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Preston: UMBC shows strong freshman class in season-opening win over Richmond

If UMBC’s regular season turns out like the first game of 2018, then coach Ryan Moran will be extremely happy.

Moran, the Retrievers’ second-year coach, got a glimpse into the future as he unveiled his first recruiting class in UMBC’s 9-6 season-opening win over visiting Richmond before an announced crowd of 304.

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The Retrievers scored six straight goals during a 25-minute period in the game that featured some of UMBC’s outstanding freshman class, including attackmen Trevor Patschorke (two goals) and Steven Zichelli (two goals, two assists). The Retrievers also got a strong effort from freshman goalie Tommy Lingner, who finished with 13 saves.

“It hasn’t been tough. It’s been great,” UMBC junior midfielder Billy Nolan (three goals, one assist) said of playing with six freshmen in prominent roles. “I’ve learned a lot of new stuff from them. They are a heck of a lot better than when I was a freshman. I’m looking forward to seeing them grow over the course of the year.”

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It’s a group of 15 freshmen that has gotten UMBC fans mildly excited. It’s only been one game and is way too early to make predictions and projections, but the early-season buzz is understandable.

Four of the freshmen played at Severna Park, which has won two consecutive state titles and 37 straight games. So, they are from the best that the Maryland public school system has to offer. Combined with Nolan, UMBC’s returning scorer with 18 goals and six assists last season, it appears only a matter of time before the offense gets into a consistent rhythm.

“It’s something we constantly are talking about in practice — guys stepping up and being reliable on the field,” Moran said. “Every practice these guys get grades, go through the analytics of a positive pick, a negative pick, negative shots, assists, so they can get better over the duration of this season.”

UMBC (1-0) needs a good recruiting class. Since 2010, the Retrievers have been replaced as a power in the American East Conference, especially by Albany, and numerous players transferred out of the program. Last year under Moran, UMBC made the conference tournament playoffs for the first time in three years.

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But Moran, who replaced Don Zimmerman in June 2016, never had a chance to get a full recruiting class in place. This year is different. Other freshmen who figure to get playing time are middies Max Sherwood (Archbishop Spalding) and Cian Chung (Severna Park), as well as defenseman Nick Doyle, from San Diego.

And then there is Lingner. He is already playing with confidence and poise. He appears to have good communication and his defensemen are already responding.

“I’m just trying to get out there, make every stop that I can and keep my head in the game,” said Lingner, who is from Fort Salonga, N.Y.

Moran is aware of the learning curve and growing pains. These freshmen haven’t played against some of the best teams on the schedule, such as Navy, Towson, Johns Hopkins or Albany. In those games, they will probably be undersized as well as lacking in playing experience.

UMBC doesn’t appear to have great speed and the offense is quite limited at times. Besides Nolan and sometimes Patschorke, there doesn’t appear to be a dynamic scorer or a player who can consistently carry the ball and break down defenses.

But besides Albany and Binghamton, which also has a second-year coach, the American East is loaded with mediocre teams. UMBC might struggle early, but could be a factor late in the season when the playoffs roll around.

“Truth be told, those two kids (Patschorke and Lingner) were the first two kids I recruited. I was optimistic they would be able to help us,” Moran said of getting immediate help. “We have to work on scoring different ways like on power-play goals or riding goals. But these guys work hard, and they want to make everyone accountable.”

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