The college soccer landscape was flipped on its head in Charlottesville, Va. last night as the Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens upset six-time national champions Virginia in a 1-0 match that ended in the second overtime period.
The Fightin’ Blue Hens (13-5-4) got a dramatic late goal off the head of captain John Dineen.
The sophomore defender was one of nine Delaware players to play all 106 minutes.
The 13th-seed UCLA Bruins (15-4-1, 10-0-0 Pac-12) will face the task of putting a stop to Delaware’s first NCAA Tournament run since 1970 and third all-time when the two sides face off at Drake Stadium on Sunday night.
The Bruins finished the year on a five-game winning streak ““ all five wins were shutouts ““ and fought their way to their first perfect conference season since 2003.
“From the forwards to the defense, we’ve all stepped up big,” sophomore center back Joe Sofia said.
“We’ve all pressured the ball and kept shots from coming, and that’s what’s helped us keep other teams off the scoresheet.”
Against UCLA, Delaware will face its biggest challenge in a season full of them, but the Fightin’ Blue Hens have come up big in big situations this year, especially recently.
Delaware won the Colonial League’s conference tournament with three wins in four days, upsetting Colonial top-seed James Madison ““ the No. 14 seed in the NCAA Tournament ““ along the way.
The Bruins will rely on their strong team defense and scoring leader, junior forward Chandler Hoffman, to outfight the Blue Hens.
“Our goal as a team is to play at our best, both individually and as a team,” sophomore midfielder Kelyn Rowe said.
“We know that when we do that, no one can beat us.”
The Bruins’ success this year, most notably in Pac-12 play, has sprouted from coach Jorge Salcedo’s focus on keeping a large majority of possession, a focus that his players have taken to heart and executed to a T.
The winner of the UCLA-Delaware matchup will face either Rutgers or Boston College, who square off in Boston on Sunday afternoon.
“It’s huge to have home field advantage, and it will help us set the tone for the game,” senior defender Andy Rose said.
“It’s always exciting to be able to play at home, and hopefully we’ll get off to a good start. We’ve finally found our form as far as our last five games.”