2000 Men's Soccer Outlook
The 1999 UMBC men's soccer season was not just the best season in Retriever soccer history, but perhaps the best in UMBC's Division I history. Mildly regarded to start the year, UMBC was nearly flawless, winning a conference championship, recording the top winning percentage in the nation, earning the school's first appearance in the NCAA Division I Tournament,. and posting national Top 20 rankings in all of the major polls.
The obvious question to Head Coach Pete Caringi heading into the 2000 campaign is, "What can you do for an encore?"
"Last year was one of those dream seasons," said the 1999 South Atlantic Region and Northeast Conference Coach of the Year. " I've been fortunate in my career to have a couple of those seasons and I know that everything fell perfectly into place. We have to know that expectations are higher of us now, and people will be coming after us. As a coach, you look forward to this sort of challenge."
The Retrievers seem prepared both mentally and physically to defend their NEC crown. Although UMBC lost All Conference players Ty Engram (18 goals, 13 assists) and Kurt Meyers (defense) to graduation, nine starters and 19 letterwinners return to recapture the magic. The team worked hard throughout the spring, and several players earned national recognition in summer competition.
"This group of guys have been very successful, but the seniors went through that tough year as freshmen and last year went on that record run," said Caringi. "The day after the Duke game, many of the players were in my office, and talked about how they couldn't wait for next year."
Statistically, UMBC produced some eye-popping numbers last season, as they were ranked 11th nationally in scoring (3.27 gpg) and 6th in the country on defense (0.63 gpg). Engram's loss will hurt the offense, but senior GIULIANO CELENZA (22-10-54) is poised for another outstanding year. The All America hopeful had a solid September, earning the Most Valuable Player Award with two game-winning goals in the UNLV Tournament, then blazed through October with 18 goals in 10 games. The Northeast Conference Player of the Year ended the season with 22 goals and 54 points, both UMBC single season records. Coach Caringi realizes that the second time around will not be easy.
"Sometimes, even your own expectations are unrealistic," said Caringi of Celenza's goals for the 2000 season. "He has to just fit in with the team, be a leader, and be strong mentally. People will be much more aware of what he's capable of, and that's why other people will have to pick up for him."
One of those people should be senior RYAN LAMPTON (7-3-17). Lampton has been a consistent finisher in each of the previous three seasons, leading UMBC in goals scored in 1997 and 1998, and managing seven goals last season, despite reduced playing time. His 24 career goals is eighth on UMBC's all-time list. Sophomore BRIAN MARCHICA (0-1-1) played well in limited action last season and could give UMBC more quality minutes up front in 2000.
However, it could be a newcomer with a great deal in common with Celenza that sees a great deal of action alongside him this fall. Like Giuliano, RICKY BROWN is a junior college All American (Charles County Community College) who can find the net. He also possesses many of the same qualities as Ty Engram--tremendous speed, and a great work rate. If he adjusts to the Division I level as quickly as Celenza and Engram did, the UMBC front line should retain its potency.
The real strength of the 2000 Retrievers should be in its midfield play. Seven players who have started games in the UMBC midfield return this season. Leading the way is senior MATT GORMLEY (4-10-18). A First Team All NEC selection, Gormley is an outstanding two-way midfielder. He scored four goals and added 10 assists last season, after a 17-point year in 1998. The Wake Forest transfer has started all 42 games at UMBC and can play any position on the field. Teaming with Gormley in the central midfield in UMBC's five-midfield set are juniors JAMES HAMILTON (2-9-13) and MATT JOSEPH. Hamilton was a Second Team All NEC selection last season, after a 2-goal, 9-assist campaign in 1999. He is the catalyst of the offense, controlling the pace of play with his excellent ball control and pinpoint passing abilities. Joseph (0-5-5) did not dent the net last season, after scoring four times (three game-winners) the previous year, but often initiated the UMBC transition from defense to offense.
Seniors RYAN CUOMO and PAT HALTER, and junior P.J WAKEFIELD will battle for slots out wide. The fiery Cuomo (4-1-9) has played both midfield and forward for UMBC and has nine goals over the past two seasons. Halter (4-6-14), playing his first season at UMBC last year after transferring from Old Dominion, displayed a huge heart. After the mid-season passing of his father, Halter earned NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player honors with three goals and a key assist in UMBC's two wins. He capped the season with a goal in the NCAA playoff game at Duke. Wakefield (3-3-9) was 1999's "super-sub", who also picked up his level of play late in the season. The Calvert Hall product scored the game-winning goal just seconds after entering the game in the NEC Championship victory over Mt. St. Mary's.
Four other midfielders could help the 2000 squad and should definetly impact the team in the future. Essex CC transfer JOE CAPONE would be penciled in as a starter in many other seasons, and sophomore ALEX WILMOT was impressive in limited play last season. Red-shirt freshman ANDRES PARRA and true freshmen MIKE JOSEPH, Matt's younger brother, and BRANDON QUARANTA are very skilled midfielders who will test the incumbents each day this fall.
Despite the fact that UMBC put up gaudy offensive numbers en route to an historic campaign, it was the Retriever defense which sparked UMBC's early season run and stayed solid throughout the season. UMBC's seventh returning midfielder, senior LOUIE KARKO (2-2-6), will attempt to replace steady Kurt Meyers (Second Team All NEC) as a marking back. Karko, named the 1999 "Most Improved Player", possesses outstanding speed and worked out well in the spring at Meyers' position.
Senior BILLY NELSON (1-1-3) and junior ANDY WELLS (4-1-9) helped form an impenetrable wall in front of the UMBC net last season. They combined with Meyers and UMBC's netminders and midfielders to pitch a school-record 12 shutouts last season. Nelson, the team's 1999 Unsung Hero, has been doing his job brilliantly for the last three seasons, with 59 starts in 60 games. Both he and Wells dispose of many dangerous balls in the air, and have deft touches in the ground game. Wells, the sweeper and a First Team All NEC selection also takes most of UMBC's penalty kicks, and is 6 of 8 in two seasons.
Seniors ZURI BARNES, BRIAN MAHON, and PAUL PARSONEAULT would see substantial playing time in most other UMBC seasons, and all could fill in admirably if the situation were to arise this season.
The one predicament which could have disrupted UMBC's road to the title in 1999 failed to materialize. It occurred when sophomore goalkeeper BRIAN ROWLAND (8-1-1, 0.89) supplanted junior TOM WUNK (11-0-1, 0.34) in the goal during the final third of the season. Wunk led the nation in goals against average in 1999, allowing just 4 goals in 1045 minutes of work. But Rowland's great work rate and sterling play earned him the starting nod in UMBC's critical late season surge. He did not disappoint, allowing 1 goal in 330 minutes in the post-season and came up with a terrific nine-save effort in the 4-3 overtime loss at Duke.
"I've never dealt with a situation like that," recalled Caringi. "I'll never forget how well Tom Wunk handled that because he was still playing well at the time when we made Brian the starter. But they get along so well and the competition has raised the level of both of their games."
Freshman netminder RYAN WILLIAMS, an All State selection in New Jersey, adds even more depth to another Retriever strength.
UMBC faces a tough non-league schedule, which features Maryland, George Mason, Loyola, and league champions Holy Cross and Radford in the Kappa Kick-Off Classic. Coach Caringi also expects the NEC race to be even tougher in 2000. "Our intent is to always play this kind of schedule. The more you build your reputation, the more people want to play you. As for our conference, I felt every game was a battle last year. Across the board, I don't see any team not being a factor. The NEC is getting better and better."
Coach Caringi is very aware that it will be tough to maintain the measure of excellence that UMBC Soccer established in 1999. But with a veteran team, that enjoyed the success they achieved, his selling job shouldn't be that difficult.
"Our goals haven't changed. I'm going to remind the team where we were, what it took to get here, and there is nothing guaranteed. Teams are going to play very hard against us, we have to match that intensity or it will be a long year. Each year you have to earn what you get and it must start with day one."