After watching his UMBC men’s lacrosse team surrender three consecutive goals to Vermont and a five-goal advantage shrink to two, coach Ryan Moran used a timeout midway through the fourth quarter and called the entire team into a huddle.
“I said it’s going to come down to making plays and not being complacent or timid,” he recalled. “I said ‘you’ve got to go out there and make plays. If you make plays, you’re going to win the game. You can’t wait for the game to be over. Continue to play as if it’s 0-0, and when it’s your turn to make a play, make it.’ ”
The Retrievers proved to be good listeners. They shut out the No. 13 Catamounts for the remainder of the game to cement a 10-8 win Saturday afternoon before an announced attendance of 127 at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
Not only did UMBC (5-1, 4-1 America East) edge Vermont (4-3, 4-1) for the top spot in the conference thanks to the head-to-head tiebreaker, but the team also defeated a ranked league opponent for the first time since April 6, 2018 when that squad upset No. 1 Albany, 11-7. And the Retrievers are off to their best start since 1992 when that team won eight of its first nine games.
“I do think it gives us a little pep in the step knowing that it’s David versus Goliath and you’re just trying to take out the top guys,” senior goalkeeper Tommy Lingner said of taking out a ranked opponent. “There’s always a little extra energy throughout the week. This week, we had a lot to think about. The coaches brought the intensity and they always want the best out of us today, and I think the leadership on the team helped bring that out of everyone this week, and we just put it all together when we needed to out there on the field.”
UMBC needed to play its best in the final seven minutes of the third quarter after the Catamounts had run off three straight goals in a 4:05 span to trail by just 10-8 with 7:05 remaining. Vermont won the ensuing faceoff (one of 15 in 22 attempts credited to sophomore Tommy Burke, who also finished with a game-high nine ground balls). But its last offensive possessions ended with six shots, three saves by Lingner, and two turnovers that led to ground balls collected by Lingner and senior long-stick midfielder Colin Kasner (three ground balls and one caused turnover) in his first game since March 6 due to coronavirus issues.
“It felt amazing making those plays,” Lingner said. “I was just happy I was able to do it and get the ball up and out to give our offense another opportunity. Throughout the week, it’s always a key point for us to get every ground ball that we can and get the ball up and out on first-time clears and first-time ground balls. That’s a big emphasis every game, and I was happy I was able to execute today.”
Catamounts coach Chris Feifs said the Retrievers’ decision to switch to a zone defense kept his shooters at bay.
“They transitioned into a zone defense, and the goalie was seeing the ball well. That really stymied our momentum there,” he said. “It was just too little, too late. We started playing faster and playing harder and playing with nothing to lose, which we should have done from the beginning. Again, it starts at the head coaching position, and I’ve got to make sure that we’re mentally focused and not really looking at things like rankings and records and things like that and just attacking every opponent the same way and with the same energy that we did earlier in the season.”
UMBC did not score over the final 12:10, but a 4-1 run over the first 17:50 of the second half gave the team enough of a cushion to withstand Vermont’s comeback attempt. Freshman midfielder Brian Tregoning came off the sideline to pace the offense with the first hat trick of his fledgling career with goals in each of the first three quarters.
“I think my linemates were working,” said Tregoning, who had scored one goal in three previous games. “The whole offense was united, moving the ball. I just got the opportunity, and when I did, I just tried to hit my kill shots. I can’t thank my teammates enough and the coaches. We were really playing as one out there.”
Sophomore attackman Nick Dupuis added two goals and one assist, and senior attackman Ryan Frawley chipped in one goal and two assists to fuel the Retrievers, who had seven assists on their 10 goals and went 2-of-5 on extra-man opportunities.
“I thought they were unselfish,” Moran said of the offense. “We were almost 50% on the power play. So you’re always happy to score in other ways. Vermont did a good job of going in and out of different defenses and doing stuff they didn’t really show too much. So we had to kind of adjust, and the guys listened, and they bought in, and they executed.”
Freshman midfielder Griffin Fenech led the Catamounts with four points on one goal and three assists, and junior midfielder Thomas McConvey scored twice. Despite its overwhelming advantage on faceoffs, Vermont finished with only 27 ground balls to UMBC’s 22, and Feifs credited the Retrievers with making it difficult for Vermont to convert those faceoff wins.
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“I think it came down to how hard they were attacking ground balls,” he said. “I know we won the ground ball battle, but I think at the faceoff X, their wing play was really tenacious and they did a great job of making it a 50-50 ground ball when we would win the clamp, and they came out with some key possessions.”