The UMBC Retrievers are the biggest underdogs left in the 2014 College Cup. The little team that could has gone on the road and upset every team ahead of it. More impressively, it did without allowing a regulation goal.
Coach Pete Caringi, Jr. and his Retrievers are no strangers to the postseason tournament. Caringi and his America East 2014 Coaching Staff of the Year (their second consecutive season taking the honors) have a hard-nosed team that plays stifling defense.
The Retrievers wrapped up their 2014 season with their third consecutive America East title and their fourth trip to the postseason in the last five years. After coming out victorious in the Doubletree BWI Classic and the Hampton Inn BWI Classic at the start of the season, the Retrievers hit a skid. They struggled to an 0-4-1 mark in mid-September starting with two losses in the Nike UNLV Classic. That’s when red-shirt sophomore Billy Heavner took over as the goalkeeper.
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Heavner finished the season with a 12-1-2 mark and the Retrievers went undefeated in league play en route to the conference championship with a 2-1 victory against Hartford. The Retrievers headed into the 2014 postseason at 10-5-3 and a 6-0-1 record in the America East. They haven’t lost since.
UMBC defeated Wake Forest in the first round of the tournament and have been rolling. They sent the No. 4 seed and in-state rival Maryland home in a 1-0 thriller and then upended the No. 13 Louisville Cardinals by the same score in the third round. On the brink of their school’s first College Cup, the Retrievers dueled No. 12 Creighton down to penalty kicks and rose triumphant by a tally of 4-3. The stage was set. The Retrievers were the first unranked school since Massachusetts in 2007 to make the College Cup, and not only was it UMBC’s first trip to the Cup, but the first time any America East team was represented in the final four.
They’ve done it with defense all year through, in fact, that’s how they’ve done it for years. The Retrievers haven’t allowed a postseason regulation goal in 788 minutes dating back to 2010. That’s the recipe they will need to follow if they hope to advance. While Heavner shuts it down in the net, the Retrievers defense is led by two-time America East Defender of the Year senior Oumar Ballo. The defense held teams to a 0.87 goals against average, which was good for 41st in the country. Senior midfielder Mamaduo Kansaye, the Retrievers 2-time Captain, was the America East Midfielder of the Year and anchors the team’s middle.
They had a huge 16 goal differential as the offense put up 37 goals on the season. The offense is led by America East Striker of the Year senior Kay Banjo. Ballo, Banjo, and Kansaye were joined by senior midfielder Geaton Caltabiano on the America East First Team.
This team is heavy in senior experience. Joining the previously mentioned starters, seniors Jordan Becker and Marquez Fernandez both shared America East Second Team honors. So the Retrievers have the leadership, they have the talent and they have post season experience. Can they put it all together and upset College Cup stalwart Virginia this Friday in Cary, North Carolina?
“We are hoping to get a goal or two,” Coach Caringi said, “but right now as long as Oumar and Billy and the boys keep defending, we will stay in the game and we will get our opportunities.”