NEWARK, Del. –The University of Delaware men’s lacrosse squad broke out of a recent slump in a big way Saturday afternoon as the Blue Hens stormed back from an early 6-0 deficit and rolled to a 13-9 win over No. 8 ranked Villanova at Delaware Stadium.
The Hens (3-3), who snapped a three-game losing streak, put themselves back into the national picture thanks to a torrid comeback that left the previously undefeated Wildcats (3-1) stunned.
Senior midfielder Andrew Tanneberger, who entered the game with just two career goals, doubled that total as he registered his first career hat trick with four goals, senior All-American candidate Grant Kaleikau contributed two goals and two assists, and backup goalkeeper Brett Anton gave the Hens a big lift in the cage before leaving the game in the third quarter with a shoulder injury.
Villanova got three goals from Nick Doherty while Jack Rice, the nation’s leading goal-scorer with four per game, scored twice and Will Casertano scored a goal and dished out three assists. A scoring drought of nearly 27 minutes between the second and fourth periods proved to be the Wildcats’ undoing.
Delaware scored eight unanswered goals between the second and third periods to turn a 7-3 deficit into an 11-7 lead heading into the final quarter. Villanova narrowed the deficit to 12-9 with 8:25 left to play but would never get closer.
“This is a blue collar team so there was no panic in our guys,” said Delaware head coach Bob Shillinglaw of his team’s demeanor when it went down 6-0 early. “There was nothing negative. They just kept getting after it and just kept thinking about the next play and the next situation and how they could build on it.”
The Hens, who were coming off consecutive two-goal loss at the hands of then No. 3 ranked Johns Hopkins and upstart Mt. St. Mary’s, also got two goals and an assist from Danny Keane while Carter Bloor contributed a goal and an assist. Dan Cooney was dominant, winning 19 of 26 faceoffs and also contributing an assist. Villanova’s faceoff specialist, Thomas Croonquist, had entered the game ranked No. 6 in the nation in winning percentage at 63.8 percent.
Delaware freshmen goalkeepers Chris Herbert and Anton combined to make 12 saves and thwart the high-powered Villanova attack which entered the game ranked No. 4 in the nation with 15 goals per game.
Herbert, the Hens’ starter, was pulled late in the first quarter after allowing the first six goals. Anton stepped in and was outstanding, posting six saves and allowing just one goal over the next 20 minutes before going down with a shoulder injury with 11:31 left in the third quarter. Herbert then came in to finish off the win.
“Villanova is a great offensive team that is not afraid to put the ball in the net,” said Shillinglaw. “Chris is a good goalkeeper but sometimes you make the change just to see if it will be a spark. It did today. Brett did a great job and Chris came in later and settled down and closed it out for us.”
Villanova seemed to score at will in the first quarter as the Wildcats, jumping on the board just 1:16 into the game and scoring four times in a span of just over seven minutes. When Doherty scored with 49 seconds left in the opening stanza, it gave Villanova a 6-0 lead.
But Tanneberger finally got the Hens on the board on his first goal with 33 seconds left in the first quarter and he added another with just three seconds remaining. Delaware’s John Austin scored his first goal of the season early in the second quarter to pull Delaware to within three goals before Villanova answered on a goal by Doherty with 10:03 left to push the lead back to 7-3.
The game belonged to Delaware after that as Brenden Gilson scored a man-up goal with 6:09 left to start the pivotal 8-0 run in which Villanova went 26:55 without a goal. A shot by Kaleikau with only one second left before halftime just trickled past Villanova goalkeeper Dan Gutierrez and into the net to pull Delaware to within 7-6 at the break.
Kaleikau scored just five seconds into the second half to knot the score at 7-7 and the Hens went up for good on a goal by Bloor exactly two minutes into the half. Tanneberger, Keane, and Mark Yetter followed with goals to give Delaware an 11-7 lead after three quarters. Villanova finally ended its scoring drought on a goal by Casertano with 13:07 left to play, but Tanneberger answered five minutes later with his fourth goal of the game to keep the lead at four goals.
Kaleikau’s two goals just six seconds apart set a new Delaware record for fastest consecutive goals by the same player, breaking the old mark of seven seconds apart by Marty Kupprion vs. Saint Joseph’s in February, 2005.
“This is a great feeling,” said Tanneberger of his first career multiple-goal game. “We started slow today but I thought we were prepared. Eventually we all started to click and we were able to put the ball in the back of the net. This was the best game of my career so far.”
Coming into the game, the teams were deadlocked in the all-time series with eight wins apiece and with exactly 140 goals each since the first matchup in 1972. Delaware snapped a three-game losing streak to the Wildcats, downing Villanova for the first time since 2008.
Delaware will return to action next Saturday when the Blue Hens host Stony Brook at 3 p.m.