Ryan Moran is having the kind of problem any coach would love to have. He is trying to keep his Giant Killer U. players focused.
His UMBC Retrievers staged the upset of the college lacrosse season last Friday with an 11-7 win against previously unbeaten Albany, which had been the No. 1 ranked team for six consecutive weeks.
About three weeks earlier, UMBC pulled off what many believe to be the biggest upset in NCAA men's Division I college basketball tournament history with a 74-54 blowout win over No. 1 Virginia.
The lacrosse team isn't getting the same kind of recognition that the basketball team received, but it has received a lot of attention on social media. Students on campus are excited about the team and Moran has received tweets from UMBC president Freeman A. Hrabowski III.
"On Monday, we talked about entering reality again," said Moran, in his second season. "We talked about how to handle success, to maintain discipline and continue to be properly motivated. We want to stay true to our blue print and not listen to all the noise. That blue print includes being humble, maintaining the blue collar approach and not giving in to distractions."
Moran knows he has to walk a fine line. This is a great time in the school's athletic history. The Retrievers are hot. The lacrosse team appeared on ESPN's SportsCenter and then on Pardon the Interruption with Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon.
A lot of the recruits from the classes of 2018 and 2019 have been contacting Moran. If they didn't know about UMBC months ago, they know about the Retrievers now. A win over the No. 1 team in the country can do as much as a hundred phone calls and numerous visits and text messages to undecided players.
It's a good week to be a Retriever.
It will be a better week if the Retrievers win Saturday on the road against Binghamton.
"We're in that position right now where we can't be content on winning that one game," said junior captain and defenseman Jason Brewster Jr. "We've got to win the next three to put us in position to win the American East conference tournament and hopefully give ourselves a chance to get into the playoffs."
The Retrievers (3-7, 1-2) finished 6-8 under Moran last season. They haven't won back to back games since beating Marist and Stony Brook on March 11th and March 18th last season and haven't won a game on the road in two years including a 0-5 mark this season.
Moran knew he had to rebuild a program. He was left with only 38 players on the roster and would like to have 48. Eight of his current players are sophomores and 14 are freshmen. Injuries have forced him to play with only three healthy attackmen.
So, he is stressing to his players to get on a hot streak like the basketball team going into the post season.
"We have used the basketball team as a little model of motivation for us this season," said Moran. "They had some ups and some downs but had some steady improvement and they improved at the right time. I've had experiences at other places where I coached where the teams saved their best for last. Our basketball team did that and we want to peak at the right time."
Moran saw significant growth in his team against Albany (10-1 overall, 3-1 American East). The week before, the Retrievers had lost 10-7 on the road to the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. The Retrievers had a two-goal lead in the game with six minutes remaining.
"I've never been a part of a collapse like that," Moran said. "That's been the low point of this program since I've been here. But then to come back the next week against Albany and secure the game the way we did as far as clock management and awareness, it was much like an NFL game in the last two minutes. In hindsight, we learned a lot in the last two weeks."
The Retrievers won't be able to put the Albany game completely away until after the season. They stymied one of the game's hottest offenses, minus injured attackman Connor Fields, that was averaging 15.4 goals a game. The Retrievers got 16 saves from freshman goalie Tommy Lingner and they didn't have a failed clearing attempt.
"Last year we held them to 10 goals, probably their lowest goal total all season," Moran said. "It wasn't like this was a team we didn't hold to low numbers before. We wanted to make them earn their scores and we had a belief we could compete with them, we just had to put together a full offensive game which we did."
The victory touched off a wild celebration and Brewster said he was in shock. Because of Albany's explosive offense and comebacks against Cornell and Maryland, he didn't think the game was over until 30 seconds remained.
Moran was having a coach's nightmare. He didn't feel comfortable until 27 seconds were left on the clock after realizing the Great Danes had to score one goal every six seconds just to tie. Moran was so hyped up afterwards he got into his car almost immediately with his coaching gear still on.
Now, it's a matter of mixing the past with the future.
"If we beat Binghamton, Hartford and Vermont, we will probably be the number two seed," Moran said of the American East tournament. "If we lose one, we may not get in."
"It's very cool to be able to put something together like that especially with the basketball team who pulled that off three weeks ago," Brewster said. "It was exciting to go tailgate with the parents because they were excited. I don't want to dwell on the past but it is a memory to hold onto forever. It's something I never experienced before but I am glad I experienced it with this team."
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