Records for wins in a season kept increasing and scoring records kept falling. But despite how well UMBC played this season, the Retrievers weren't going to gain credibility until they defeated a national power.
UMBC had its chance for prime time yesterday, but faded in the spotlight and probably saw its chances of making the playoffs laid to rest on the turf at Curley Field as No. 6 Loyola routed the Retrievers, 22-7, yesterday.
Loyola (7-3) took control of the game by outscoring UMBC 8-1 during an 11-minute stretch in the first half as the Greyhounds led, 10-4, with 5:50 left in the second quarter. UMBC (10-3) never did find out a way to stop Loyola's offense as attackmen Pat Ervin, Jim Blanding and midfielders Todd Sloper and Mark Nugent each finished with three goals.
The whipping was so thorough that UMBC coach Dick Watts could only say that it was a "clinic." But maybe those lopsided wins by UMBC over teams like Marist, Colgate, Radford, Drexel, West Chester and Mount St. Mary's had come back to haunt the Retrievers.
UMBC still has Towson State and Maryland left on its schedule, but if the Retrievers are to make the playoffs, they would have to win convincingly.
"I think the schedule hurts us," said Stewart Walker, a UMBC midfielder. "A lot of the guys would like to play tougher teams, especially early in the season. Even if you lose, you still learn from those games. We play the tough teams right after each other.
"Our chances for making the playoffs don't look good now, especially since we lost to Penn State earlier in the season," said Walker. "We played well for about a quarter today, but we gave up some easy goals. They played at a higher level, and they were due."
No one knew that more than Loyola coach Dave Cottle. Ranked No. 1 earlier in the season, Loyola had lost its previous three games, the first time a Greyhounds team had done so since 1978. During the three-game stretch, Loyola's scoring average had dropped from 15.5 goals in the first six games to 5.7.
Cottle was so frustrated that during the week he showed his team a highlight film from earlier in the year entitled: "Loyola Lacrosse: Yes we can score goals."
The Greyhounds got the message as 14 players scored. Blanding, a two-time All-American, played his best game of the season. And when Blanding plays well, so do the Greyhounds. But the biggest key was faceoffs. Loyola won 19 of 32, including eight of 11 in the pivotal second period. Nugent and midfielder Paul Cantabene were the faceoff specialists for Loyola.