It was a beautiful day for field hockey, Sunday, Nov. 4 at Rullo Stadium. Fans splitting the stands into sections of green and white and blue and gold basked in a bright sun, though a brisk fall breeze kept them from shedding those proud school sweatshirts. Chants and stomping started even before the game in the Delaware side of the stands.
It would be the green and white of William & Mary celebrating the 3-2 victory.
A show of offensive strength by Delaware lifted the Blue Hens over a one-goal lead by James Madison on Friday, walking off with an 8-1 victory to secure a place in their sixth straight CAA title game.
Hours later, William & Mary emerged from a rough, close game against Northeastern with a 2-0 victory. Sunday’s battle was their second straight contest against Delaware in the championship.
In 2017, Delaware came away with a 3-0 win to go on to the NCAA tournament, where an overtime loss to Pennsylvania State University forced them into an early exit. In 2016 the Blue Hens went all the way, defeating North Carolina in the national championship after steamrolling through the regular season and the CAA.
Early in the first half, it became very clear why these were the top two teams in the conference. Delaware’s roster boasted the top offensive players. William & Mary countered with the top defense. Three penalty corners by the Blue Hens were shut down by freshman Tribe goalkeeper Kimi Jones.
The first goal, tipped in by Femke Strien off a shot from the top of the circle by Tessa Verweijen with help from Laurien Vink, put Delaware on the board with barely 90 seconds left in the half.
William & Mary quickly followed up with a penalty corner to end the half.
The Blue Hens started the second half with their fourth penalty corner of the game, forcing Jones to make a big save in the cage.
Three minutes later, the Tribe had their second penalty corner, and in the following net-front scramble to stall the shot, drew another. Delaware goalie Sydney Rhodes blocked the shot, and while her teammates were trying to clear the ball, a whistle gave William & Mary their third corner in two minutes. The Blue Hens’ defense managed to clear the ball before a clean shot got off.
When Delaware finally pushed the ball back into their own attacking zone, Greta Nauck launched a shot across the circle, only for Jones to make a huge kick save off her right leg pad. Another shot was quickly deflected off her foot.
Several minutes later, William & Mary had yet another penalty corner. Inserted by Annie Snead, a quick back and forth pass sequence between Estelle Hughes and Christie van de Kamp ended with a goal from van de Kamp to tie the game.
After almost ten minutes of back and forth, a pass from van de Kamp found Woodard Hooper to put William & Mary up for the first time in the game. The goal rocked the Delaware defense onto their heels, and the pressure never let up.
Just under two minutes later, a pair of blocked Delaware corners resulted in several missed shot opportunities. The third penalty corner, inserted by freshman Vink, was stopped by senior captain Kiki Bink and slammed into the back of the cage by Nauck to force overtime.
It was her fourth goal of the postseason after a hat trick on Friday.
In the regular season, William & Mary played seven overtimes, winning in four. Delaware played none.
William & Mary opened up overtime with the ball, and Delaware never got it back. Rhodes made a hard save on the Tribe’s first corner, deflecting the ball back into play.
She couldn’t stop the next one, fired by Hughes off a penalty corner, and just like that, as players in blue froze, stunned, and players in white leaped into the air, Delaware’s streak of CAA titles ended at five.
The 3-2 victory by William & Mary was their first ever CAA championship.
“If you want to win, if you want to compete for the win, you have to become a lot more dominant than we were today,” Head Coach Rolf van de Kerkhof said after the game as part of a statement.
Van de Kerkhof and the Delaware players did not answer questions from the media after the loss. No players spoke.
Van de Kerkhof added, “Have to give them credit for coming after us and finding a way to pull it off.”
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