If the #retriever50for50 countdown rated the top comeback in UMBC Athletics' history, the moment at No. 9 would be at the very top. It would have to rank as one of the greatest rallies in all of collegiate lacrosse. And it happened in a conference championship game with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament at stake.
The 2008 UMBC men's lacrosse season was an interesting one to say the least. After reaching the 2007 NCAA quarterfinals and getting so close to a national semifinal berth, the Retrievers lost decisively in the first two games of the 2008 season. But a win over a fast-improving Denver squad and a narrow 10-8 loss at Hopkins turned the tide for the Retrievers.
And a certain characteristic of the team was starting to show through – its success in tight games. After the Hopkins' loss, Don Zimmerman's squad won nine consecutive games to finish the regular season at 10-3. Yet, all but one of those games was decided by three goals or less, including the 9-8 triple overtime win over Maryland (Moment No. 38) and a subsequent 12-11 double overtime triumph at Ohio State.
That pattern continued into the America East playoffs, held at UMBC. In fact, the Retrievers trailed, 5-2, to fourth-seeded Binghamton early in the fourth quarter, but managed to tie the game and won it on a goal by attackman Ryan Smith in overtime.
Two nights later, on May 3, 2008, a light rain fell at UMBC Stadium as the Retrievers met their fiercest league rival Albany for the league title. A year earlier, Albany defeated UMBC for the league title, although UMBC earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
On one of the first possessions of the game, Smith, the Retrievers' leading scorer, went down with a leg injury (later determined to be an ACL tear) and did not return to play.
The injury seemed to stun the Retrievers and the Great Danes took full advantage, scoring the game's first five goals and adding two in the final nine seconds of the first quarter to lead, 7-1, after 15 minutes. The visitors built the advantage to 11-2 with 6:41 to play in the first half and Retriever supporters were probably wondering whether another at-large bid would be in the offing.
UMBC did score the final two goals of the half to cut the deficit to 11-4, but the hole was still pretty deep. But Retriever face-off specialist Taylor Marino began to dominate and the offense started to cash in. UMBC scored four times in the first 3:31 of the third quarter and cut the gap to 12-9 after 45 minutes.
In the absence of Smith, linemate Matt Latham stepped up and scored his fourth goal of the game with 4:21 remaining to bring the Retrievers to within 13-12. Marino won another draw and midfielder Alex Hopmann tied the game with 3:01 remaining. Marino captured the ensuing face-off and midfielder Maxx Davis earned his fourth assist of the night, feeding linemate Jamie Kimbles, who buried the biggest goal of his tenure on an outside bounce shot with 2:12 remaining.
The Danes did get a final possession, but missed the cage with six seconds left. As the clock hit 0:00, not only did the Retriever sideline mob goalkeeper Jeremy Blevins, but a large group of bare-chested UMBC swimmers stormed the field to celebrate with their fellow student-athletes.
It was a night that UMBC coaches, players, staff, broadcasters – anyone who was part of the more than 2,000 that witnessed the game live – will never forget.
True to form, UMBC played to a one-goal decision in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Virginia. But Terry Kimener's last second attempt hit the UVA keeper in the face mask and the Retrievers fell to the No. 2-ranked Cavaliers, 10-9.