RICHMOND, Va. -- The University of Delaware field hockey squad entered its regular season finale Sunday at Virginia Commonwealth knowing it needed a win to clinch a spot in the upcoming Colonial Athletic Association Tournament.
The Blue Hens left little doubt that they deserve a spot in the six-team field as Delaware scored all four of its goals in a span of 10 minutes in the second half on the way to a 4-1 season-extending victory over the host Rams.
Delaware (9-10, 4-4 CAA), led by first-year head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof, bounced back from a 1-0 loss at James Madison Friday night and won for the third time in the last four outings, earning the No. 5 seed for the CAA Tournament, which will be played at the Powhatan Sports Complex at regular season champion and national No. 1 Old Dominion beginning Nov. 3 in Norfolk, Va.
“We are excited about being back in the tournament,” said van de Kerkhof. “We have really been working hard over the last couple of weeks and have had an all or nothing attitude. Based on our performance today, its going to be all. We are back in the tournament, which is great, and when the time comes around, anything can happen.”
The No. 5 seed Blue Hens will play No. 4 James Madison on Nov. 3 at 5 p.m. followed by No. 3 Hofstra taking on No. 6 Towson at 7:30 p.m. The Delaware-JMU winner will take on Old Dominion Nov. 5 at 12 noon with No. 2 seed Northeastern taking on the Towson-Hofstra winner that same day at 2:30 p.m. The semifinal winners will meet in the title game on Nov. 6 at 1 p.m. with the winner earning an automatic berth into the NCAA Tournament.
The Hens, who won CAA titles in 2004 and 2009, have now qualified for the CAA Tournament six times since joining the league in 2002.
Delaware got goals from four different players with Amanda McCardell recording a goal and an assist and Kelsey McKee dishing out two assists. The Hens have come on in the late going and have now outscored their last four opponents by a 10-3 margin.
Virginia Commonwealth (5-13, 2-6 CAA) ended its season with its second straight loss.
Neither team could reach the back of the cage during the first half and for the first 20 minutes of the second stanza before a flurry of five goals in a span of just under 10 minutes decided the contest.
The Hens finally broke the scoreless string when Toni Popinko (at right) tallied her first goal since Sept. 18 with an unassisted goal with 14:37 left to play before VCU’s Kelsey Scherrer answered just 34 seconds later with a goal of her own to knot things at 1-1.
Delaware’s McCardell followed with the eventual game-winner as she netted an unassisted goal with 11:17 left to play to give the Hens a 2-1 lead and Nicole Onorato scored just 66 seconds later on a penalty corner off feeds from McCardell and McKee to up the lead to 3-1. Sophomore Clare O’Malley then capped the scoring with a goal off an assist from McKee off another corner with 4:46 left in the game.