Thursday, September 29, 2022

Delaware clinches top seed in CAA Tournament with win over UMass

SportsMen's LacrosseDelaware clinches top seed in CAA Tournament with win over UMass
Patrick LaPorte/The Review
Delaware snapped its 15-year streak without a CAA regular season title with a 9-6 win over the University of Massachusetts.

Senior Reporter

Delaware snapped its 15-year streak without a CAA regular season title on Friday with a 9-6 win over the University of Massachusetts. 

The last regular season title for the Blue Hens came in 2005 under Head Coach Bob Shillinglaw. The home finale served as the last game for those who will not come back to Delaware next year. One of those players is captain and current graduate student Charlie Kitchen.

“It was my last time playing at home ever today and the fact that this is the way I go out is going to be something really memorable for the rest of my life,” Kitchen said of the team’s CAA regular season title. 

Kitchen said the win over the Minutemen is the first of his career as a Blue Hen. Delaware’s last win over UMass came at home in April of 2016.

“We knew that UMass would play a really gritty game and make us come out and do different things,” Kitchen said. “Honestly that had me on my heals a little bit knowing it was my last game here, it had me more nervous than ever.”

At halftime, Delaware trailed the Minutemen 6-5 despite outshooting Massachusetts by 11 shots. Delaware Head Coach Ben DeLuca credited UMass goalie Matt Knote for his play between the pipes. Knote racked up nine saves in the first half.

“He had a couple unbelievable saves, shots that I think otherwise would normally be a goal,” DeLuca said of Knote’s play. “I think we were just a little bit off early on, we made some really good plays and we were playing hard, we just weren’t connecting on some shots.”

Delaware’s offense responded with four unanswered goals in the second-half from the sticks of Mark Bieda, Kitchen and Cam Acchione. Delaware did not allow a goal after halftime as goalie Matt Kilkeary blanked the Minutemen with eight saves after the break.

Delaware trailed its opponent at halftime in a total of seven games during the regular season, but Kilkeary said trailing at halftime is a spot the team has stood in before.

“It was a familiar spot,” Kilkeary said. “For the defense to give me some good shots to get me going and get the half started was awesome and then I was able to lock in from there.”

DeLuca described Kilkeary’s play as critical for his team’s second-half success. The Minutemen entered the evening matchup as the most efficient scoring team in the conference, connecting on just under 35% of their shots.

“To keep them off the board all together, that’s how we were able to generate a little bit of a run and some comfort for our offense,” DeLuca said. 

The Blue Hens enter the CAA Tournament as the number one seed in the conference and will play in the conference semifinals on May 6. DeLuca believes the accomplishment of regular season champions is well earned. DeLuca sees the upcoming tournament as the true test in his team’s season.

“Ultimately you’re going to have to win two really challenging games in order to win a tournament championship and secure an NCAA [automatic qualifier] which is what we are trying to do here” DeLuca said. “It’s nice, but it’s really about getting in, that’s the most important thing.”

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