UMBC's postseason run will likely depend heavily on how the No. 7 Retrievers fill the void left by junior attackman Ryan Smith, who -- according to coach Don Zimmerman -- tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during last night's America East tournament final against Albany at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
Smith, who leads the team in goals with 29, injured his knee just 77 seconds into the contest when he and senior midfielder Terry Kimener forced out a Great Danes player near midfield. Smith had to be helped off the field by two team trainers and was spotted using crutches after the conclusion of the game.
"He's a great player," sophomore attackman Matt Latham (Liberty) said of Smith, a Fallston graduate and Essex Community College transfer. "Can't say enough about how much we miss him. But that's when we have to come together as a team."
Without Smith, the Retrievers appeared confused on offense, especially in the first half when they settled for some questionable shots from long range that Albany senior goalkeeper Brett Queener gobbled up. But Latham and sophomore midfielder Kyle Wimer combined for seven goals to help UMBC rally from a nine-goal deficit to edge the Great Danes, 14-13.
So who will fill Smith's spot on attack? The most immediate option is Kimener, who moved from midfield to attack last night. But Zimmerman could also use freshmen attackmen Dom Scalzo or David Scott or add a fourth midfielder (junior Alex Hopmann and freshman Jamie Kimbles, who scored the game-winning goal, would be the first two options) to the offense.
"We'll start to figure that out on Monday," Zimmerman said. "But I think we did a pretty good job adjusting tonight. We just asked guys to step in. ... We get an awful lot of mileage out of a few guys and especially when you're down the way we were. We just had to keep going back."
*A key to the Retrievers' comeback was winning 19 of 29 faceoffs. Senior Taylor Marino won a career-high 19 of 28 and is now 14 faceoff wins shy of tying Ray Ignacio's all-time record of 450 career faceoff wins. "I think Taylor did a heck of a job of scrapping for the ball, and our wings did a good job," Zimmerman said. "Possession is everything when you're down by nine goals. ... Your whole team is depending on you to get the ball. So we had to keep fighting, and it was huge for us."
*Winning the America East tournament gave UMBC the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Retrievers will be making their third straight appearance in the tournament for the first time in school history.
*With 12 wins in 15 games, UMBC eclipsed the school's single-season record for Division I wins of 11 -- a mark set in 1999 and matched last year.
*The Retrievers have captured 13 consecutive games at home and 18 of the last 19. The streak is the third-longest in the nation behind Duke and Notre Dame.