Fall Sports Season Preview
There is a lot to be excited about with UD sports in 2019. There are brand new additions to Delaware Stadium a year after the football team returned to the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoffs for the first time in eight years, and the field hockey team looking for redemption as their 25-game winning streak against Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) teams was snapped in a heartbreaker against William and Mary in the CAA Tournament Championship game.
Here are some things to look for ahead of each team’s fall season.
The 2018 season saw the Blue Hens return to the FCS Playoffs for the first time since 2010 when they lost to Eastern Washington by just one point in the FCS Championship game. They had two of the top 10 wins against Elon and Towson, but fell to James Madison University, seeded at number 6 in the FCS, in the first round of the playoffs.
Key Losses: Nasir Adderley, Troy Reeder, Noah Beh, Joe Walker, Charles Scarff, Ray Jones, Malcolm Brown, Charles Bell, Jamie Jarmon, Kani Kane, Tenny Adewusi, Vinny Papale, Frank Raggo, Armen Ware, Jethro Pepe
The Blue Hens graduated a number of key players in 2018 including five players with a chance to make NFL teams this fall. Of that group, Adderley was recently drafted 60th overall by the Los Angeles Chargers in the 2019 NFL Draft. This will be a tough group to replace, but the Blue Hens have the talent to stay competitive in the CAA this year.
Quarterback – Pat Kehoe
Kehoe returns as the likely starting quarterback. The redshirt senior compiled 2,075 yards and 17 touchdowns in 2018 in his first year as a starter. Look for Kehoe to add another great season to his resume.
Running Back – DeJoun Lee
Lee led the Blue Hens in rushing last season with 606 yards rushing. He was also second among running backs with 2 touchdowns. Lee has incredible speed that he uses to zip past defenders.
Offensive Lineman – Mario Farinella
Another new captain for this upcoming year, Farinella returns for his sixth year of eligibility. He helped open up the lane for 15 rushing touchdowns. Expect Farinella to be a big part of the offensive line again in 2019.
The Blue Hens will host seven games at the newly-renovated Delaware Stadium this fall. A visit from powerhouse North Dakota State on Sept. 14, which won seven out of the last eight FCS Championships, highlights the Blue Hens’ slate. The Blue Hens will also head to Pittsburgh to face the University of Pittsburgh on Sept. 28.
The Blue Hens field hockey team finished the 2018 season with a 13-7 record, clinched the regular season CAA Championship with a 6-0 record in conference, but lost to William and Mary in overtime in the CAA Tournament Championship game. They failed to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years.
Key Losses: Kiki Bink, MaryCate Butler, Lisa Giezeman, Greta Nauck, Michaela Scanlon, Pia Freudenberger, Tessa Verweijen
The Blue Hens lost a senior class that gathered 67 victories in its four years together, including three CAA Regular Season and Tournament Championships, and one National Championship.
In addition, they lost Nauck, arguably the greatest player in program history. Nauck finished her career with a program record of 198 points on 82 goals with 34 assists. The 198 points ranks sixth in the CAA all-time record book and slots at 26th in NCAA History. Her 82 goals tie for fourth in CAA history and 24th in NCAA history.
The team also loses Freudenberger and Verweijen. Freudenberger ranked sixth on the team with 16 points on six goals and four assists. Verweijen was tabbed CAA Rookie of the Year and ranked third on the team with 18 points. Head Coach Rolf van de Kerkholf said he cannot replace players, but players can step up when they need to.
Key Returnees and Newcomers:
Midfielder – Lotte De Koning
The reigning CAA Player of the Year ranked second on the team with 25 points on 10 goals and five assists. She was also named to the preseason All-CAA Team for 2019. The junior neuroscience major from the Netherlands will need to maintain her level of play from 2018 if the Blue Hens want another shot at the CAA Championship.
Back – Emily Kresho
A Second Team All-CAA honoree in 2018, Kresho started all 20 games last season, becoming a big part of the team’s defense that gave up 34 goals. She was named an All-CAA Honorable Mention nominee for 2019.
Goalkeeper – Sydney Rhodes
The fifth-year senior started all 16 games that she appeared in. She registered a 56.3 percent save percentage, which ranked 29th in the country. She was a major part of the unit in goal which totalled 81 saves on the year. She was named to the preseason All-CAA Team for 2019.
Midfielder – Sophie Giezeman
A transfer from the University of Maryland, Giezeman was an All-CAA Honorable Mention nominee for 2019. She is the younger sister of former Blue Hen star Lisa Giezeman.
The Blue Hens are hungry for revenge after the 2018 season ending left a bitter taste in their mouth. The 2019 season sees the Blue Hens match up with quality opponents, including eight teams that made an appearance in the 2018 NCAA Tournament. Although, the Blue Hens lost many key pieces, they also return a lot of fire power. That should help them in their quest for another CAA Championship and maybe even a go at the National Championship once again.
Sara Matthews begins her third season as head coach for the Blue Hens volleyball team . The team finished 2018 with a 9-19 record, an improvement from the 5-21 outing in 2017.
Key Losses: Corey Perkins, Abby Skryd, Brooke Robertson
The Blue Hens lose a talented senior class. Skryd registered 633 assists in two seasons. Robertson totaled 430 assists in her four-year career. Perkins tallied 118 kills and 209 digs in four years.
Outside Hitter – Maria Bellinger
A first-team All-CAA honoree in 2018, Bellinger returns as the most important player for the Blue Hens. She led the CAA in kills per set at 4.38 a frame. She poured down 464 kills a year ago, good for sixth in program history, and she is the CAA’s second leading returner in career kills. She sits at 1,162 kills in her career so far, which ranks 14th nationally among active players. She tallied nine double doubles last season to take her total to 21 for her career.
Middle Blocker – Julia Hayes
The redshirt junior from Union, New Jersey, led the team with 96 blocks in 2018, which was more than half of the teams total blocks. She also added 92 kills and 123 assists.
Setter – Courtnie Roberts
Roberts started 25 of 26 matches played and was fifth in the CAA with 953 assists. That number is the best on the team by more than 800 assists.
Defensive Specialist/Libero – Andie Hanus
The former transfer from Missouri appeared in all 28 matches and was second in the CAA with 558 digs. She was also third on the team with 123 assists.
Outside Hitter – Cailey Bracken
Bracken started all 28 matches in her first year on the team. She was second on the team with 365 digs, including 20 games of double-digit digs. She was also second on the team with 271 kills and led the team with 11 double doubles. She also served 32 aces during the year, showing off her versatile skill set.
The Blue Hens have gotten off to a good start, winning 3-0 vs. George Washington in their first and only exhibition game. They will need contributions from everyone to be able to improve upon last year’s rough season. They bring a lot back and should have plenty of firepower to be very competitive in the CAA.
Burdened by injuries, the Blue Hens women’s soccer team had a difficult 2018 season, going 4-12-2. This year, they will return 85 percent of their scoring from last year and also gain back Gabby Johnson, Anna Diffendal and Jill Vassallo who missed most or all of the 2018 season with injuries.
Key Losses: Toni Starova
The team loses the CAA All-Rookie honoree Starova, who scored one goal and one assist on the year. It’s always tough losing a freshman, but others should be able to step up in her absence.
Forward – Riley Dixon
The junior neuroscience major led the team with four goals and three assists for 11 points, and was named to the All-CAA Second Team. Dixon will be a big part of the team’s offense this season.
Defender/ Midfielder – Olivia Schuck
An All-CAA Third Team honoree and a newly named captain, Schuck was a big part of the team’s defense that limited opponents to 1.06 goals per game last year.
Midfielder – Dani Kabat
The senior appeared in 18 games, starting all but one and was second on the team with 3 goals and 7 points. She also had a 62.5 percent shots on goal percentage, which was third on the team.
Midfielder – Gabby Johnson
Johnson missed the entire 2018 season after tearing her ACL, but during her freshman season in 2017, she was tied for the team lead with three goals.
The Blue Hens have already gotten off to a great start in 2019, winning their first games against Lafayette and Lehigh 2-0 each. They will look to carry that momentum forward when they play Stony Brook on Friday, Aug. 30 at home.
The 2018 season saw the Blue Hens go 5-11-1, but they went 4-3-1 in CAA play and return plenty of talent.
Key Losses: John Schroeder, Robert Gillin, Fede Prieto
The team loses two seniors who made All-CAA Honors last fall. They also lose junior Prieto, who put in two goals during the season. Prieto only played in seven games due to injury.
Defender – Timo Hummrich
The sophomore from Berlin, Germany, won CAA Rookie of the Year in 2018. He led the team with four goals on the season, including three game-winners. He was also named the UD team in 2018 and was selected to the Preseason All-CAA Team for the 2019 season.
The Blue Hens lost three out of their four All-CAA players from a year ago, but will return 14 players including five starters. If they can mix the new players in well, they could be looking at another appearance in the CAA Tournament.
The Blue Hens cross country team had two first place finishes, one second and one third place finish in 2018. They finished third in the CAA Championships, their best finish since 2001. This was before the track and field team won the CAA Championship in the spring. A lot of players are on both squads.
The senior was the top finisher for the Blue Hens in every race and earned All-CAA Honors. She finished 9th overall at the CAA Championship. She won her first race at the Adelphi Invitational last August.
The only other Blue Hen to make All-CAA Honors, Ramirez will add a lot to this group of talented runners.
It will be hard to replicate what the track team did in the spring, but with enough patience and endurance, the Blue Hens will be in great shape for 2019.