November 9, 1977 is our earliest and the No. 16 moment overall in the #retriever50for50 countdown.
UMBC's fledging NCAA Division II men's programs were starting to build a gritty reputation that still exists and thrives today. But it was the men's soccer program that was the first to make a big splash and reach NCAA Tournament play.
Ed Veit was a very successful high school coach locally (Dundalk High) who came to UMBC in the fall of 1973. The 1976 season opened with a bang, as UMBC nipped the defending national champion University of Baltimore Bees, led by striker Pete Caringi, 1-0, in overtime. But the Retrievers could not find much offense and were continually frustrated in a 6-3-5 campaign.
The 1977 began in similar fashion as the Retrievers upended UB, 3-2, to kick off the campaign. But this UMBC side was different. The defense, led by future UMBC Hall of Famers Dave Andrzejewski (fullback), Mike Woodard (fullback) and Steve Zerhusen (goalkeeper) were now supported offensively by a bevy of goal-scorers, including freshman standout and future UMBC Athletics' Hall of Famer Ray Ford.
UMBC put up lopsided scores on its foes, defeating George Mason, 6-0, Villanova, 6-1, and Hopkins, 4-1. The black and gold won the Mason-Dixon regular season crown and opened with a 2-1 win over Towson State in the tournament semifinals. But rival UB stood in the way of the Retrievers securing the university's first post-season berth.
The Retrievers fell behind, 1-0, on a penalty kick in the 21st minute, but seven minutes later sophomore Rick Buckel knotted the score at 1-all. The key moment would occur with the clock winding down in the first half as another sophomore, sub Jody Waddell scored to give UMBC a 2-1 lead at intermission.
Buckel added his just goal just 14 seconds into the second half to give the hosts a 3-1 lead. UB would creep within a goal with 11:45 to play, but the Retrievers did not take their feet off the gas and earned the 3-2 victory.
UMBC outshot UB, 25-12 and forced UB netminder Ron Demski to collect 14 saves.
The Retrievers played Florida International in Miami four days later. FIU scored early, but fullback Don Schilimm responded "beautifully", according to the scorebook, and equalized in the 18'. But the hosts scored off a corner in the 67' and held off UMBC, 2-1, in the Retrievers' first NCAA experience.
UMBC finished the campaign at 15-2-0 and earned a national ranking of 19. Ford scored 12 goals and earned Third Team All South honors, as UMBC outscored its foes, 56-14.
Andrzejewski and Woodard captained that great Retriever squad. Woodard was inducted into the Hall of Fame posthumously in 2008 and the soccer program's Unsung Hero Award now bears his name.