UMBC up, wary after 6-0 soccer start

`We're in the penthouse,' coach says, but warns squad must win in league

Area notebook

September 24, 1999|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Pete Caringi, a sensible man and the UMBC men's soccer coach, knows the season is young. He's aware the team's 6-0 start will be wasted if it fails to qualify for the Northeast Conference tournament, gateway to the NCAAs.

"I'm pleased, but I think that what we want the players to realize is that the season is one-third over," he says. "We have to be one of the four teams to make the [NEC] tournament, and that's our goal."

But this is the best start for one of Caringi's UMBC squads since he arrived at the Catonsville college in 1991. That's why he let loose for a moment toward the end of a practice leading to today's conference opener at Fairleigh Dickinson.

"How a-bout those UMBC Retrievers?" he said, beaming. The Retrievers have played more than seven hours without giving up a goal. At the same time, they've been their usual attacking selves, scoring 10 goals in their win over the Citadel.

The Retrievers are ranked fifth in the East Region after beating San Diego State, 2-0, in the final of the Coors Soccer Classic in Las Vegas last weekend. Caringi feels honored his team is mentioned along with national powers such as Maryland and Virginia.

"We're in the penthouse now," he said.

The win over UNLV in the semifinals of the Las Vegas tournament may have been the most impressive, with UMBC, 2,500 miles from home, defeating a respectable team in familiar surroundings. Afterward, the Rebels' win over a ranked Gonzaga team gave more weight to the Retrievers' triumph.

Caringi might have expected such success. His got 10 of 11 starters back from last fall's 11-7-2 team. Two of the top-four scorers -- second-team NEC midfielder Matt Gormley and first-team forward Ty Engram -- were transfers.

In the spring, UMBC picked up two-time junior college All-American Giuliano Celenza, an Archbishop Curley standout from Highlandtown who passed on offers from national soccer powers to stay home.

"The pieces are coming together, but it's been a combination of hard work and a little luck," Caringi said. "I can't say there've been any great surprises. A lot of these guys are individually good, so I'm not surprised by any one player."

The shocker is the gaudy statistic that shows the Retrievers holding opponents scoreless in the last 446 minutes, 50 seconds, with goalkeeper Tom Wunk (Mount Hebron) among the nation's leaders in goals-against average at 0.22. Caringi's teams have been normally known for scoring -- his third team scored a school-record 71 goals in 1993.

But with Engram, Celenza, Gormley and Ryan Lampton, the team knew it had enough scoring. It needed a committed defense that includes returning backfielders Andy Wells, Billy Nelson (Bel Air) and Kurt Meyers.

"I thought that they would be good, but they're really focused on not giving up any goals," Caringi said. "We had a lot of firepower and thought that we would need the defense. The players are there. Five shutouts in six games is impressive at any level."

Floyd's fallout

There's reason to believe that the Morgan State-South Carolina State football game, scheduled for last Saturday at Hughes Stadium, won't be rescheduled.

"We're going to wait and see if one or both of the teams need the game or not," Morgan State spokesman Joe McIver said. "If so, we'll play it."

Hurricane Floyd caused the cancellation of the game when S.C. State officials told the Greenville, S.C., school's students to go home, well before the football team was to travel to Baltimore.

A rescheduling seems unlikely given both teams' dim postseason prospects. The Bears -- who play their Oct. 16 homecoming game against North Carolina A&T at PSINet Stadium -- are 0-2. South Carolina State is 2-0 after wins against weak non-conference competition, but MEAC play should put a few dents in that record.

Several factors have complicated efforts to reschedule. Each team has an open date, but they don't mesh. The remaining open Saturday would be Nov. 27, but that is the first weekend of the Division I-AA playoffs.

Another scenario would have the teams play a mid-week game on Oct. 20. But that would force the Bears to play three games within a week.

The venue is questionable, too. The game was to have been the last at Hughes Stadium, which is to undergo a renovation that won't be completed until 2001.

Yet another delay in the renovation project could keep the stadium around for a game or two more, perhaps even for a South Carolina State game.

Otherwise, a likely location would be Johns Hopkins' Homewood Field -- site of the Morgan State-Towson game Oct. 9 -- but its availability is limited.

Successful Sea Gulls

It was a happy Monday in Salisbury. The Sea Gulls sent all seven of their fall sports teams into competition last weekend, and they brought home wins in each of 10 events.

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