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Defense for UMBC men’s lacrosse team stifles Hartford in 8-3 victory

Senior long-stick midfielder Billy O'Hara (right, #33) and his defensive teammates on the UMBC men's lacrosse team shut out Hartford for 35:07 and gave up only one goal in the final 40:59 to power the Retrievers to an 8-3 win Saturday.
Senior long-stick midfielder Billy O'Hara (right, #33) and his defensive teammates on the UMBC men's lacrosse team shut out Hartford for 35:07 and gave up only one goal in the final 40:59 to power the Retrievers to an 8-3 win Saturday. (Gail Burton / HANDOUT)

Entering Saturday's men's lacrosse game against Hartford, UMBC had been allowing the eighth-fewest goals per game in Division I.

When the statistics for all 69 teams are updated after the weekend, the Retrievers might find themselves moving into the top five in the nation. UMBC harassed its America East rival into a season-low three goals and pulled away in the second half for an 8-3 victory before an announced 1,380 at UMBC Stadium.

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The win impoved UMBC to 5-7 overall and 3-2 in the conference, setting up a winner-take-all scenario Friday when the team visits Vermont (10-3, 3-2). The winning team of that game will clinch a berth in the four-team America East tournament set to begin May 3, while the losing team will spend the postseason at home.

Towson’s offense was consistently inconsistent again, and the Tigers still beat Delaware in men's lacrosse Saturday because of a clutch fourth period.

The Retrievers are riding a three-game winning streak – the program's longest since a four-game run in 2011 – courtesy of a defense that has emerged as one of the toughest to score against. The unit has surrendered 12 goals during the stretch, including only seven in an upset of then-No. 1 Albany on April 6.

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"It's a work in progress, and I think it's coming to a very good point right now," senior long-stick midfielder Billy O'Hara (South River) said. "I think we've just got to keep doing what we're doing. Obviously, our game plan is working. So we're just going to keep trying to get better and hold them to one goal if possible."

After senior attackman Griffin Feiner converted a pass from junior midfielder Dylan Jinks to lift the Hawks (3-9, 0-5) into a 2-2 tie with 10:59 left in the second quarter, they went scoreless for the next 35:07 and scored only one goal in the final 40:59.

UMBC freshman attackman Steven Zichelli (Severna Park) led all scorers with three goals. Junior midfielder Billy Nolan (Arundel) and junior attackman Jack Andrews (St. Mary's) contributed one goal and two assists each, and senior midfielder Max Haldeman came off the bench to chip in one goal and one assist.

The Retrievers badgered Hartford into committing a season-worst 20 turnovers and failing on four of 20 clears. That negated the 12-for-15 advantage the Hawks had on faceoffs.

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O'Hara had four caused turnovers and one ground ball, while freshman goalkeeper Tommy Lingner made nine saves for a .750 save percentage.

Feiner, who entered the game with team highs in both goals (36) and points (52), was limited to one goal and one assist by sophomore defenseman Nick Griffin (Liberty). Senior attackman Justin Huggins, who had scored 29 goals, scored only once while being marked by senior defenseman John Tornabene (Archbishop Curley). And senior attackman Rion Davison, who had 15 goals and a team-leading 19 assists, was shut out by senior defenseman Jason Brewster.

UMBC, which has not been shy about rotating between man-to-man and zone defense, stuck with its man-to-man schemes against Hartford.

“We said we wanted to come out man-to-man and see how we fare matching up with some of their guys,” UMBC coach Ryan Moran said. “During the game, we were winning a lot of them. So we said, ‘Hey, if it’s not broken, don’t fix it.’ There was definitely a couple times as a staff, we asked, ‘Hey, should we throw some zone at them?’ But looking at the scoreboard, there was only one goal and then two goals, and we were like, ‘Well, it’s definitely not broke.’ So we were going to stick with it.”

The defense has surrendered 10 or more goals in only three games this season, and all were losses. Tornabene said the defense did not lose its confidence in each other.

“Back in the fall, we kind of knew the talent that we had with a lot of experience coming back,” he said. “We knew what we could do. It was just playing to our potential. Earlier in the season, we didn’t hold teams to under whatever we’re doing right now, but I thought we still played well. As a defense, we decided that we’ve got to step up even more to help other parts of our team out. That’s just the mentality we’ve had going forward. We’ve just had to buckle down and try to fix everything possible.”

Hartford 1 1 0 1 — 3

UMBC 2 2 2 2 — 8

Goals: H—Feiner, Huggins, O’Brien; U—S.Zichelli 3, Andrews, Baucia, Haldeman, Kalas, Nolan. Assists: H—Feiner, Jinks, O’Brien; U—Andrews 2, Nolan 2, Haldeman. Saves: H—Vanderford 10, Ferraro 0; U—Lingner 9, Pisanic 0.

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