NEWARK, Del. — The two-time defending Colonial Athletic Association champion University of Delaware men’s lacrosse team returns plenty of firepower in 2012 as the Blue Hens look to advance to the NCAA Tournament for a record third straight year.
But head coach Bob Shillinglaw’s squad will have its work cut out as Delaware faces a grueling schedule that will see the Blue Hen square off against 10 teams that had winning records a year ago, including four that advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
The 2012 schedule that was announced Thursday features 15 opponents, including 2011 NCAA Tournament participants Bucknell, Johns Hopkins, Villanova, and Colonial Athletic Association foe Hofstra, as well as first-year program University of Michigan. The 15 opponents posted a combined 55.3 percent winning percentage a year ago.
Delaware will return five starters and the top three scorers from last year’s team that posted a 11-7 record. The Blue Hens placed fourth in the CAA regular season standings but went on the road to upset Hofstra 10-9 in the semifinals and Massachusetts 9-7 in the title game to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Delaware then fell to Duke 15-14 in a thrilling first round NCAA Tournament battle.
Leading goal-scorer Eric Smith (25 goals), second team All-CAA attackman Grant Kaleikau (15 goals/30 assists), and second team All-CAA faceoff specialist Dan Cooney (53.7 percent) lead the returning players.
Following a pre-season scrimmage vs. Colgate on Jan. 28, Delaware will once again kick off the collegiate men’s lacrosse regular campaign as it has done each of the last eight seasons when the Hens square off against Detroit Mercy at 1 p.m. at Delaware Stadium.
Shillinglaw will be going for his 300th career win in the opener, hoping to match a mark that has been reached by only two active coaches in NCAA Division I.
The Hens will then hit the road for three games as they travel to defending Patriot League champion Bucknell (14-3) Feb. 11, head south to Loyola Md. (8-5) on Feb. 18, and return to Baltimore to take on 2011 NCAA quarterfinalist Johns Hopkins (13-3) on Feb. 21.
Delaware will return home to take on Mt. St. Mary’s (9-6) on Feb. 25 followed by Delaware Stadium visits from Villanova (11-5) on Mar. 3 and Stony Brook (10-4) on Mar. 10. Villanova advanced to the NCAA Tournament a year ago while Stony Brook annually battles for the America East crown.
The 2012 CAA season will begin the following week on Mar. 17 as the Hens travel to Hofstra (13-3), which lost two of its three games a year ago to the Blue Hens, followed by a game at longtime rival Towson (3-10) on Mar. 24. Delaware will close out the month hosting CAA foe Drexel on Mar. 31.
A historical matchup is on tap to start April as the Blue Hens will travel to the “Big House” in Ann Arbor, Mich. to take on the University of Michigan in the first-ever meeting between the Blue Hens and the first-year Wolverine program. The game will take place at venerable 109,000-seat Michigan Stadium.
Delaware will then close out the season with games at home vs. Mercer on Apr. 9 and vs. CAA foe Saint Joseph’s, a visit to Penn State on Apr. 21, and a return home for the regular season finale on Apr. 27 against Massachusetts in a rematch of last year’s CAA Tournament title game won by the Hens.
The CAA Tournament semifinals will be held on May 2 followed by the championship game on May 5. Both games will be hosted by the higher seeded team.
2012 University of Delaware Men’s Lacrosse Schedule
January 28, vs. Colgate (Scrimmage), 1 p.m.; February 4, vs. Detroit Mercy, 1 p.m.; 11, at Bucknell, 1 p.m.; 18, at Loyola (Md.), 1 p.m.; 21, at Johns Hopkins, 5 p.m.; 25, vs. Mt. St. Mary’s, 12 noon; March 3, vs. Villanova, 12 noon; 10, vs. Stony Brook, 3 p.m.; 17, at *Hofstra, 1 p.m.; 24, at *Towson, 7:30 p.m.; 31, vs. *Drexel, 7 p.m.; April 7, at Michigan, 1 p.m.; 9, vs. Mercer, 3 p.m.; 14, vs. *Saint Joseph’s, 1 p.m.; 21, at *Penn State, 7 p.m.; 27, vs. *Massachusets, 7 p.m.; May 2, CAA Semifinals, tba; 5, CAA Championship; 12-13, NCAA 1st/2nd Rounds; 19-20, NCAA Quarterfinals; 26-28, NCAA Championships at Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.