UMBC ready to dive into America East conference play

At 3-5, Retrievers still have a shot at qualifying for the NCAA tournament by opening play in conference with Saturday's road contest at Hartford

March 27, 2013|By Edward Lee, The Baltimore Sun

The first half of the season has ended with UMBC compiling a 3-5 record. But the next five weeks may be more important -- and even more rewarding -- for the men's lacrosse team.

Saturday’s road contest at Hartford begins America East play for the Retrievers. They have won or shared four conference regular-season titles and three league tournaments, which include an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

That’s why Saturday’s game has been likened to the start of a new season.

“It’s the most important part of the season because we want to compete for a conference championship and we want to secure a bid to the NCAA tournament,” coach Don Zimmerman said Wednesday afternoon. “So it definitely is our second season and really the most important part of this stretch.”

The nonconference schedule may not have panned out as UMBC had hoped with the team beating Rutgers, High Point and Mount St. Mary’s. But Zimmerman said he thinks the losses have honed the players.

“I think it’s prepared us in a good fashion,” he said. “We’ve played some ranked teams, and we’ve had several mid-week games that forced us to have to take on two teams in one week. I think we had to play through some adversity, and all of that will hopefully have us better prepared to play in the conference. The conference is very, very competitive, and everyone knows everything about the other teams. Anything we can do to help prepare our guys physically and mentally for this tough stretch is what the first half of the season is all about. I think we got a lot accomplished in that.”

The start of conference play means the end of mid-week games, which doesn’t bother Zimmerman.

“I just like having an entire week to prepare for the next opponent, and it doesn’t mean that you spend Monday through Friday talking about the next opponent,” he said. “More importantly, what it does is it allows you to have a couple days just to focus on your club and your game and get that in order and then still have sufficient time to prepare for the opponent. When you have a midweek game and you have two opponents in the same week, you really don’t have those couple of days to really focus on your own team. You have to think about what you need to do to prepare for your opponent. So having a full week gives us the opportunity to get back to our game, the basics, the fundamentals, the little things. That certainly is going to help when we begin play on Saturday.”

UMBC's record was wrong in the original version of this blog post. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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