RICHMOND, Va. – Just hours after arriving on campus to report for the 2014 season, the University of Delaware field hockey team was predicted to finish tops in the Colonial Athletic Association Preseason Coaches Poll, as announced by the league office Monday morning.

The Blue Hens, who captured their first-ever CAA regular season and tournament title en route to one of the most successful seasons in program history, totaled four first-place votes and 32 points to earn the top spot in the 2014 poll. 

“As a program, we are excited and humbled with the respect given by our fellow CAA field hockey squads, but we all know it is not where you are projected to finish, but where you are at the end of the season,” remarked fourth-year head coach Rolf van de Kerkhof.  “Our players group and coaching staff are excited about starting preseason and with that, our 2014 journey, today.  We will allow the process of ‘live and learn’ and ‘play and learn’ to take place and are looking forward to creating positive growth as players, as a team and as a group of people.”

Delaware won a program-record 17 games last fall, including a victory over Liberty in an NCAA Tournament play-in contest.  Van de Kerkhof and his coaching staff earned NFHCA Mid-Atlantic Coach of the Year and CAA Co-Coach of the Year honors in 2013 while Esmée Peet (Zeewolde, The Netherlands/RSG Slingerbos) became just the third player in league history to collect both CAA Player and Rookie of the Year accolades.

In addition to Peet, the Hens return junior All-America midfielder Michaela Patzner (Rosenheim, Germany/Kerolinen Gymnasium), who led the CAA in points (41), goals (16) and was tied for assists with nine.  Also highlighting the 2014 roster are two second team All-CAA honorees in junior Allie Mikelson (Macungie, Pa./Emmaus) and sophomore Meghan Winesett (Centreville, Va./Westfield).

Following the Blue Hens in the 2014 preseason poll is Drexel, who tallied two first-place votes and 29 total points while Northeastern collected one first-place vote and was third overall with 28 points.  James Madison placed fourth with 22 points, William & Mary was fifth with 17 and Hofstra (13) and Towson (6) rounded out the final two spots.

Delaware kicks off the regular season on the road as the Blue Hens make a west coast swing to California to take on Stanford (Aug. 29), Pacific (Aug. 30) and Cal (Sept. 1).  UD’s home opener will be Friday, Sept. 5 as the Hens host Richmond for a 7 p.m. contest at Rullo Stadium.