As the clock ticked down to zero, the crowd started to stomp and clap as the team mobbed the field and fell on the ground in unison, having just beaten Northeastern 5-1 in the finals of the CAA Tournament at Rullo Stadium Sunday.
Head Coach Rolf van de Kerkhof said the team played well, but just needed to catch their breath during the game to continue a good run.
“We played well 11 of the 12 rounds,” van de Kerkhof said. “I called a timeout so as to get refocused to be able to find a way to play 12 quality rounds. Phenomenal start, great team effort, mature team, so you have a chance to be successful.”
The weekend began on a high note for the Hens, as freshman midfielder/defender Esmée Peet was named the CAA Player of the Year, as well as rookie of the year. Peet has 24 points for the Hens this season from 10 goals and 4 assists. She is the first Delaware player to ever win either award, and the first player to take both awards in one year since 1997.
Peet said it was a pleasant surprise to win the awards.
“It feels great, I didn’t expect it,” Peet said. “I just worked so hard this year.”
As for van de Kerkhof, it was a big weekend as well. He was named co-Coach of the Year, alongside William & Mary’s Tess Ellis. Van de Kerkhof led Delaware to a 14-4 overall regular season record, an a 6-0 CAA record.
Van de Kerkhof said his award was down to the entire coaching staff’s performance this season, not just his.
“It’s great for our staff,” van de Kerkhof said. “I may be the head coach, but I’m very glad to have the staff I have, like Lynn Farquhar, Kim Kinsella. So it’s not really Coach of the Year, it’s Coaching Staff of the Year and a tribute to my players.”
On Friday, the Hens entered their semifinal matchup against William & Mary. Twelve minutes in, senior forward Kasey Prettyman scored to put Delaware up 1-0. Five minutes later, sophomore midfielder Michaela Patzner put one away from 10 yards out to expand the Hens’ lead. Though the Tribe scored with three minutes left in the first half, Delaware would pull out the lead again in the second half. Peet and freshman forward Meghan Winsett scored to go up 4-1, a score that William & Mary could not topple, even with a late goal to end the game at 4-2.
Patzner said scoring in the playoffs was great, but such a moment was bigger for the squad.
“It’s just great to help my team and to be part of something bigger,” Patzner said.
After Northeastern beat Drexel 2-0 in the second semifinal on a cold Friday night, the Hens faced the Huskies on a bright and sunny Sunday. Delaware’s offense played strong right from the start. Peet scored on a penalty corner in the first 45 seconds. Prettyman would put another goal in three minutes into the game.
Peet said she knew putting in another goal would swing the momentum heavily in Delaware’s favor.
“I was like, ‘I have to score this goal, we have to win this game in the beginning,’” Peet said. “It worked, because all of a sudden, we had a good attack and then we got it going on. I scored, which is good, but the team was pumped up today and it worked out really well.”
In the 19th minute, red shirt midfielder/forward Maddie O’Beirne scored off of another penalty corner, while Patzner gave the assist. As Northeastern looked to get back into the game by moving the ball down into the Hens’ zone, Delaware rebuffed the Huskies each time, with senior goalkeeper Sarah Scher stopping several threatening shots. The half ended with Delaware being up 4-0, as Winesett scored with 22 seconds left in the half.
Peet said the offense worked well, taking shot after shot and not backing down, but it was a team effort the whole way.
“The offense was great,” she said. “I think we had like 18 or 20 shots on goal in the final, so I didn’t expect that. So the offense, the credit’s to them, but also the defense and the goalie, Sarah Scher.”
The Hens opened up the second half going for more goals, but possession wavered in the first 10 minutes. Northeastern was not able to convert on a penalty corner, and Delaware ran the ball back down the field, never giving it up for long.
As the game wound down, Delaware upped their offensive play, going for chances and being a threat to Northeastern. The offensive effort would pay off for the Hens, as Patzner scored in the 23rd minute to extend Delaware’s lead to 5-0.
Patzner said there wasn’t much she could remember about scoring, but she knew exactly what she had to do to make it happen.
“I just saw the ball coming towards me, and since I didn’t make that stroke, I promised all my teammates that I would score the goal and I was like, ‘Yeah that’s the opportunity,’ so I took it and it went in,” Patzner said.
Though Northeastern scored in the 29th minute off a penalty corner, it was a case of “too little, too late,” as the Hens would hold on to the lead until the bitter end.
After the game, Scher was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, while Winesett, Patzner and Prettyman were named to the All-Tournament Team alongside Scher.
Sunday’s win means Delaware will be playing in the NCAA Tournament next week. The Hens will play Liberty University at Rullo Field tomorrow at 2 p.m., and if they claim the victory, the team will go on to play No. 3 seed North Carolina Saturday.
Van de Kerkhof said going to the NCAA Tournament is a big step for the team.
“It’s great for this program,” he said. “You never get tired of winning, and the NCAAs, that’s where you want to go. That means you are one of the 16 best teams in the country and that’s what we have been working for.”
A version of this post appeared in the print edition of The Review on Nov. 12, 2013 headlined “Field hockey trounces NU 5-0, moves on to NCAA Tournament.”