After opening the season with just one win in its first five games, UMBC is now one victory away from making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2009. All the the team has to do is knock off No. 10 Albany in Saturday morning’s America East tournament final at Stony Brook in Stony Brook, N.Y.
Retrievers coach Don Zimmerman said getting to this stage of the year is an objective every program discusses, which makes Saturday’s contest that much more exhilarating.
“You work hard all year – not just all season – with fall ball, weights, conditioning, and it boils down to this game,” he said Friday. “It’s more than just a trip to the NCAAs. It’s winning a conference championship. So we’re excited, and our guys are looking forward to getting back there today and getting loose and going over some things for tomorrow’s game. But you can’t do too much. You can’t all of a sudden throw a whole new set of game plans at the guys. You have to say, ‘Ok, we’ve played this opponent, we have to make a few adjustments, but we’ve got to go out and play.’ It comes down to fundamentals. Catching and throwing, ground balls, communication on defense, taking good shots on offense. It really does come down to the basics.”
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Capturing the school’s fourth America East tournament championship figures to be a difficult proposition against the Great Danes (12-4), who went 5-0 against league opponents. But UMBC (7-7) did limit Albany to 16 goals – its lowest output against a conference foe – in a six-goal loss on April 13.
Zimmerman said the play of the Retrievers defense will be a pivotal factor Saturday.
“Defense is going to win this game,” he said. “Albany is the No. 1 scoring offense in the country, and to have a chance to win, we have to play really, really good individual and team defense. We have to be on the same page, we have to communicate. So defense is obviously going to be a key component.”