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posted 02.10.2012 at 11.43 p.m. by Matt Forman

Retrievers Upset with Underdog Label

UMBC coach Don Zimmerman said he always sees the Retrievers as somewhat of an underdog. But in 2012, external expectations are lower than previous years, making them even more of an underdog. It struck a nerve.

"In one of the preseason publications, we came in ranked 45th, basically ranked lower than every one of our opponents," Zimmerman said. "We were ranked below teams that have never beaten us. And I think our guys took that personally. It's motivation. It really does come down to what you do on the field. It's not where you're ranked at the beginning of the year, it's where you're ranked at the end. I know that's a cliché, but it's true. It did give our guys a little bit of an added spark that we're going to build off of. We've always taken pride in playing for UMBC."

UMBC already has played two scrimmages, against Limestone and Mount St. Mary's, and it will face Drexel this weekend. Zimmerman said his team's consistent attitude and approach has stood out. Some other takeaways from the preseason:

Confidence in Cohen

Senior goalie Brian McCullough was in the cage for each of the Retrievers' six victories in 2011, and he started their last game of the season against Hartford in the America East Championship semifinals. But Zimmerman expects junior Adam Cohen to be between the pipes when UMBC opens the season against Robert Morris on Feb. 8.

"One of the issues for us the past couple of years has been our goaltending, and I'm starting to see some good progress there," Zimmerman said. Right now, Adam Cohen has got the starting nod. We've always believed Adam had talent. It has taken a little while to get to where we feel he can be, and he's getting there. He's starting to really be consistent. I can see his confidence growing as he's developing. Obviously, a goalkeeper has got to have confidence."

Cohen is a rangy keeper who's good out of the cage tracking down loose balls.

Injury Bug

Junior faceoff specialist Joe Impallaria, who won 49.2 percent (31 of 63) of his draws last year, tore both of his rotator cuffs and will miss the season.

"He just got one rotator cuff repaired, and I think they're going to do the other one in a month," Zimmerman said. "It's unfortunate for Joe. It's disappointing when, right before the season starts, you find out that you're not going to be able to play that year. Joe is a great kid, and he'll bounce back. He'll get a redshirt out of this, and he'll help us down the road."

Sophomore Phil Poe (55 of 122 in 2011) is expected to take the majority of faceoffs in Impallaria's absence.

Junior Sam McKelvey, the Retrievers' top returning defender and a second team All-America East performer last year, is recovering from ankle surgery faster than expected. He shoulnd't miss much, if any, game action.

"The doctors are amazed at the progress he's made. He's been cleared," Zimmerman said. "He's behind, as far as his conditioning is concerned, but to have a player of his caliber back is going to really help us."

Position Changes

Zimmerman identified a couple moving pieces to the puzzle of his starting lineup. Senior Rob Grimm, the team's leading scorer in 2011, will move from attack to midfield.

"We were able to do that because we have a freshman, Derek Bertolini, who we really like," Zimmerman said. "He's a really good all-around player. But he's young, and he shows his freshman-itis every once and a while, but we think he has a very bright future. High expectations. If you're given the starting nod, you're expected to perform, but you realize that these guys are young and you've got to be patient. You've got to let them grow into the position, grow into the whole pace of college lacrosse versus high school. Patience is definitely a virtue."

Junior Ethan Murphy, who played long-stick midfielder the last two seasons, has been moved to close defense.

"We were a little thin there, but Ethan has done really done a nice job of making that transition," Zimmerman said.