The 2021 season for the UMBC men’s lacrosse team was ultimately derailed by a poor first quarter.
The Retrievers, the top seed in the America East tournament, outplayed No. 4 seed Albany over the final three quarters of Thursday afternoon’s semifinal, but it wasn’t enough to overcome a six-goal deficit that contributed to a 14-12 loss before an announced 245 at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
The Great Danes (8-4) will meet No. 2 seed Vermont (8-4) in the championship final on Saturday at 10 a.m. The Catamounts defeated No. 3 seed Stony Brook, 10-7, in the other semifinal Thursday evening.
UMBC (8-3), which lost for only the second time as a No. 1 seed in the conference tournament and for the first time since the 2005 squad was stunned by No. 4 seed Stony Brook, 12-6, in 2005, will not likely earn an at-large berth to the 16-team NCAA tournament. The team had tied the score, 12-12, but made several mistakes in the final four minutes of regulation that ended the comeback.
“At the end of the game, it came down to one team just making a couple more plays than the other,” UMBC coach Ryan Moran said. “When it was tied up, it was tight, but they’re the team that made them. All in all, just really proud of my team, the effort. It would have been easy to go down and out at 7-1, and we fought all the way back to tie it at 12-12 with about three or four minutes left. So I was really proud of that. Not so happy with the outcome.”
The Retrievers’ bid to capture their second America East tournament championship in a row (the 2020 season notwithstanding due to the coronavirus pandemic) seemed doomed after the Great Danes sprinted to a 7-1 advantage with 1:21 left in the first quarter. The fast start was surprising even to some Albany players.
“We’re a little stagnant starting usually,” said graduate student attackman Jakob Patterson, who finished with two goals and one assist. “Today, we were moving the ball and flying around, which put UMBC in tough positions, and we took advantage of them.”
The Retrievers did score two goals in a 56-second span to close the opening period, and junior midfielder Brandon Galloway said he and his teammates were far from discouraged.
“I don’t think anyone was getting too down,” said Galloway, who scored a game-high five goals. “It was early on in the game, and we know what we’re capable of. We just had to actually go out and execute it.”
UMBC scored both of the second quarter’s two goals and then narrowed the gap to 8-7 with 2:42 left in the third. But the Great Danes scored three times in a 70-second stretch to regain a four-goal cushion at 11-7 with 46.1 seconds left in the frame.
Sophomore midfielder Nick Dupuis, who amassed four goals and three assists, had a hand in the Retrievers’ next four goals, assisting on two and scoring one to lift the team into an 11-11 tie with 9:52 remaining in the fourth quarter. After the two sides traded one goal each, UMBC ended a pair of opportunities with junior midfielder Taylor Bohanan (St. Mary’s) losing the ball to senior midfielder Alex Burgmaster and sophomore defenseman Ricky Fedorchak (Marriotts Ridge) getting stripped by sophomore attackman Graydon Hogg and fouling him, resulting in a failed clear.
Seconds later, senior midfielder Ron John drove the left alley, drew two defenders, and fed junior attackman Corey Yunker on the doorstep to give Albany a 13-12 lead with 2:27 left. And then after freshman Regan Endres won his 13th faceoff in 16 attempts in the second half and 10th overall ground ball, John raced in from the right wing, switched his stick back to his left, shooting hand, and floated a shot into the left side of the net with 1:13 remaining.
After getting outscored 7-3 in the first quarter, the Retrievers outscored the Great Danes, 9-7, for the last three quarters. Moran said the coaches had preached patience to the players during the comeback attempt.
“Every huddle, we were just like, ‘Hey, we’ve got to keep chipping away. One goal is not going to instantly equal seven,’” he said. “And I thought for the duration of the game, we fought and played hard. We really put ourselves in a good position when it was 12-12 to take the lead a couple times, and we just didn’t get it done — whether it was a missed ground ball or a missed clear or two missed shots on the doorstep. We just didn’t get it done, and to their credit, they did.”
Hogg paced Albany (8-4) with three goals and one assist, Yunker scored three times, and John notched his two goals and one assist all in the second half. Coach Scott Marr pointed out that the Great Danes never surrendered the lead to UMBC.
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“When you have a lead early in the game like that when we were up 7-1, it takes a lot of energy for the other team to come back,” he said. “For UMBC to get back in the game but never go ahead was huge for us because every time we scored that next goal, they had to muster up energy to get another one to tie it. And then we went up by two at the end, and by that time, there wasn’t enough time at the end, especially with the way we were winning faceoffs. We just kept trying to manage the game there in the fourth quarter.”