Managing Sports Editor
Just over one year ago, a three-game winning streak for Delaware’s men’s lacrosse program came to a screeching halt at the hands of Hofstra in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) semifinals.
This season, the Blue Hens needed three consecutive victories to close out the regular season and qualify for the CAA tournament. After attaining the No. 1 seed, Delaware made quick work of their opponent, No. 4 Drexel, in the semifinals to reach the title game for the first time since 2011.
Saturday in Philadelphia, the Hens captured their long-awaited championship in an 11-6 win over No. 2 Towson. The triumph was head coach Ben DeLuca’s first CAA title with the program and will send the team to the NCAA tournament.
Delaware’s 2011 trip to the tournament ended in a 15-14 loss against the No. 5 Duke Blue Devils, a team this year’s squad lost to in a February matchup, 19-14.
On Saturday, senior Tye Kurtz scored six goals on just nine shots, tying a CAA tournament record that his teammate, junior Mike Robinson, attained two days prior in the win against Drexel.
Five other Blue Hens each chipped in with a goal apiece, while sophomore JP Ward led the team with two assists. Kurtz was named the tournament’s MVP, while Ward, Robinson and redshirt senior goalkeeper Matt Kilkeary were named to the all-tournament team.
Kilkeary made six saves and only allowed six goals to both tournament opponents. After a rocky start to the season and sharing time in goal with freshman Paul Reidy, Kilkeary had a save percentage at or over 50% in all but one of Delaware’s last five games.
“It was an absolute team effort from the coaching staff down,” Kurtz said after the game. “I couldn’t be more proud of the defense for the way they played today and Matt was absolutely outstanding in the net.”
In both face-offs and shots, Delaware dominated. Sophomore Logan Premtaj went 12-for-19 on faceoffs versus Towson’s Matt Constantinides. The Blue Hens had 42 shots (26 on goal) compared to 29 (12 on goal) for the Tigers.
After struggling with face-offs during the regular season, the Blue Hens had a plus-14 mark in the tournament wins over Drexel and Towson in that department.
“Our face-off unit did an excellent job of executing the game plan,” DeLuca said after the Drexel win. “I give a ton of credit to coach [Trey] Wilkes and coach [Matt] Rewkowski for managing the adjustments.”
DeLuca, in his fifth full-time season with the program, helped Delaware rebound from two opening losses in conference play. At 0-2 in a competitive CAA, the only way for Delaware to control their own destiny was to win each game remaining.
Thanks to the conference’s competitiveness, Delaware notched the No. 1 seed despite having just a 3-2 conference record. Reaching the top seed did not come easy, as the final three regular season wins over Towson, Drexel and Fairfield combined for just a four-goal differential.
Delaware’s next test will come on Wednesday at Delaware Stadium, as the Blue Hens host Robert Morris University in the NCAA tournament’s opening round. Robert Morris won the ASUN Conference, giving them their first tournament berth since 2019.