Most of the announced 2,080 who watched the America East tournament final last night were hoping the UMBC men's lacrosse team would cobble together one of the sport's more thrilling comebacks in recent memory.
The No. 7 Retrievers fulfilled that wish, rallying from a nine-goal deficit to upend visiting Albany, 14-13, and collect the championship last night at UMBC Stadium in Catonsville.
Top seed UMBC (12-3) extended its school-record winning streak to 11. It also captured the school's second conference title in three years, and in the process, secured an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Retrievers overcame the loss of junior attackman Ryan Smith, who leads the team in goals with 29. Smith tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee just 77 seconds into the first quarter and will miss the postseason, coach Don Zimmerman said.
After trailing 11-2 with 6:41 left in the second quarter, the Retrievers outscored Albany 10-2 in the second half, taking their first lead when freshman midfielder Jamie Kimbles slung a shot from 12 yards past Great Danes goalkeeper Brett Queener with 2:12 left.
"Everybody started dodging harder and things were opening up," said sophomore attackman Matt Latham (Liberty), who registered four goals and an assist. "That's when we started scoring."
Kimbles, who had scored four goals going into last night, took a pass from sophomore midfielder Maxx Davis (a goal and four assists) and appeared to tuck the shot inside the right post.
"Indescribable," Kimbles said of his game-winning score. "Maxx fed me the ball perfectly, and I put it away."
After Kimbles' goal, UMBC won the ensuing faceoff, but Albany senior defenseman Craig MacDonald forced Latham into a turnover. The Great Danes held the ball for the left 1:09, but freshman attackman Brian Caufield (three goals and an assist) missed the net wide-right, and the final horn sounded before Albany could attempt another shot.
The outcome kept No. 2 seed Albany (8-8) from claiming its fifth tournament crown in six seasons.
The win helped UMBC erase the memory of a terrible opening half during which Albany took a seven-goal lead into halftime. Caufield and freshman midfielder Joe Pompo combined for seven goals in that first half, and many of the Great Danes' scores came on point-blank shots against a helpless Jeremy Blevins (four saves).
"In the first half, we were playing like individuals," junior defenseman Bobby Atwell said. "We were running all over the place and not making smart decisions."
Notes -- Atwell, senior midfielder Terry Kimener, senior faceoff specialist Taylor Marino and sophomore midfielder Kyle Wimer were named to the all-tournament team. Kimener was named the Most Outstanding Player. ... Marino won 19 of 28 faceoffs, including 10 of 13 in the second firstname.lastname@example.org
Albany 7 4 1 1 - 13
UMBC 1 3 5 5 - 14
Goals: A-Pompo 4, Caufield 3, S. Ammann 2, Small, McDonald, M. Ammann, Sullivan; U-Latham 4, Wimer 3, Hopmann 2, Davis, Kimener, Jones, Kimbles, Scalzo. Assists: A-Alpizar 3, Levine 3, Small 2, S. Ammann, Caufield, Cometti, McDonald; U-Davis 4, Hopmann 3, Kimener, Latham, Wimer. Saves: A-Queener 14; U-Blevins 4.