UMBC Lacrosse Teams are Out, Softball is In
The Retrievers lacrosse teams is out of the playoffs, but a rough weekend for Maine propelled UMBC softball into the conference tournament.
When the UMBC men’s lacrosse team started the season 1-4, it was easy to write off a team that—combined—included only eight juniors and seniors.
But coach Don Zimmerman’s young team went on a 5-2 run to close out the regular season and force its way into the America East Conference Tournament.
That run ended with a 14-11 first-round loss to Hartford on Wednesday. The Retrievers finished their year at 6-7, the team’s second consecutive losing season after a 4-9 record in 2010.
However, Zimmerman said this year was different from the older group that seemed to underperform last season. UMBC lacrosse in 2011 improved greatly as the season wore on.
“I knew that that could be the scenario ... We could have easily won two or three games this year,” Zimmerman said.
“At 1-4, you can go one of two ways, and our kids chose the high road. They could easily have said, ‘We’re young and it’s just one of those years and let's just get through it.’ The coaches recognize that and kept working hard to try to prepare them.”
After a 16-5 drubbing by Stony Brook on April 1, the Retrievers were given their excuse to coast to the regular-season finale.
What ended any chance of the team choosing to pack it in, Zimmerman said, was a 10-9 win over the Towson Tigers on April 6.
“The Towson win was a huge one for us, in that we were coming off that real tough, embarrassing loss to Stony Brook,” Zimmerman said. “That was really the turning point.”
That win was the first in what became a four-game winning streak, broken by a 10-6 loss to Hartford in the regular season’s final game. The Retrievers then had to travel to play the Hawks again in the tournament.
After beating UMBC Wednesday, Hartford won the conference championship game, 11-10, over No. 13 Stony Brook on Saturday.
The Hawks may be the surprise team in the conference, but Zimmerman wasn’t surprised by his team, which he knew might have trouble competing against top teams due to its inexperienced roster.
“I don’t know if I was surprised. I was really pleased with the progress the team made in general, and some players in particular,” Zimmerman said. “I thought [goalkeeper] Brian McCullough stepped up and had a heck of a season for us. Last year … wasn’t real successful. [But he] came back, won the starting position … I thought he was really, really steady.”
Indeed, the junior did stabilize the position, allowing double-digit goals only twice (both times to Hartford) since April 1.
Other players showed they could compete too, Zimmerman said, but need to continue improving.
“Let’s start with [junior attack] Rob Grimm. His senior year, [he needs to] keep growing and developing and be a more consistent player and leader. [Sophomore attack] Joe Lustgarten had the best game of his career while at UMBC Saturday night." Lustgarten had three goals and one assist versus Hartford.
“[Sophomore attack] Scott Jones settled in as our inside guy and had a real nice year for us," Zimmerman continued. "I expect them all to step up.”
Zimmerman said the team received a wealth of experience playing games against top competition in Johns Hopkins, North Carolina and Maryland, and that should help with their development.
“You got to play these teams because kids want to play against good teams,” Zimmerman said. “The America East Conference is getting stronger and stronger every year.”
Hartford’s defeat of the Seawolves only further hammers home that point. Things aren’t going to get any easier in the conference, Zimmerman said, so his team will have to catch up to the others rather than wait for them to fall back.
“You’ve got to go out there with a purpose and the purpose is to get better,” Zimmerman said. “And stay focused. You need a break, but you never really get away from it. They just need to continue to grow and develop.”
Quote of the Week
“The difference was that they had some seasoned veterans, more seasoned veterans than we did. In a big game, our guys played awfully hard, [but] I think our youth showed. They’re a good team. They took advantage of our mistakes. To our guys' credit, as they did all year, they never quit. It was a heck of a game.” —UMBC lacrosse coach Don Zimmerman after the Retrievers lost 14-11 to Hartford in the first round of the America East Conference Tournament.
Line of the Week
One win and two losses (1-2)—Maine softball’s (18-31, 7-10) record in a three-game weekend series versus last-place Hartford (11-33, 4-14). By losing two of three, the Black Bears allowed UMBC softball to leap them in the standings and nab the fourth and final spot in the America East Conference playoffs.
“Women's Lacrosse Falls to Top-Seeded Albany, 11-4, in America East Title Game http://bit.ly/ioZ5u0” —@UMBCAthletics after the Retriever women’s lacrosse team lost to undefeated Albany in the conference championship game.
For the Record
At the America East Track and Field Championships, junior hurdler Imani Colbert broke her own UMBC record in an ECAC-qualifying time of 14.09 in the 100 meter hurdle, and sophomore Chowan Brightful broke the school record in the high jump, leaping 1.65 meters. As a team, the Retriever men finished fourth and women seventh.
Player to Watch
UMBC softball pitcher Stephanie Weigman (16-13, 3.21 ERA), who will lead her team against No. 1-seed Boston University Thursday in the first round of the America East Conference Tournament.
Game to Watch
As the No. 4 seed, the UMBC softball team has no hope of playing a home game in these playoffs. So, catch the Retriever baseball team in its final home stand of the season May 20 and 21 versus Hartford.
Sports Editor's Note:
This will be my last College Sports Replay as I transition into a new role with Patch. I hope you have enjoyed these stories since the site launched in autumn. Thanks for reading, all.