lowell, a place we've never played. We know they're a good team. They're a young team, but they're well-coached, and they'll be ready for us. And then we have to finish up at home against [No. 6] Albany, which wears the crown, and it will be our Senior Day. We may be out of contention for the tournament, but there's still plenty to play for, and we're playing for pride."
After qualifying for the America East tournament for 11 consecutive years, the program will miss the playoff for the second year in a row. But UMBC battled the Quakers (7-5), who have already clinched a berth in the Ivy League tournament, with three possessions to send Tuesday's contest into overtime.
"I thought we played one of our most consistent games," Zimmerman said. "Our other losses, we've had episodes where we just kind of let things get away from us. Whether it be a quarter or a 10-minute segment of a game, we just allowed the game to get away from us. I thought we were pretty consistent from start to finish. They're a good team, and we had a chance down the stretch to take the lead. We unfortunately turned the ball over and gave them the opportunity to get that winning goal."
But the Retrievers' play didn't translate into a win, and Zimmerman acknowledged that the growing number of losses has been frustrating.
"It always comes down to doing the little things," he said. "With the mistakes that we made, they were the little things that we work on. Their winning goal came as a result of us trying to run through a double team versus finding and hitting the open man. When you're clearing the ball, you're spread out, and if you turn the ball over, it's a pretty good opportunity for your opponent to come in and get a transition goal. So that was disappointing, but I've got to give our guys credit. We're really just playing for pride right now."