BALTIMORE – For the fourth time in five seasons, the UMBC men's soccer will compete for an America East championship, as the top-seeded Retrievers defeated No. 5 Vermont, 3-1, in the league tournament semifinal match.
UMBC's opponent in 2014 will be the same side they faced in 2013, as second-seeded and host Hartford defeated No. 3 Binghamton, 2-1, in overtime to earn the right to a rematch with the Retrievers. The match will again take place at Retriever Soccer Park, this time on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 7:00 p.m.
The Retrievers (11-5-3) extended their season-long winning streak to five with the come-from-behind victory. Vermont's season ended at 8-9-2.
Vermont came out looking like a much different team that the one that fell at UMBC, 5-1, on Nov. 1. They stunned the hosts with an early goal as America East leading goal scorer Brian Wright got behind the UMBC defense and beat Retriever netminder Billy Heavner with a 10-yard shot just inside the far left post.
But less than two minutes later, the Retrievers replied in equally surprising fashion. Red-shirt freshman defensive midfielder Gregg Hauck (Linthicum, Md./North County) finished a flurry in the Vermont end by blasting home a shot from 22 yards out.
UMBC took the lead in the 30th minute, as their leading scorer, senior forward Kay Banjo (Upper Marlboro, Md./Largo) posted his fourth game-winning goal and eighth overall of the season on a brilliant set-up and goal. Senior back Jordan Becker (Pocomoke, Md.) eluded persistent Catamount defense to penetrate deep along the left wing and his cross towards the middle of the box was back-heeled in by Banjo from nine yards out.
UMBC led, 2-1, at the half, and had the better of the play in the second 45 minutes, but could not get the insurance goal until the late stages. Junior midfielder Malcolm Harris (Damascus,Md./McDonogh) sent a diagonal ball toward the left side, where linemate Michael Scott (Fife, Scotland) took possession, broke into the box, and chipped a shot from 14 yards out over Vermont netminder Connor Leland and into the far right corner with just 6:58 remaining.
The Retrievers held a 15-7 edge in shots and took all seven corner kicks in the game. Both Heavner and Leland made four saves apiece.
Becker had a pair of assists in the game for the hosts.
The Retrievers are looking to become just the second team in America East history to win three consecutive league titles and four overall championships. Boston University won five in a row from 1993-97 and captured seven championships overall. Currently, UMBC, Hartford and Stony Brook all have three America East Championships.
UMBC is also hoping to become the second team in league history to win regular season and tournament titles in back-to-back years. Boston U. achieved that feat in 1993-94.
UMBC is unbeaten versus its last 24 league foes (include playoffs), an America East record. At Retriever Soccer Park, UMBC is unbeaten in its last 15 (13-0-2) contests when playing America East foes.
UMBC defeated Hartford, 4-0, in last year's championship contest. In 2010 and 2012, the Retrievers faced UNH in the title match, and advanced to the NCAA's via penalty kicks as both contests ended in scoreless draws.
The Retrievers nipped the Hawks, 2-1, at Retriever Soccer Park on Oct. 11 of this season.