Delaware captures second straight CAA men’s lacrosse championship

Managing Sports Editor

Nearly one year ago, the Delaware men’s lacrosse team impressed on a national stage, eliminating Georgetown to advance to the program’s third-ever NCAA quarterfinal.

Saturday afternoon at Delaware Stadium in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) championship game, the Blue Hens assured themselves a chance at an encore by securing their return to the NCAA tournament as they beat Stony Brook 13-10.

The win gave Delaware its fifth CAA tournament crown and second straight, making the Hens the first team to repeat in the conference championship since Towson won the league tourney in three consecutive years (2015-2017).

“I think we have raised the standards here, and our guys are ready for that,” Delaware head coach Ben DeLuca said. “That’s why they came here. That’s why [athletic director] Chrissi [Rawak] brought me here.”

After falling behind 3-0 at the outset of their eventual CAA semifinal win over Towson, the Blue Hens enjoyed an auspicious start against Stony Brook, scoring the game’s first three goals in the first eight minutes of the opening quarter. By the first quarter’s end, Delaware had outshot the Seawolves 16-6, including 10-4 in shots on goal.

The Hens were diligent in making Saturday a better beginning, DeLuca said, but Stony Brook course-corrected in the second quarter, settling into the title game by outscoring Delaware 3-2 in the period. It trimmed the Blue Hen advantage to 7-5 at halftime.

“At halftime, we went in with a two-goal lead and we let our guys know, like, ‘Hey, we’re not playing our best just yet,’” DeLuca said. “We were hitting a lot of pipes, we were generating a lot of really good offense, but we weren’t necessarily scoring. And doing that coming in with a two-goal lead, we knew that it was going to break eventually and [it was a matter of] just sticking to the simple plays and the fundamentals and trusting that our offense is gonna work and our defense was gonna lock in and hold them.”

Head coach Ben DeLuca hoists the CAA trophy in front of his players during Saturday’s post-game celebrations.
Jacob Letnaunchyn/THE REVIEW

Delaware graduate student goalkeeper Matt Kilkeary’s 14 saves marked his second consecutive outing with double-digit stops and matched the save total of Stony Brook’s Jamison MacLachlan. Kilkeary took home the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player award and was joined on the CAA All-Tournament team by teammates Tye Kurtz, Joe Speers and JP Ward.

Ward’s four goals on five shots knotted him with Seawolves senior attack Dylan Pallonetti for the game high in goals. Pallonetti was one of Stony Brook’s four All-CAA first-team selections as the visitors sought hardware in their inaugural season in the conference following a move from the America East Conference.

Instead, it was Delaware that built a 12-6 lead with 10:31 to play in the fourth. The Blue Hens netted five of the first six goals notched in the second half to reach that cushion, which proved insurmountable for Stony Brook.

“You have some success last year, and you come back and it’s easy to maybe rest on your laurels and expect it to come to you,” DeLuca said of the back-to-back championship. “Our guys got to work right off the bat.”

Delaware now treasures the work to come as it enters another NCAA playoff appearance. In 2022, the Hens dispatched Robert Morris in Newark with a 20-8 opening-round thumping before the 10-9 upset of Georgetown set up their season-ending 10-8 loss to seventh-seeded Cornell in Columbus, Ohio.

“Our guys will stay humble,” DeLuca said. “They know that they have to earn everything, but they have a great deal of experience.”

The next phase of that experience will crystallize Sunday, May 7, at 9:30 p.m. ET on ESPNU when the NCAA Division I men’s lacrosse selection show reveals Delaware’s pairing and placement in the postseason bracket. If the CAA automatic qualifier Blue Hens are slotted in the opening-round game that funnels into the winner’s ensuing meeting with the No. 1 overall seed, the Hens would likely host the opener matchup Wednesday, May 10 on Tubby Raymond Field.  

“It’s a group of young men who are constantly striving for greatness and striving for something better, the next step,” DeLuca said about his squad, which has now won 25 games since the start of the 2022 season. “This group did that. And we’re not done yet.”

Originally posted 2023-05-07 21:46:34.