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Delaware’s men’s lacrosse looks to make a run in CAA Tournament

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Patrick LaPorte/The Review
At 10-2, the Blue Hens head into the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament as the No. 1 seed, facing No. 4 Hofstra in Thursday’s semifinals.

BY
Managing Sports Editor

The 2021 spring season has been full of close matchups, back-and-forth goals, late-game comebacks and nail biting wins for the Delaware men’s lacrosse team. At 10-2 (7-1 CAA), the Blue Hens head into the Colonial Athletic Association Tournament as the No. 1 seed.

Six of the team’s ten wins have come by a margin of five goals or less. Two of the team’s crucial conference wins came in overtime, against Towson and Hofstra, respectively. 

Further, six of the Blue Hens’ victories have come in games in which they trailed the opponent. In five such wins, Delaware found themselves down at halftime but recovered in the second half to grab the win.

“We’ve got a really tough team and we’re going to fight until the final whistle,” sophomore attacker Mike Robinson said. “It speaks a lot to the resilience of the team and our ability to fight back, [especially] because these conference wins do not come easily.”

Head Coach Ben DeLuca, in his fifth year at the university with his staff, points to the staff’s preparation of the team as critical to this season’s late-game success.

“Our staff has worked hard with our captains and our leaders on teaching our guys how to win,” DeLuca said. “We are teaching our guys how to play the game the right way in a selfless and disciplined manner and they have learned and committed to that.”

Graduate student Charlie Kitchen has led the offense with a team-high: 50 points and 25 assists on the year. His impressive play landed him as a nominee for the Tewaaraton Award, which recognizes the top players in men’s and women’s lacrosse across the nation.

Alongside Kitchen have been two other standout players with over 40 points as well. Robinson has 49 points, with 42 of those coming on goals. Junior Tye Kurtz has poured in 25 goals and 22 assists on the season to complete a dangerous trio of offensive attackers for the Blue Hens.

“Myself, [Kitchen] and [Kurtz] are clicking, and our chemistry is really good with the younger players as well,” Robinson said of the team’s three top scorers. We have really bought into playing a team game and sharing the ball, which has obviously paid off so far.”

Despite being the team’s premier goal-scorer, Robinson gave credit to his teammates for their passing abilities on the offensive end. By playing off the ball, he has been able to “catch and shoot” and score assisted goals off of passes from Kitchen and Kurtz, among others.

“They can read each other really well when they’re on the field and they work really well together,” DeLuca said of the trio. [Kitchen] has experience and seniority, and [Kurtz] and [Robinson] play off of him very well. They do a great job of sharing the ball and working within the parameters of our offense.”

Nationally, the Delaware offense is 16th in goals per game (13.75), 13th in shooting percentage (32.1%) and 16th in points per game (21.67). Kurtz and Kitchen are both top 20 nationally in points per game, while Robinson is third nationally with 3.82 goals per game.

While the offense has certainly been the strong suit for Delaware, the defense has also been able to hold its own. Senior goalkeeper Matt Kilkeary has started all 12 games and holds a .553 save percentage.

Delaware’s scoring defense is ranked 18th nationally, giving up 10.08 goals per game. However, the team ended on a high note defensively, limiting Towson and UMass to 8 and 6 goals, respectively, in their final two games.

Defenseman Owen Grant has been the top defender for the Blue Hens in all major statistical categories. He has 38 ground balls and a team-high 24 caused turnovers. Nationally, Grant is second with 2.4 caused turnovers per game. 

“[Grant’s] got tremendous skills and an ability to take the ball away from somebody and advance it to the offensive end,” DeLuca said of his junior defenseman. “He’s a complete defender, he’s a great athlete and has a great mind for the game.”

DeLuca did not hesitate to note that the defense is not a weak point for this team, mentioning that the team is not too reliant on its offense to pull out victories. The late-season improvement from the defense is something that DeLuca said excites him for the conference tournament.

With the semifinals looming, Delaware’s high-octane offense and fourth quarter success will be put to the test against No. 4 Hofstra (7-5, 4-4 CAA), a team they defeated once in the regular season. Despite the 7-1 conference regular season record, DeLuca looks at the CAA Tournament as anyone’s to win.

“Our conference is incredibly competitive [and] there’s a lot of very close games in our conference,” DeLuca said. “All the teams are very well coached and have a great deal of talent, [so] you can pretty much throw rankings out the window.”

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