Review & preview: UMBC
Here is the second installment of a series that checks in with the seven Division I programs in the state to give a glimpse into the past and the future. Tuesday, we take a visit with UMBC.
The good: There’s not much to enjoy from a 4-9 season, but if there is a silver lining to be found, as many as eight freshman played considerably and earned valuable collegiate experience. Midfielder Nick Doub started seven games, attackman Scott Jones played in 12, and midfielder Scott Hopmann appeared to finding his rhythm until a broken thumb sidelined the rest of his season. "It gave them a chance to get in some games and mature, and I think that’s going to help us down the road," coach Don Zimmerman said. "I think that would be the main thing, that some of our younger players were able to get some game experience and that’s certainly going to help them in the future and the program’s future." … Three of the Retrievers’ four wins were in the America East, where they finished second and earned the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament. A loss in the semifinals to Albany wrecked UMBC’s chances of winning the conference crown and getting to the NCAA Tournament, but Zimmerman said he never sensed any quit among the players. "We were trying to win our conference and then move on to the NCAAs," he said. "But we were kind of stagnant and weren’t going at the pace I had hoped, so that’s when we started to throw in some different personnel and they have to be younger kids – but never to a point where you scrap this season for the future. I just don’t believe in that, and I didn’t see that in the guys." … Junior face-off specialist J.D. Harkey won 104-of-213 face-offs (.488) in all 13 games despite playing with a repaired anterior cruciate ligament and a broken bone in his foot that prevented him from practicing Mondays through Thursdays. Doub recorded four goals and two assists while complementing senior Kyle Wimer and junior Jamie Kimbles, and sophomore defenseman Tim Shaeffer collected 16 groundballs in five starts. "They were three players who, when given an opportunity, really stepped up and seized the moment," Zimmerman said.
The bad: Both the offense and defense had their ups-and-downs with the offense scoring almost two fewer goals per game from 2009 and the defense surrendering more than two goals per contest. Nowhere was the offense’s troubles more apparent than on man-up opportunities where the unit fell from tops in Division I with a 52.6 converstion rate (30-of-57) last season to a 22.4 percentage (15-of-67) this past spring. "The man-up went from being No. 1 in the country 2009 to being pretty far down, and I take responsibility for that," Zimmerman said. "I coach the man-up , and we had different personnel, and I tried to use some things that worked in the past, and not having the same people and maybe having some younger guys just wasn’t as successful. Again, this is a learning experience. You walk away from a season like this and you realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got to rethink some things down the line.’" … Freshman Adam Cohen may have finished the season as the starting goalkeeper (8.76 goals-against average and .427 save percentage), but Cohen may have to compete with sophomores Brian McCullough and Matt Holman to remain as the starter. "That position will be evaluated in the fall," Zimmerman said. "When you had a season like we had, you’ve got to change things up, and I told the guys, ‘There are no gimmes. When you come back in the fall, every member of the team has to be ready not only to compete for a playing position, but also to earn a spot on the team.’"
Personnel changes: Graduation takes its biggest toll on the defense, which loses close defenseman Matt Kresse, long-stick midfielder Michael Camardo (54 groundballs and 36 caused turnovers) and short-stick defensive midfielders Maxx Davis (seven goals and nine assists; 35 groundballs), Jordan Pierce (29 groundballs) and Michael Bryan. Freshman Ethan Murphy got some minutes at long-stick midfielder and has the versatility to stay there or move to close defense. Freshmen Neill Lewnes and Jake Zimmerman are two of several candidates that could make the leap to short-stick defensive midfielder. "I like the guys we have coming back," Zimmerman said. "We’re definitely going to miss the seniors that were part of this team. They did a nice job for us, but we realize that each team is a new team and each year is a new year. I think we have kids in place who can come in and help us be where we want to be." … The graduation of midfielder Kyle Wimer (16, 19) saps UMBC of its best playmaker, but finding a successor for attackman Matt Latham (25, 2) might be just as important because Latham was the team’s most potent threat on the inside. Jones, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound freshman, is a match-up problem for many defensemen, and Matt Gregoire, who will apply for a medical hardship waiver for his freshman year, impressed the coaching staff before he got injured. "So we’ve got some kids waiting in the wings," Zimmerman said. … The incoming recruiting class includes a plethora of midfielders in Zach Linkous, Marcellus Preston, Conor Finch and Brandon Merlino, who is recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament that wiped out much of his senior campaign at John Jay High School in New York.
Forecast for 2011: Cloudy with rain possible. Replacing Wimer, Latham and attackman Chris Jones on offense is a considerable task, but if the youth can mature and improve, that unit may flourish. The bigger priority is on defense. That’s not a good sign for Cohen, McCullough or Holman as one of those goalies will be asked to bail out the defense. After winning three of the last five America East Tournament crowns, the Retrievers might be hard-pressed to return to that level. Stony Brook, which captured its first conference tournament, is loaded, Albany will rebound from an injury-riddled 201o, and Hartford, which has beaten UMBC in the last two meetings, is quickly improving.