Winning weekend for Blue Hen teams
Photos by Mark Campbell, Sarah Boekholder April 25, 2021
Field hockey takes CAA Championship, football advances in FCS Playoffs
Saturday, April 24, was a day of celebration in Delaware Stadium for Blue Hens everywhere, with the Delaware field hockey team winning the CAA Championship and the UD football team advancing to the next stage in the FCS Playoffs.
‘Wow — what a game’
The Delaware field hockey team defeated James Madison 3-2 in overtime on Saturday, April 24, in the CAA Championship game.
"Wow – what a game! I am so proud of this team for deciding to fight themselves back into the game after being down 2-0 and finding a way to win it," said head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof. "For the team to prevail, not only today but all during this COVID-crazy year, is amazing and a tribute to our players group and the coaching and support staff."
Strien's game winner secured her the 2020 Tournament Most Outstanding Player. Strong performances by Berber Bakermans, Lizzie Gaebel and Grace Hoepfner also earned them spots on the All-Tournament team.
"This year's team can best be described as 'finding a way to advance and no desire to quit.' This team deserves a lot of respect for staying the course, embracing the need to adapt and be flexible, and never stop believing that they could make it work," continued van de Kerkhof, "We haven't played our best Delaware Hockey yet, but this CAA Tournament allowed us to take small steps forward. Now we are excited to count down to tonight's' NCAA Tournament Selection Show and learn where we are going to represent the University of Delaware in the national tournament!"
Delaware moves to 6-3 on the season and earns the CAA's automatic bid to the NCAA Field Hockey Championship.
Late Saturday evening, it was announced that the Blue Hens will travel to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, to face No. 5 Northwestern at 3 p.m., Friday, April 30, in the first round.
The winner of Friday's matchup will take on fourth-seeded Iowa at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 2, in the quarterfinals, also in Chapel Hill.
"The NCAA Selection Show was a great experience for our team this evening," said van de Kerkhof, "We are excited to open the tournament versus Northwestern University. We will utilize this week to further prepare so that we will play our best DEHO of the season come Friday."
The Blue Hens are 2-0 all-time against the Wildcats, posting victories in 1999 and 2003.
This will be Delaware's 11th all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament. The Blue Hens captured the 2016 National Championship title following a 23-2 campaign and NCAA Tournament victories over Louisville, Duke, Princeton and North Carolina.
‘We did what we had to do to win’
In a stout defensive battle, the UD football team walked away with a 19-10 opening-round victory in the FCS Playoffs over Sacred Heart Saturday night, April 24, at Delaware Stadium.
"I'm really excited about the result and I give Sacred Heart a lot of credit," said head coach Danny Rocco. "I thought our defense played like a championship defense out there tonight and we did what we had to do to win the football game."
In the Blue Hens' first home playoff game since 2010, the defense got the party started early as junior Kedrick Whitehead put an end to the Pioneers opening drive by coming up with an interception to put Delaware in great field position.
The teams traded empty possessions before Sacred Heart was able to tie the game at 7-7 when they put together a 12-play, 80-yard scoring drive with just a few minutes remaining in the first quarter.
The Delaware defense pitched a shutout over the next two quarters and just before the half, the Blue Hens were able to pin Sacred Heart deep in their own territory before an errant snap on a punt try went through the back of the end zone for a safety.
The Pioneers were able to keep the Delaware offense in check as the Blue Hens were only able to connect on a career-long 53-yard field goal by Jake Roth in the backend of the third quarter. The 53-yard boot is the longest field goal in Delaware playoff history.
Clinging to a 12-7 lead, the defense came up with the big play the Blue Hens needed again, putting an end to a lengthy Sacred Heart drive when redshirt junior Artis Hemmingway and redshirt senior Nijuel Hill combined for a sack to hold the Pioneers to a field goal early in the fourth.
With the help of redshirt junior Khory Spruill, the Blue Hens were able to sustain their own drive, using up over six minutes of clock and converting on a fourth-and-short to eventually see redshirt sophomore Anthony Paoletti power his way into the end zone to make it 19-10 late.
Spruill ran it 12 times for 52 yards to lead the Delaware rushing attack. Henderson was 17-for-27 passing for 113 yards and a score.
The defense made one more big play on the final Sacred Heart drive as Nick Coomer threw down the Pioneers' ball-carrier for a loss, part of Coomer's three tackles with a sack and two tackles for loss.
Delaware combined to make nine tackles for loss in the game, including four sacks, holding the Pioneers to just 87 passing yards. It is the first time all season that Delaware lost the time of possession battle, but still managed to win its first playoff game since 2010.
The Blue Hens will travel to Alabama for the FCS Quarterfinals where they will take on Jacksonville State at 3 p.m., Sunday, May 2, on ESPN 3.
For more news about UD Athletics, visit BlueHens.com.