Delaware, Vermont Win NCAA Tournament Openers Convincingly

PHOTO BY KEVIN P. TUCKER

Delaware attackman JP Ward shoots on Robert Morris goalie Nate Randall during Wednesday's NCAA tournament opening round game ini Newark, Del.


NEWARK, Del. — In recent days, Ben DeLuca couldn’t help but to recall his introductory press conference at Delaware five years ago this month.

In his mind, it wasn’t so long ago he set to work methodically building up the Blue Hens. One payoff came with last week’s CAA tournament title.

Another arrived Wednesday, when the Blue Hens thrashed Robert Morris 20-8 before 1,346 in an NCAA tournament opening round game at Delaware Stadium.

“Getting these guys here on campus and helping to build this culture and putting us in a position to do something like this, it’s really special to see these guys have this opportunity and to capitalize on it,” DeLuca said.

JP Ward scored five goals and added two assists, Mike Robinson had three goals and three assists and Tye Kurtz delivered three goals and an assist for Delaware (12-5), which played its first postseason game since 2011.

The Blue Hens will visit second-seeded Georgetown (15-1) on Sunday night in the anchor game of the first round.

Delaware has won six in a row and improved to 4-6 all-time in the NCAA tournament. The Blue Hens also won a first-round game in 1999 and two contests in 2007 to reach the program’s only final four, a run that included a stunning takedown of No. 2 seed Virginia in the first round.

“They’re a good team that we just beat,” Ward said. “It all comes down to how we play on Sunday. I’m just really excited.”

Corson Kealey had four goals and an assist for the Colonials (10-6), the Atlantic Sun champions who were playing in their third NCAA tournament since 2018. But they struggled from the start as Delaware scored three goals in a little more than four minutes and were never seriously threatened.

“We ran into a really tough team with a lot of good players and really well coached,” Robert Morris coach Craig McDonald said. “They jumped on us pretty quickly and we were on our heels and dug ourselves a little bit of a hole, unfortunately. We’ve been there before and been able to dig out of it, but today we weren’t able to do that.”







The Blue Hens looked overwhelming in several areas. They matched a season high with 11 caused turnovers, and a mixture of their pressure and some sloppiness from Robert Morris prevented the Colonials from creating any of their preferred transition opportunities.

The Colonials also committed 11 penalties while trying to cope with Delaware’s physicality and skill. They did an admirable job limiting the Blue Hens to 3-of-11 on the man-up, but still spent more than six minutes — or 10 percent of the game — playing down a man.

Yet the most striking element of Delaware’s dominant display was arguably the one most rooted in fundamentals. The Blue Hens held a 14-5 edge on ground balls after a quarter that felt like it was even greater and finished with a 38-21 advantage.

“I do think our effort off the ground set the tone,” DeLuca said. “That’s a skilled group and a talented group and they like to make it hectic and a little bit helter-skelter. We prepared for that and our guys really dialed in with their teamwork on the ground, too.”

The loss snapped a four-game winning streak for Robert Morris, which opened the year with three losses before things stabilized in March. The Colonials’ only lopsided loss since then prior to Wednesday was an 18-8 stumble April 16 at Utah, a team led by former Robert Morris coach Andrew McMinn.

Three weeks later, the Colonials picked off the Utes 18-17 in the Atlantic Sun championship game to earn their place in the postseason.

“Been here for seven months, so it’s been a wild seven months,” McDonald said. “I’m privileged to be the head coach and I’m privileged to be the coach of these guys. It’s a special group — special personalities and special leaders. I’m appreciative of them to being open to change and being open to a new coaching staff and working as hard as they have.”

Still, there were no obvious answers against the Blue Hens, who built a 6-1 lead by the end of the first quarter and stretched it to 10-1 before Robert Morris managed its first six-on-six goal of the day.

The Blue Hens went up 15-4 by the end of the third quarter and pushed the advantage to 19-4 before the Colonials rattled off four in a row late.

Ten players scored for Delaware, which assisted on 12 of the 20 goals. It was the largest output for the Blue Hens against any team since a 20-5 rout of Robert Morris on April 19, 2008.

“They were super unselfish and sharing the ball, and that’s a big point of emphasis for us on the offensive end,” DeLuca said. “We want everyone to be a threat to score at any point in time, and we’re looking for the best shot, not the first shot. Our guys do a really good job of moving the ball and being patient.

UVM WIN SETS UP REMATCH AT MARYLAND

Thomas McConvey and Michael McCormack both had five goals and an assist as Vermont routed Manhattan 15-3 in Burlington, Vermont, to earn the first NCAA tournament victory in program history.

Tommy Burke won 19 of 21 faceoffs and Ryan Cornell made 13 saves for the Catamounts (12-6), the America East champions who have won 10 in a row.

Vermont earned a first-round rematch with top-seeded Maryland (14-0) on Sunday. The Terrapins won last year’s first-round game 17-11 in Vermont’s first NCAA appearance.

Brendan Krebs made 14 saves for the Jaspers (8-7), who won the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference to earn their first NCAA tournament berth since 2002.

Although Manhattan scored the game’s first goal, Vermont ripped off an 8-0 run in a span of less than 18 minutes to bust it open

McConvey’s last goal — which made it 12-3 late in the third quarter —  was his 60th of the year. No other Vermont player has ever scored more than 50 in a season.

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