This must be the week for comebacks. Whereas the 2008 men's lacrosse team pulled off a miraculous rally with the highest consequences (Moment No. 9), the moment at No. 8 on the #retriever50for50 countdown was a season-long journey from the bottom of America East women's soccer to the top of the mountain.
And it culminated with in improbable championship on Nov. 9, 2013.
Leslie Wray took the reins of Retriever women's soccer in the winter of 2012. In her first autumn as bench boss, UMBC won just one game (1-11-5) and picked up just three points in America East play with a 0-5-3 slate.
So very little was expected as the team approached the 2013 campaign. But those who watched the Retrievers closely knew that seven of UMBC's losses the previous campaign occurred by a single goal and the difference between a respectable season and what the record said was pretty thin.
The first half of the 2013 season was not a thing of beauty, but a tidy three-game winning streak in late September gave the Retrievers a 5-3-2 mark heading into America East play. However, another hard-luck loss at Maine (2-1, goal scored in 87') seemed to reignite the "same-old UMBC" feelings around campus.
Four days later, UMBC had to head back on the road, making the five-hour bus ride to Binghamton. The host Bearcats certainly had the shot and territorial advantage, but the game remained scoreless deep into overtime. Then, with just 3:13 remaining, UMBC sophomore forward Alexa Quaranta took advantage of a BU miscue and scored from close range to give the visitors and improbable 1-0 road victory.
Three straight wins over Albany, Vermont and Stony Brook followed as Quaranta and midfielder Jessy Brown emerged as scoring threats for the Retrievers and senior Lauren Kadet back-stopped a steady defensive unit.
UMBC lost a late lead and fell, 3-2, at UML, and then things got crazy. The Retrievers hosted perennial power Hartford and trailed, 1-0 after a goal in the 83' by the Hawks. But Brown converted on a header three minutes later and forward Amanda Dailey scored the game-winner with exactly one minute remaining to give the hosts a 2-1 victory.
That victory gave UMBC a chance for a share of the regular season title against UNH three days later at Retriever Soccer Park. Again, the Retrievers fell behind in the second half, but, amazingly, struck twice on goals by Nikki Boretti and Lilly Rydon 53 seconds apart and in the final eight minutes to triumph, 2-1.
UMBC and Stony Brook shared the regular season crown, but a head-to-head win over SBU gave the Retrievers home field advantage in the AE Tournament. A confident Retriever team left no doubt in the semifinals versus Hartford, scoring two first half goals in a 2-0 victory.
But to complete the improbable journey, UMBC would have to advance past Stony Brook. Under the lights,.a partisan black and gold-clad crowd gathered at Retriever Soccer Park. The Seawolves struck first in the 40', but Boretti equalized just two minutes later and the score was knotted at 1-apiece at the break.
Early in the second half, UMBC buzzed around the Seawolf cage, and, when an SBU defender attempted to clear, Brown stuck her left boot in the way and the ball glanced off her and over the goalkeeper's head and into the net in the 59'.
The lead held up and fans rushed the field to celebrate UMBC's first-ever league title and NCAA Tournament bid. The Retrievers won their final ten home games of the 2013 season.
UMBC competed fiercely at No. 4 Virginia Tech in the NCAA's, but fell, 2-0, in Blacksburg.
Brown, who scored six game-winning goals on the season, summed it up after the AE title game, "It feels like a dream."