Wednesday’s entry is the third in a series looking at each of the seven Division I programs in the state according to their order of finish from last season. The Baltimore Sun’s men’s lacrosse preview is scheduled to be published Friday, Feb. 9. Tuesday’s visit was with Mount St. Mary’s. This is UMBC’s turn.
Overview: The Retrievers fell short of achieving a .500 record last spring, but their 6-8 mark featured their highest win total in three years. And the team went 4-2 in the America East to secure the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament for the first time since 2014 before losing to Binghamton in the semifinals. UMBC was voted by league coaches in the America East’s preseason poll to finish fourth behind favorite Albany, Stony Brook and Vermont.
Reason for optimism: After returning seven of 10 starters in 2017, the Retrievers welcome back eight starters for this season.
That group includes the entire first midfield and starting close defense. The seasoning those players gained from last year’s schedule could prove instrumental for Ryan Moran, who will begin his second season as head coach.
“I definitely think we bring back some experience with some guys that have been able to play and been able to log some minutes,” he said. “I know they’re eager to start getting at it, but I think the big challenge with that is keeping them hungry and not letting them sit on their skills and be complacent.”
Reason for pessimism: One of those starters who graduated was goalkeeper Ruston Souder (9.00 goals-against average, .496 save percentage), and his absence looms as a significant concern.
Vying to replace Souder, a Pasadena resident and Chesapeake-AA graduate, are senior David Pisanic and freshmen Tommy Lingner and Stephen Price. Pisanic, a Towson resident and Boys’ Latin graduate, has played in seven games (including two starts), but has not played since 20915. That’s why Moran is taking the high number of returning starters with a grain of salt.
“It is a benefit. Losing a goalie, though, you say it’s only two people, but when you lose a starting goalie, that definitely has maybe a little bit more of an impactful loss than some of the other positions,” he acknowledged.
Keep an eye on: Whoever the new goalie is, he can take some comfort in knowing that he will have an up-and-coming defense in front of him.
Last year’s unit ranked 19th in Division I, surrendering only 9.1 goals per game. And the defense will return junior defenseman Jason Brewster (24 ground balls, 16 caused turnovers), senior defenseman John Tornabene (24 GB, 15 CT) and senior long-stick midfielder Billy O’Hara (51 GB, 18 CT, one goal, one assist).
“They’re a very close-knit unit, and they work well together,” Moran said while praising defensive coordinator Jamison Koesterer for his work with the defense. “I think last year if you looked at us, we kind of did a good job on the defensive end, and I think this year, we’re going to count on those guys to do an equally good job, especially with a new goalie that they’re going to be in front of.”
What he said: Although a projected fourth-place finish in the America East preseason poll might seem insulting to a team that earned the No. 2 seed in last year’s conference tournament, it’s much better than being voted to finish last as UMBC was in 2017. Moran likes what he has seen from the players after last season’s success.
“I think we’re a very similar group to last year’s in terms of our approach and how we’re going to take things moving forward,” he said. “I think there’s been some steady individual improvement from everyone, which has hopefully improved our program and team. I guess the season will tell how much of an improvement we’ve created, and whether that reflects in wins and losses, we’ll see. But I’ve also got to believe that the teams we’re competing against – and especially the teams in our league – they’ve made some improvements as well. So we’re kind of in that period where I think we’re doing better, but compared to the field, it’s really the unknown.”