(Photo Courtesy of UMBC Athletics)
When Ryan Moran led took over the reigns of the UMBC Retrievers ahead of the 2017 season there was much hope that he could ignite some newfound energy into this long-standing program and lead them back to the success that they saw in the years leading up to their move to DI and during the early and mid 2000s under legendary head coach Don Zimmerman.
It was under Zimmerman the the Retrievers made their first DI NCAA Tournament appearance in 1998 and advanced to the quarterfinals for the first time in 2007. In all, they six NCAA Tournament trips under Zimmerman, with the last coming in 2009.
Moran was certainly following a legend and had a large task at hand, especially with UMBC coming off of two straight losing seasons. However, it didn’t take him too long to lead the Retrievers back to the promised land. After going a 6-8 season, which ended with an America East tournament loss, in 2017 and a 5-8 season in 2018, the Retrievers sent shockwaves across the college lacrosse world in 2019. Posting a 4-8 record heading into the America East Tournament, where they were the No. 4 seed, UMBC upset No. 1 Stony Brook, 14-8, and then took down No. 2 Vermont, 14-13, in the conference title game to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament.
That run in 2019 was magical, and too man, signified that UMBC was back and that a new dynasty of sorts could arise in the America East from it. And while that question will only be answered with time, the Retrievers seemed to build on that momentum in 2020, going 4-1 before the season was cancelled. They lone loss was an 8-14 defeat against Georgetown in their season opener.
Their four victories came against Mount St. Mary’s, Sacred Heart, Towson, and High Point. Each were won by an average of 5.75 goals.
Coming into the 2021 season, the biggest question is how the Retrievers can keep the momentum going in an upward direction and get back to not only the America East Tournament, but the NCAA Tournament. And if they do that, and do it while giving off some sense of domination during the season, how will that success be received? Will UMBC be, as they say, back?
Offensively, UMBC has the potential to be one of the best in the conference in 2021. And primarily because of two impact players who will be returning for a fifth-season, Ryan Frawley and Brett McIntyre. Both attackmen, Frawley led the Retrievers in points last season with 12 goals and five assists, while Mcintyre was seventh on the team in scoring with four goals and two assists.
In addition to those two fifth-year guys who should have a huge impact both from a production and leadership standpoint, UMBC will return a heap of younger talent on that end, including four more of their top five scorers from a year ago. Senior attackmen Trevor Patschorke (9G/7A) and Steven Zichelli (7G/3A) were massive for this offense last season and really helped run things, along with Frawley, at the attack spot. The two ranked second and third in offense in 2020 and look to keep their play up this coming spring.
Junior midfielder Brandon Galloway (7G/1A) and sophomore Dane Hall (7 Goals), who were the fourth and fifth leading scorers for the Retrievers last season, will be looking to make an impact once again and help this offense flourish. And with as many talented returnees as this squad has on the offensive end, UMBC, which has been known for defense in recent years, could see a sizable jump in their offensive production this spring. They ranked 40th in scoring offense last season, averaging 11.80 goals per game.
On the back end, things are going to look different for the sixth best scoring offense in the land. They not only lose defensive coordinator Jamison Koesterer, who produced consistent top-20 defenses year after year, but they will also lose two of their top poles in Jason Brewster and Colin Kasner.
And while they lose those impactful pieces on the back end, they do return some key pieces, albeit, young pieces. Sophomore Tony Diallo (8GB/6CT) and Den Stephanos (9GB/4CT) are the top two returning close defenseman. The pair really stepped up and shined as freshman and should be able to continue that upward trend and progression as sophomores and really begin to lead this unit. Additionally, seniors Nick Doyle and Justin Barragan, who is an LSM/D, could also see their roles increase with the personnel losses.
In cage, senior Tommy Linger returns. As a three-year starter in between the pipes for the Retrievers, Linger churned out a 62-save season with a 60% save percentage in the five games they played during the 2020 season.
They will also return their starter at the faceoff dot in Alex Poma. Amongst the best freshman at the position last season, Poma went 57-for-97 (58%) in UMBC’s five contests. He ranked 24th nationally in faceoff win percentage.