The nationally-ranked UMBC men's soccer team opens its 2014 campaign when they host the Long Island Blackbirds in the Doubletree BWI Classic on Friday, Aug. 29 at Retriever Soccer Park. Kick-off time is set for 7:00 p.m. If you can't make it to the game, all the live action is available free of charge at UMBCRetrievers.tv, courtesy of the America East digital network and live stats are also available via www.umbcretrievers.com or UMBC Front Row (mobile site).
A Look Back
The 2013 UMBC men's soccer team reached heights that few, if any, Retriever squads have scaled in the program's NCAA Division I history. Moreover, they etched "UMBC" into the America East record books as a rare repeat champion and tournament No. 1 seed to capture the title.
For the first time in school history, a UMBC squad hosted and played in an NCAA Championship contest. For the second time in school history, the soccer program led the nation in winning percentage (16-1-3, .875), matching the feat of the 1999 squad. As seen in year-long polling, Pete Caringi's forces were recognized by coaches, media and fans as one of the nation's best soccer programs.
It was a landmark season, which punctuated a tremendous five-year run for the program. The Retrievers have played in four AE Championship games in five years, winning three, and display no signs of slowing down.
UMBC returns 20 letterwinners, eight starters and three All-Conference players from that celebrated 2013 squad. Despite some key losses, America East coaches unanimously selected the Retrievers to repeat as league champions. Senior defenders Oumar Ballo (First Team) and Marquez Fernandez (Second Team) and senior midfielder, team captain Mamadou Kansaye (First Team) give UMBC a strong presence in the middle of the field for the 2014 season.
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Inside the Series
UMBC and Long Island will compete for the first time since the two schools were Northeast Conference rivals in 2002.
The Retrievers holds a 3-2-0 advantage in the five all-time meetings. UMBC has won both contests played in Baltimore, including a 7-2 victory in the 1999 championship campaign. The other four games were all decided by 2-1 margins.
A Glance at the Blackbirds
The Blackbirds finished 5-10-2 overall and 2-4-1 in NEC play a season ago.
LIU struggled on the offensive end, recording only 11 goals in 16 games. The Blackbirds were blanked in their first four games of the season, but then shut out Manhattan, 2-0, to record their first triumph of the campaign.
LIU had an impressive mid-October weekend, defeating Robert Morris, 2-1, and St. Francis (Pa.), 1-0, at LIU Field. But the 'Birds were blanked in their final three contests and did not make the NEC Tournament.
Senior forward Brice Merwine led LIU with three assists in 2013. Junior M Tanner Sica, who led the team with 1,580 minutes played, also returns to the lineup.
Red-shirt sophomore netminder Logan Keys split time in the nets last season. He led the squad with 53 saves and a save percentage of 80.3
UMBC will welcome another NEC opponent, Sacred Heart, in the Doubletree BWI Classic finale on Sunday, Aug. 31. Kick-off time is set for 1:00 p.m.