There is no guesswork, tiebreakers or algebraic equations surrounding the UMBC men's lacrosse team's regular-season finale at Vermont on Friday at 7 p.m.
If the Retrievers (5-7, 3-2 America East) win, they will secure a coveted berth in the four-team conference tournament. If the Catamounts (10-3, 3-2) win, they will play in the postseason, and UMBC will begin its offseason.
There's a certain appreciation for the cut-and-dry finality of the upcoming game, but the Retrievers have been in playoff mode since suffering a 10-7 loss at UMass Lowell on March 31. That setback forced them into must-win scenarios against then-No. 1 Albany, Binghamton and Hartford – three games they have been able to put in the win column.
The UMBC men’s lacrosse team shut out visiting Hartford for 35:07 and gave up only one goal in the final 40:59 to secure an 8-3 win on Saturday afternoon, setting up a winner-take-all scenario in Vermont next Friday.
"I'm pretty sure since the UMass Lowell game, we've understood that we've got to win out," coach Ryan Moran said. "So every week, it's been a little bit of that feeling in your stomach where you've got to win. That's where we're at. That's where lacrosse is right now in the conference tournaments. I think every team is experiencing that, and we're no different."
There might be some worry that UMBC has expended large amounts of energy and concentration to get through its last three games, but senior defenseman John Tornabene suspects that he and his teammates are battle-tested and prepared for Friday's game.
"Ever since we lost to UMass Lowell, we've been treating every game like a playoff game," the Havre de Grace resident and Archbishop Curley graduate said. "We have to win to get in. So it's kind of nice to know that we're used to that, we're used to that pressure. I don't know if Vermont is. So I think we have the upper hand in that sense. So I think there's some confidence going into it that we've already been in this situation of a must-win game."