The UMBC men's lacrosse program has been a model of consistency in 11 years of America East Conference competition. They have competed in six league title match-ups in the past nine years, splitting those contests, but falling short of their championship hopes in the last two May clashes.
UMBC, which finished at 8-7 a year ago, will return nine of ten starters and the majority of its specialists from last year's squad. With a large freshmen class and the return of a few key red-shirts, Coach Zimmerman is quietly confident about his 2015 squad.
"We have a nice balance of returning and new players," said the Retriever mentor, entering his 22nd season on Hilltop Circle. "We have good chemistry, yet are competitive in practice. The veteran guys are leading by example and the younger guys are willing and eager to follow."
Offensively, the Retrievers were very strong in 2014, finishing ninth in the nation with 12.2 goals scored per outing. Attackman Matt Gregoire, with his 3.2 goals per game, has graduated, but five Retrievers who scored 17 or more points return, along with red-shirt senior midfielder Conor Finch (Westminster, Md./Boys' Latin).
On the attack, Nate Lewnes (Arnold, Md./St. Mary's) is expected to take on some of Gregoire's responsibilities, as the junior can be effective both inside and from the perimeter. The southpaw scored 31 goals in 2014, led the squad with eight man-up tallies and led all offensive players with 27 ground balls.
Sophomore Max Maxwell (Hamburg, N.Y./Hamburg) quickly took over the quarterbacking role on the attack in his freshman season and earned 2014 America East All-Rookie team honors. The Hamburg, N.Y. native led the squad with 26 assists, finishing 24th in the country in his first collegiate season. He had 29 points in a seven-game stretch, culminating with a four-goal, two-assist effort in the America East semifinal win over Binghamton.
Ty Kashur (Manassas, Va./Stonewall Jackson/CCBC-Essex), who started 13 games on the first midfielder last spring, will likely shift back to his more natural attack position for his final campaign. The senior scored nine times, added eight assists and proved to be a solid initiator of the Retriever offense.
Juniors Drew Borsody (Germantown, Md./Seneca Valley) got some game experience, especially on man-up situations last spring and continues to push for more playing time. Classmate Mark Monroe (Williamsburg, Va./Woodberry Forest/Dickinson) has excellent size, which he utilizes well on the inside.
Freshman Jonah Kozierski (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park) was a big point-producer at the prep level and is pushing for playing time very early in his tenure.
Finch was playing his best lacrosse at the tail end of the 2013 spring and was poised for an outstanding 2014 campaign. But for the second time in his lacrosse career, he suffered a torn ACL and did not compete last spring. But Finch, who will graduate in May with a triple-major, decided to use his final year of eligibility and should find his way on one of the two top offensive midfield units. The coaching staff appointed him as one of the team's four captains.
Junior Pat Young (Ewing, N.J./Christchurch School I(Va.)) has put together the best goal-scoring figures (65) for any UMBC Division I player in their freshman/sophomore campaigns. He has been explosive (ten games with three or more goals), yet consistent (points in 26 consecutive games) in his 30-game tenure. Last season, the two-time America East First Team middie was a marked man by opposing defenses, yet scored 33 times and added 10 helpers.
Jack Gannon (Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y./Sachem North) took huge strides from his freshman to his sophomore campaign and finished third on the squad with 41 total points. The southpaw and former basketball point guard dished out 23 helpers and scored multiple points 11 times, earning AE Second Team honors.
Sophomore Dylan McDermott (Westminster, Md./South Carroll) displayed nifty dodging skills during his freshman year, contributing five points, and should be more of a factor amongst the top six middies in 2015. Classmate Grant Searfoss (Nazareth, Pa./Nazareth Area) also earned some valuable minutes in his initial campaign and is looking to have more of an impact as well.
Freshmen Max Haldeman (York, Pa./Central York) and Steven Partlow (Pasadena, Md./De Matha) have emerged as potential contributors on the offense in 2015. Haldeman was a huge point-producer at Central York High School, while Partlow competed for an outstanding program at De Matha.
Freshman C.J. Nichols (Finksburg, Md./Westminster) suffered a torn ACL late in spring workouts and will miss the 2015 season, while Corey Reynolds-Scantlebury (Orange, N.J./The Hun School) is getting acclimated to Division I lacrosse.
The Retrievers are very deep at the defensive midfield position, especially at the short-stick slot, where two of their four captains reside. Seniors Kevin McDonough (Oak Beach, N.Y./St. Anthony's/Binghamton) and Tim Lang (Holbrook, N.Y./Sachem North) have each earned three varsity letters and McDonough has been selected as a captain for the second consecutive year. He came up with a career-best 37 ground balls last season. Lang has played both as an offensive and defensive middie during his tenure and played in a career high 13 games in 2014.
Junior Steve Winsor (Chapel Hill, N.C./Chapel Hill) usually teamed with McDonough as the Retrievers' top two defensive midfielders. The speedy, hard-working Winsor earned Second Team America East honors in 2014 and excels in the Retrievers' clearing game.
Freshman Mason Witzler (Reisterstown, Md./St. Paul's School) has shown a tremendous work ethic while being groomed for this demanding role.
Senior Seth Mackin (Davidsonville, Md./South River) is likely to get the nod at the starting long-stick defensive midfield position. Mackin assumed that role in 2014 and finished second on the squad in both ground balls (49) and caused turnovers (16).
The coaching staff is hopeful for the successful return of Nathan Klein (Coquitlam, B.C./Western Reserve), who has missed the last two seasons due to injury. Klein's career track was pointing upwards after his sophomore season when injuries derailed his progress. He will be called upon to contribute as a face-off specialist in his final campaign.
Several young players are also fighting for playing time behind Mackin. Sophomore Garrett Hasken (Odenton, Md./DeMatha) and freshmen Billy O'Hara (Davidsonville, Md./South River) and John Tornabene (Havre de Grace, Md./Archbishop Curley) all have bright futures for the Retrievers.
UMBC returns all three of its 2014 starters at close defense. Senior Mike Dahl (Joppatowne, Md./Mt. St. Joseph) is a team captain who will man the interior of the unit. He took over as a full-time starter last season and is regarded as an outstanding communicator in front of the UMBC goal.
Like Dahl, classmate Ian Gray (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral) took over as a full-time starter at close defense last season. Gray had played primarily out front in his first two seasons and has good range against opposing attackmen.
After some ups and downs as a freshman, junior Zach Esser (Forest Hill, Md./Fallston) evolved into an outstanding defender in his sophomore season. He earned America East First Team honors after leading the squad in caused turnovers for the second consecutive season. Esser is typically assigned to the opponent's top attackman.
There is not much experience behind UMBC's projected starters. Sophomore Wyatt Griffith (Wye Mills, Md./Easton) is the only other returner to the unit, and he came back in outstanding condition this spring. Red-shirt freshman Pat Dignan (New Hope, Pa./New Hope-Solesbury) along with true freshmen Mark Pryor (Oshawa, Ont./Christ School (N.C.)), Billy Bollhorst (Severna Park, Md./Severna Park), Connor McCann (Suwanee, Ga./Lambert) and Logan Wood (Cumming, Ga./Lambert) are all developing nicely at the close defensive positions.
UMBC's situation in goal was very unsettled heading into last season, but Connor Gordon (Bourne, Mass./Tabor Academy), coming off ACL surgery in his true freshman campaign, emerged as the favorite in the fall and never looked back. He earned AE All-Rookie team accolades as he amassed 167 saves, the most-ever for a Retriever Division I netminder. Gordon suffered a late-season knee injury and did not compete this fall, but appears to be ready for opening day.
Senior James Maxwell (Hamburg, N.Y./Hamburg/Onondaga CC), sophomore Ruston Souder (Pasadena, Md./Chesapeake) and freshman David Pisanic (Towson, Md./Boys' Latin) give the Retrievers a deep goalkeeping corps.
Coach Zimmerman has always believed the goalkeeping and face-offs are the most critical elements in the game of lacrosse. In the face-off circle, UMBC will have to replace the most prolific specialist in school history with the graduation of Phil Poe. Sophomore Steven Larson (Scottsdale, Ariz./Chaparral), the aforementioned Nathan Klein and freshman Brett Malamphy (Crofton, Md./Arundel) are slated to supplant Poe as the campaign gets underway.
The Retrievers open the 2015 season by playing four straight on the road before hosting Towson at UMBC on March 7. The Retrievers begin the journey at No. 5 Johns Hopkins on Feb . 7 and commence America East competition on March 14, when they welcome Binghamton. The top-seeded team at the end of the league's regular season will host the semifinals and finals of the league championship, with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the veteran presence, Coach Zimmerman realizes even the slightest changes in personnel will alter his team's fortunes from one year to the next. "Every team is unique. This year, we like the team's attitude, work ethic and focus. This Retriever squad appears resolved and ready to go."