NEWARK, Del. -- The University of Delaware women’s basketball team, which recently concluded the most successful season in school history, held its annual awards banquet Wednesday evening at the Executive Banquet and Conference Center.
In addition to handing out several end of the year honors, the four seniors on the 2011-12 squad - Jocelyn Bailey, Vanessa Kabongo, Meghan McLean, and Sarah Acker - were also honored during the ceremony.
Junior All-American Elena Delle Donne was named the Most Valuable Player for the third consecutive year while sophomore Kelsey Buchanan earned the Most Improved Player award. Junior guard Lauren Carra was honored as the Most Outstanding Defensive Player and junior forward Danielle Parker earned the Unsung Hero Award.
For the second straight year, senior Meghan McLean was presented the Joyce Perry Coaches Award, named in memory of long-time Delaware head coach Joyce Perry, who was at the helm of the program for 18 seasons from 1978 until 1996.
The team was also honored by the Delaware Senate with Rick Armitage, UD Director of Government & Community Relations, presenting a proclamation on behalf of the Delaware State Senate for the Blue Hens’ remarkable efforts this past season.
The Blue Hen Basketball Club also recognized the seniors and honored Delle Donne with the Outstanding Achievement Award, presented by club president Connie Cecil. In addition, head coach Tina Martin, her coaching staff, and the entire team were each presented with plaques in recognition of the outstanding season.
Following the awards presentations, a highlight film was shown featuring Delaware’s magical run to the CAA finals and NCAA tournament.
Delaware (31-2) completed a record-breaking season that included its first NCAA Tournament victory, an undefeated conference run, and a first-ever Colonial Athletic Association title.
The memorable season began for the Blue Hens after stunning then No. 11 Penn State in an 80-71 upset at the Bob Carpenter Center in just the second game of the season. Delaware defeated its highest ranked opponent in school history with the victory.
Delaware’s success earned the team national recognition as the Blue Hens cracked the national polls for the first time.
The Hens, who finished out the regular season with a No. 7 ranking in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, also established a perfect 14-0 run on their home court and set school records for wins in a season (31) and consecutive wins (21).
This season’s CAA Player of the Year and Capital One Academic All-American of the Year, Delle Donne led the nation in scoring throughout the 2011-12 season, averaging 28.1 points per game and becoming the fastest player in CAA history to reach the 2,000-point mark, doing so in just 75 games.
Delle Donne became Delaware’s all-time leading scorer for both men and women at Drexel on Feb. 19 as she surpassed 2,030 career points, breaking the mark held by Mike Pegues, a current UD men's basketball assistant coach who played for the Hens from 1996-2000.
The junior finished out the season with 927 points, becoming only the 15th player in NCAA Division I history to reach the 900 points per season milestone. Her 927 points this season ranks seventh all-time in NCAA Division I play.
Buchanan, who hails from South Riding, Va., showed true determination this season as a spark off the bench, helping to lift the Hens across the board. The sophomore shot 64.8 percent from the floor (34 of 54), improving nearly 20 percent from last year, and 90.5 percent (19 of 21) from line, a 40 percent improvement from her rookie season.
Carra capped a solid junior campaign, making big defensive plays when it counted most. She joined Delle Donne as the only two Blue Hens to average double-digit points, posting 10.2 per game. The junior scored a season-high 22 points as she drained her 100th career three-pointer during the Hens’ 72-65 victory at James Madison on Jan. 29. She currently ranks fourth in Blue Hen history with 128 career three-pointers made.
Parker was a versatile player for the Hens this season, appearing in all 33 games. The junior led the Blue Hens in steals, grabbing 39 on the season. In addition, she pulled down 249 boards this year and now ranks 11th all-time for Delaware with 750 career rebounds.
Kabongo, a five-year member of the Blue Hens and one of this season’s co-captains, appeared in 120 career games, ranking her fifth all-time in games played. She was the only player on the team to start all 30 games her sophomore season, when she posted career-highs of 25 points and eight rebounds against George Mason. She appeared in all 34 games while starting 33 last year, when she averaged 6.2 points per game, and has contributed 41 points while appearing in 18 games this season.
Bailey capped her career having played in a UD record 128 games. The Kensington, Md. native landed in the Blue Hen record books with 556 career rebounds, ranking her 18th all-time. She also ranks 18th with 218 free throws made, 38th with 734 career points, and 27th with 122 steals.
McLean, a four-year member of the Blue Hens, appeared in all 30 games as a freshman while starting two, and was named to the CAA All-Academic Second team while earning the UD Team Sportsmanship Award following her sophomore campaign. She saw action in 30 games a year ago and played in 10 this year, contributing eight points. McLean was also honored with All-CAA Academic accolades this season.
Acker appeared in 56 games as a two-year member of the squad. Despite undergoing intense hip surgery last summer, Acker was a force for the Blue Hens throughout her senior campaign, making 21 appearances during which she scored 31 points and grabbed 59 boards.
In her closing remarks, Martin noted several familiar foes on the 2012-13 schedule for Delaware, including a rematch with the University of Maryland, the Hens’ only regular season loss, on the Blue Hens’ home court. Other non-league opponents tentatively set to face the Hens next season are Big East opponents Villanova and Providence, Atlantic 10 foe and NCAA Tournament participant St. Boneventure, and defending Ivy League champion Princeton.