As a standout midfielder at Maryland, Moran played against Navy for four years. The Long Island native began his professional career as head coach at the Naval Academy Prep School.
Former Navy head coach Richie Meade then brought Moran down to Annapolis from Rhode Island to serve as an assistant. He helped the Midshipmen capture a pair of Patriot League championships and make three NCAA Tournament appearances.
Maryland head coach Dave Cottle brought Moran back to his alma mater to serve as offensive coordinator. The Terrapins compiled a 70-30 record and reached the Final Four three times with Moran leading an offense that averaged almost 11 goals from 2009 through 2014.
Of course, Maryland played against Navy every year that Moran was an assistant in College Park.
Moran’s next stop was Loyola-Maryland as offensive coordinator for head coach Charley Toomey. He spent two seasons on the Evergreen campus and directed an offense that produced 12.2 goals per game as the Greyhounds reached the national semifinals in 2016.
Navy and Loyola are both members of the Patriot League so Moran was able to continue his streak of competing against the service academy. It ended last season when Moran became head coach of UMBC, which has not played Navy in a long time.
It must have felt like there was something missing because Moran added the Midshipmen to the schedule this season. When UMBC travels to Annapolis to play Navy on Saturday afternoon, it will mark the first time the programs have met in men’s lacrosse since 2003.
“I just can’t get away from Navy,” Moran said with a laugh this week. “I competed against Navy every year from 1999 through 2016 as either a player or a coach. It is always an honor to stand on the same lacrosse field as the Midshipmen.”
Navy defensive coordinator Ryan Wellner is one of Moran’s closest friends in the coaching fraternity. They both attended Chaminade High with Wellner a senior when Moran was a freshman. Moran’s father, Jack, has been the head coach at Chaminade for over three decades and has won more than 500 games.
“I’m very excited to play Navy. I think it’s a great game for UMBC, another local rivalry,” Moran said. “We have a lot of players from Anne Arundel County who grew up going to games at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and are really looking forward to playing there. I know a lot of our alums are showing up to tailgate and root the team on.”
Moran is just the third head coach in UMBC men’s lacrosse history, following in the footsteps of a pair of legends in Dick Watts and Don Zimmerman. Watts amassed 178 wins in 23 seasons and led the Retrievers to the NCAA Division II national championship in 1980 then oversaw the progam’s transition to the Division I ranks. Zimmerman compiled 164 victories and directed UMBC to six NCAA Tournament berths during his 23-year tenure at the Catonsville school.
UMBC posted a 6-8 overall record, but went 4-2 in the America East Conference in Moran’s first season at the helm. The Retrievers earned the second seed for the America East Tournament after being picked last in the preseason poll.
Moran admits he’s still formulating his exact head coaching style and noted it has been influenced by the many men for whom he has worked or played, beginning with his father and including Cottle, Meade and Toomey among others.
“One of the real positive aspects of my career is that I’ve been able to work under some great head coaches. So I’ve seen a broad array of leadership styles,” Moran said. “I’ve picked what I liked and what I didn’t then tried to put my own niche on things.”
UMBC lacrosse players are told from the outset that there are certain behavioral guidelines that must be upheld. Moran wants players of character whose work ethic extends beyond the lacrosse field.
“We have set a high standard and are making sure we hold these guys accountable as student-athletes. We want them to be good ambassadors for both the school and lacrosse program,” he said.
“Our team grade point average has never been below a 3.2 GPA in the three semesters I’ve been here and our guys have logged a lot of community service hours.”
At least initially, Moran knows UMBC cannot compete with the perennial powerhouses for blue-chip recruits and has targeted the second tier of prospects. He along with assistants Jamison Koesterer (Johns Hopkins) and Neil Hutchinson (Towson) brought in 15 players as part of their first recruiting class.
“Definitely some under-the-rader kids on the national scene, but in our evaluations they were every bit as good as some of the so-called big-time kids,” Moran said. “We think we found some real diamonds in the rough that are going to turn into outstanding college players.”
Among the freshman contributing right away for UMBC are a pair of Severna Park High products — attackman Trevor Patschorke and midfielder Steven Zichelli. Patschorke started on attack and scored two goals while Zichelli ran with the first midfield and totaled two goals and two assists as UMBC beat No. 20 Richmond, 9-6, in its season opener last Saturday.
Zichelli was named America East Rookie of the Week for his performance in the upset.
“I was really happy for our players to see some success to start the season and hopefully that win will give the team confidence and be a springboard going forward,” Moran said.
Patschorke was named a US Lacrosse All-American and captured the C. Markland Kelly Award as the top Class 4A-3A public school player in the state of Maryland as a senior.
“Trevor has been tremendous. The kid practices his tail off and stays after every day to do more shooting work,” Moran said. “Trevor is just a grinder and a workhorse who has provided an instant jolt on offense.”
Moran loves the athleticism and versatility of Zichelli, whose twin brother Michael is playing on the second midfield unit. They are among 15 Anne Arundel County residents on the UMBC roster and many play important roles.
Junior midfielder Billy Nolan is one of the primary offensive playmakers and posted his fourth career hat trick in the victory over Richmond. The Arundel High graduate is coming off a campaign in which he was named second team All-America East after scoring 18 goals.
“Billy is our most experienced player on the offensive side, a real do-it-all type of player. He’s a strong dodger who has the ability to go left or right and get his hands free on the run or in catch-and-shoot situations,” Moran said. “Billy’s always got the on button pushed. You never have to worry about him going hard. He sets the standard in practice for how we want to conduct our business.”
Junior Jack Andrews is the starting left-side attackman for UMBC with Moran describing the St. Mary’s High graduate as “really skilled, very quick and shifty.” Andrews, whose father played at Navy, finished third on the team with 23 points last season.
Gunnar Schimoler is a member of the first midfield for the second straight season. The 6-foot-3, 195-pound South River grad is a rare junior captain and “jack-knife midfielder who can do a little bit of everything,” according to Moran.
UMBC’s other captain is senior long stick midfielder Billy O’Hara, another South River alum. The tough, gritty Davidsonville resident led the Retrievers in ground balls in each of the previous two seasons and has amassed more than 100 for his career.
“Billy is a tremendous teammate and provides great leadership. He is a real impact player with his ability to get the ball off the ground and take it away,” said Moran, noting that O’Hara also had 35 caused turnovers in 2016 and 2017.
Freshman Max Sherwood (Archbishop Spalding) is seeing significant action as a short stick defensive midfielder for the Retrievers.
This is the first home game for Navy, which opened with road losses at Jacksonville and Maryland. The Midshipmen are playing five of their first six contests on the road, due in part to the Stadium Series hockey game involving the Washington Capitals that has forced the March 6 meeting with Pennsylvania to be held at the new US Lacrosse facility in Sparks.
“Unfortunately, that’s just the way the schedule falls this season. There is nothing you can do about it,” said head coach Rick Sowell, noting the Patriot League dictates most of the dates. “We were supposed to play Penn at our stadium, but now that game will be in Baltimore. Fortunately, Maryland was a day trip and Penn will be as well so it’s not too taxing. Bottom line, we need to be able to win at home, on the road and at neutral sites.”
That being said, Sowell admitted it will be nice to get back to Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium where Navy has won 20 of its last 24 openers.
“It will be good to be at home. Hopefully, we can give our fans something to cheer about early and often then feed off that energy,” Sowell said. “UMBC is a good team coming off an impressive victory over a ranked opponent. Hopefully, we can go out and get a big win and start feeling good about ourselves. We’re a little grouchy, a little angry. We know we’re capable of being a pretty good team.”
Sowell felt the Midshipmen showed improvement in numerous areas from Week 1 to Week 2. Faceoff specialist Joe Varello returned from an academy-mandated suspension and gave the team a huge lift in that area while short stick defensive midfielder D.J. Plumer played against Maryland after missing Jacksonville with an injury.
“I saw us make big strides from Jacksonville to Maryland. Faceoffs was an obvious one area while we shored some things up on defense,” Sowell said. “I think getting D.J. Plumer back really helped because of his ability, experience and leadership.”
Navy was supposed to be explosive on offense this season with attackmen Jack Ray and David Little along with midfielders Greyson Torain and Casey Rees leading a talented unit. It has not translated to the field just yet with the Mids managing only 11 goals in two games so far.
“Offensively, we’re not that far off. Obviously, we need to score more goals,” said Sowell, whose squad shot 4-for-32 last Saturday in College Park. “We need to shoot better, we need to dodge harder and we need to improve our stick-handling.”
As a reigning Final Four team facing a respected Big Ten program in its home opener, Navy’s women also faced an additional and unexpected foe, a game-long torrential rain shower. The Mids overcame all obstacles, however, with a 9-7 win over Ohio State.