BOB SHILLINGLAW'S EIGHT GREAT MOMENTS IN DELAWARE LACROSSE
Legendary men's lacrosse head coach Bob Shillinglaw announced in February that the 2017 season - his 39th at the helm of the Blue Hens and his 42nd as a collegiate head coach - would be his final one leading the University of Delaware men's lacrosse program as he retires following the end of the campaign.
Coach Shillinglaw has enjoyed one of the greatest coaching careers in the history of NCAA men's lacrosse. His Hall of Fame-worthy contributions have seen him compile 327 wins (entering the 2017 season), lead the Blue Hens to 16 conference championships and six NCAA Tournament appearances, and earn him to national coach of the year honors.
The second longest tenured head coach in the history of collegiate men's lacrosse and in the annals of Delaware athletics, Shillinglaw built a strong legacy of championship teams, All-American players, and successful alumni over a highlight-filled career. He entered the 2017 season having coached 639 contests, an NCAA record and 129 more than the next nearest coach. His 327 victories ranks No. 10 on the all-time college coaching win list.
We asked Coach Shillinglaw to share eight great moments from his time here at the University of Delaware. Each Thursday, beginning March 16, we will highlight one of those great moments and explain why they are so special.
Join us throughout the season as we honor Coach Shillinglaw and recall his special memories from an outstanding career as one of the leaders in the game of college lacrosse.
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Delaware Reaches New Heights, Makes First NCAA Final Four Appearance • 2007
The 2007 Blue Hen men's lacrosse team reached that pinnacle and it remains one of the most memorable – and impressive - feats in Bob Shillinglaw's legendary career.
“That 2007 season was a special year,” recalls Shillinglaw. “We started out with five straight wins but by late-season we were just 6-5 and facing a Villanova team that was always a difficult rival for us. The game wasn't going our way, but at halftime (captain) Alex Smith gave a wakeup call speech I can still remember. It really energized our troops.”
It certainly did. The game went back and forth before the Blue Hens (13-6) pulled out a thrilling 19-18 victory. From that point on the team hit its stride, easily winning the final two regular season games and advancing to the CAA Tournament where they knocked off Top 20 opponents Drexel and Towson to earn the fourth NCAA Tournament berth in school history.
The Hens drew a first round road game at defending national champion and No. 2 ranked Virginia in the first round. But Delaware easily dispatched the Cavaliers for a 14-8 victory in Charlottesville.
“I have never seen a team come together with such a dominating performance as we did that day,” remembers Shillinglaw.
The victory earned the Hens a quarterfinal date with UMBC in Annapolis and the team continued their winning ways, posting a 10-6 victory to earn a berth in the Final Four at Baltimore's M&T Bank Stadium.
Playing before a crowd of 52,004 in 90-degree heat, the Hens trailed Johns Hopkins just 2-1 at halftime in a classic defensive struggle. But the Blue Jays pulled away for an 8-3 win and went on to win the national title.
Blue Hen Road Warriors Win Another CAA Championship • 2011
“After winning the CAA title and going to the NCAAs in 2010, we had an experienced group returning for 2011 and those guys were determined to make it two in a row,” remembers Shillinglaw of that special team.
The 2011 Blue Hens won two road games to capture the CAA title and advance to the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year
The Blue Hens, led by captains Noah Fossner, John Austin, Kevin Kaminski, Nick Elsmo, and Matt Stefurak, won their first four conference games but dropped their final two contests, at home to Penn State and on the road at UMass.
Delaware did not play well against UMass, falling by an 11-5 score on a Friday evening after a nearly 5-hour bus ride the previous day.
A win would have secured a home berth in the upcoming CAA Tournament, but instead the Hens would have to make the 3-hour trek to Hempstead a few days later.
The Hens knocked off the Pride 10-9 in a tight one, earning a spot in the finals. The team headed back home triumphant, only to turn around, and make another trip back to Amherst for the final two days later.
But it was all worth the grueling miles on the road as the Hens got revenge with a 9-7 victory over the Minutemen to earn their fourth CAA title in seven years and a sixth trip to the NCAA Tournament.
The Hens drew Duke, and a trip to Durham, N.C., for the first round and battled to the final seconds before the Blue Devils prevailed 15-14 in one of the most thrilling matchups of the tournament.
Noah Fossner Inspires Blue Hens to CAA Title, NCAA Tourney Berth • 2010
The 2010 season epitomized how close a team will bond together when faced with adversity.
That year's squad was certainly a talented bunch, highlighted by Tewaaraton Award finalist and Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year Curtis Dickson and a trio of All-CAA performers in middie Martin Cahill, GK Noah Fossner, and defender Pat Dowling.
An inspiring speech by CAA Tournament MVP Noah Fossner set the tone for the Hens' 2010 CAA Tournament title
But more adversity was just around the corner.
“We had five captains who provided exceptional leadership that year, but the emotional soul of that group was Noah Fossner,” remembered Shillinglaw. “Noah's mom had been battling cancer, and prior to the bus ride back from Penn State, he found out she had passed away. Noah went home to be with his family and no one could have expected him to be back for the CAA semifinal on Wednesday. But there he was on Tuesday, ready to practice.
“Our first round game was against Drexel at Delaware Stadium and Noah requested to give the pre-game speech,” recalled Shillinglaw. “Never in all of my playing and coaching career have I experienced such an emotional moment and such an inspiring speech. There was not a dry eye in that locker room, every team member was sobbing. There was no way any team was going to beat Delaware that evening.”
Playing in front of an inspired crowd wearing pink shirts in honor of Noah's mom, Delaware beat Drexel 15-12. Three days later the Hens knocked off Towson 12-9 to win the CAA Tournament title and advance to their fifth NCAA Tournament appearance.
The CAA Tournament Most Valuable Player? Noah Fossner.
High-Scoring Blue Hens Earn At-Large Berth into NCAA Tournament • 2005
The 2005 season was highlighted not only by its wealth of talent and its high-scoring offense, but it also marked the start of one of the most successful spans in Delaware men's lacrosse history.
Delaware posted a hard-earned 11-6 record against a rugged schedule, captured the Colonial Athletic Association regular season title, and made its third NCAA Tournament appearance in school history.
Jordan Hall was named the Colonial Athletic Association Player of the Year and earned All-American honors as a sophomore
That season would also set the tone for an impressive seven-year span in which the Hens made four NCAA Tournament appearances, captured four conference titles, advanced to the league tournament six times, and posted an overall record of 71-48.
“The 2005 season really had some special achievements,” said Shillinglaw. “We had the highest scoring team in the CAA and earned the home field advantage for the tournament. We had a big win over nationally ranked Hofstra in the semifinals but had a tough loss (9-8) in the finals to Towson. Fortunately we had a strong strength of schedule which earned us the (NCAA) tournament bid.”
A strong lineup from top to bottom featured All-Americans Jordan Hall – the CAA Player of the Year – leading the midfield, Alex Smith on faceoffs, and Chris Collins in goal. Those three were joined by attackman Cam Howard, middie Joe Trentzsch, and defender Taylor Bloor on the All-CAA team.
The Hens, who finished No. 16 in the final USILA Top 20 poll, averaged 10.59 goals per game, had an average win margin of three goals per contest, and outshot foes by nearly 11 shots each time out.
It was a balanced effort as seven players finished the season with 14 or more goals.
Of the team's six losses, four came by two goals or less, including a tough 9-7 setback to No. 3 Navy in the NCAA Tournament in Annapolis in which both teams battled back and forth for the full 60 minutes.
Spirited Comeback OT Win Over UMBC Vaults Hens into NCAA Quarterfinals • 1999
The Blue Hens had plenty of success between 1985-98 with five conference titles, but Delaware had to wait until 1999 to make a return to the NCAA Tournament. It was worth it.
The strong defensive effort by All-American John Ciliberto (at right) fueled the overtime comeback win over UMBC in the 1999 NCAA Tournament
“The 1999 season was one big great memory,” said Shillinglaw, who led that squad to a 14-3 mark, a school record for victories. “After 1997 (3-12 season), no one in the lacrosse world would have bet just two years later we would win 14 games, advance to the NCAA quarterfinals as a No. 6 seed, and have a National Player of the Year.”
That 1999 squad featured some of the greatest players in school history, including USILA National Player of the Year John Grant and All-Americans Jim Bruder, Marc Traverso, and Kevin Lavey.
“We had so many outstanding players,” remembers Shillinglaw. “And we had unbelievable assistants (Andy Shay and Mike Wilson) who worked full-time for part-time pay and made me look smarter than I am.”
An 8-0 start and wins over five Top 20 teams, including victories over #9 Penn State and #10 Navy, highlighted the regular season, but a thrilling 12-11 overtime win over UMBC in the NCAA Tournament at Towson Stadium stands above.
That inspired victory was a testament to the character of the team and exemplified what that special unit was all about.
Facing an 11-5 deficit with 13:24 left in the fourth quarter, the defense, led by junior John Ciliberto, began inserting their will and pressured UMBC into turning the ball over and getting the ball to playmakers Grant, Jason and Kevin Lavey, and Sean Carney. The Hens tied the game with 59 seconds left in regulation to send the game into overtime.
Carney's goal with 42 seconds left in the extra session clinched the win for Delaware, vaulting the team into the national quarterfinals
Blue Hens Make Their First-Ever NCAA Tournament Appearance • 1984
When it comes to fond memories of great seasons in Delaware's rich lacrosse history, the 1984 campaign quickly comes to mind.
Just six seasons into his tenure as head coach, Bob Shillinglaw led the Blue Hens to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. It would become the first of three national quarterfinal berths for UD under Shillinglaw.
Steve Shaw earned All-American honors as a sophomore in 1984 as one of the nation's top faceoff specialists
“We had great senior leadership from guys like Dean Stocksdale, Tom Flynn, Chris Guttilla, and John Moeser,” remembers Shillinglaw. “But the nucleus of the squad was really made up of some outstanding sophomores.”
Stocksdale and Flynn, an All-ECC defender, served as captains with Guttilla, another all-conference pick, and Moeser leading the middies. But it was a group of youngsters who made a name for themselves early in their careers.
Three sophomores earned All-American honors: faceoff ace Steve Shaw, lock down defender Dan Harley, and high-scoring attackman Randy Powers, who also earned ECC Player of the Year honors.
All three would become three-time All-Americans with Shaw going on to set numerous NCAA faceoff records – some of them later broken by UD great Alex Smith – and Powers earning a spot on the Team USA squad that won the 1984 World Championships.
In 1984, only eight teams qualified for the NCAA Tournament and the Hens earned that final seed, setting up a date with No. 1 seed Johns Hopkins in Baltimore.
The Hens played the Blue Jays tough before falling 10-4. Hopkins went on to capture the national title, knocking off Syracuse in the finals at Delaware Stadium in the first year of the NCAA Final Four format.
Bob Shillinglaw Wins Coaching Debut at Delaware • March 21, 1979
As far as coaching debuts go, this one was pretty special.
Bob Shillinglaw, just 27 years old and ushering in a new era of Delaware men's lacrosse, had the unenviable task of leading his young squad against the NCAA College Division powerhouse Maryland-Baltimore County (UMBC) Retrievers in his first game as the Blue Hens head coach.
It certainly became a thrilling start to what has become a special career for one of the nation's most recognized head coaches. Facing a UMBC team that was ranked third nationally and coming off consecutive national semifinal appearances, Shillinglaw's forces were up to the task.
The 1979 Delaware men's lacrosse team went 13-2 and won the East Coast Conference title in Bob Shillinglaw's first season at the helm
The Retrievers jumped out to a 9-6 halftime lead, but the Blue Hens never blinked and scored four goals in the third period and four more in the final stanza to post the thrilling 14-13 upset victory at Delaware Field.
Co-captain Bill Sturm, freshman All-American Moses Marone, and Mark Strohman each scored three goals for the Blue Hens, who overcame 10 penalties and a 62-36 shot deficit to post the victory. In goal, Jim Burns made 20 saves.
It was the beginning of a memorable season for the Blue Hens, who went on to post a 13-2 record and capture the East Coast Conference title – the first of an incredible 15 conference titles in Shillinglaw's tenure. Delaware closed out the season with another thriller, giving eventual NCAA national runner-up University of Maryland all it could handle before falling 21-15 in a game played before a capacity crowd that surrounded Delaware Field. The team won an incredible eight games by three goals or less during the season, earning the squad the moniker “The Cardiac Kids.”
So how impressive was Shillinglaw's debut season? Following the season, he was selected by his fellow coaches as the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA) National Coach of the Year. Not bad!