With scoring goals becoming an increasingly difficult task, the UMBC men’s lacrosse team is fully aware it cannot afford to waste high-percentage opportunities to dent the scoreboard.
But turnovers, inaccurate shots and missed chances can sink any offense, and those ingredients contributed to the host Retrievers absorbing a 7-6 loss to Stony Brook before an announced 456 at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville on Sunday afternoon.
Trailing 7-3 after three quarters, UMBC scored three goals in the first 4:57 of the final stanza to trim the deficit to a single goal. But the next four offensive possessions ended in a turnover, a shot that settled in the outside netting of the cage, another turnover, and a third turnover to end the game.
“We haven’t been producing this year,” said junior midfielder Billy Nolan, a Crofton resident and Arundel graduate who did what he could with a game-high four points on three goals and one assist. “So we’re all frustrated. We’re frustrated because the defense is playing their butts off. We’re just not putting enough on the field for them, and it’s really disappointing, especially as a leader of the offense.”
That unit has been particularly underwhelming. The Retrievers have yet to score 10 goals in a game this season and had entered Sunday ranked second-to-last in goals per game at 6.7.
The offense played its third straight game without leading scorer and freshman attackman Trevor Patschorke, who had accumulated 11 goals and two assists in four games before a knee injury proved too painful. Freshman midfielder Steven Zichelli (Severna Park) added one goal and one assist, and junior attackman Jack Andrews (St. Mary’s) contributed two assists, but UMBC got little production from other players.
The offense started three freshmen in Zichelli, fellow midfielder Ben Keller and attackman Brett Baucia (Archbishop Spalding), but coach Ryan Moran challenged the players after the game to avoid using youth and inexperience as an excuse.
“We’re in the middle of March right now,” he said. “There are expectations you have from the kids that shouldn’t just be a senior expectation or a junior or sophomore expectation. It’s just in everything — the adjustments in the game, didn’t do what we had game-planned for the whole week and translate that onto the field. We really don’t do a tremendous job of that right now, and I don’t know why. So that’s why it’s on me. I’ve got to figure out a way for us to get better.”
On Sunday, the Retrievers took 37 shots for a 16.2 shooting percentage and forced Seawolves sophomore goalkeeper Michael Bollinger to make only six saves. They also committed 13 turnovers — six of which ended their first eight possessions on offense. Another giveaway helped Stony Brook kill a two-man short-handed situation in the third quarter.
In fact, UMBC whiffed on two six-on-four advantages, ending one situation in the fourth quarter on an ill-advised shot by sophomore attackman Ryan Frawley that Bollinger easily caught in his stick. That contributed to a 2-of-7 showing on extra-man opportunities for the Retrievers that energized the Seawolves’ sideline.
“It’s funny because against Virginia,” Stony Brook coach Jim Nagle said, alluding to a 15-14 loss to the No. 9 Cavaliers on March 10, “we were down two men for close to three minutes and we gave up a ton of goals. So I was happy for guys pulling together and getting those stops.”
Still, despite the miscues, UMBC had the ball in the Seawolves’ defensive zone with 22.8 seconds left in regulation and a chance to send it into overtime. Nolan flashed to the slot and was open long enough for Frawley to pass him the ball. But the ball bounded to the midfield, and the final horn sounded.
Frawley and Nolan accepted blame for the missed opportunity.
What is especially galling is that the game was the America East opener for both teams, and UMBC had defeated the Seawolves, 12-9, last season en route to making its first appearance in the conference tournament since 2014. Now the Retrievers (2-5 overall, 0-1 in the league) find themselves behind Stony Brook (2-5, 1-0), No. 1 Albany (6-0, 1-0) and UMass Lowell (4-4, 1-0) in the America East.
“We came in, and I just don’t think we were focused enough,” Frawley said. “It’s a conference game, and tensions are high. Everyone’s going out there fighting for their lives. This is our way to get into the tournament, and I just don’t think we came out ready enough. We weren’t focused and it really caught up to us and bit us in the behind.”