It took a while for Drexel's lacrosse team to get used to the playoff atmosphere.
Drexel played from behind nearly the entire game and the Dragons fell to visiting Delaware last night, 11-7, in the semifinals of the Colonial Athletic Association championships.
"Delaware came out and played a playoff game," Drexel coach Chris Bates said. "They came out and gave us a thump early."
After Delaware took a 2-0 lead fewer than 5 minutes in, the No. 15 Dragons tied it late in the first. But the Blue Hens managed five unanswered goals and never looked back.
No. 17 Delaware (10-5, 5-2 CAA) will face No. 14 Towson, an 11-5 winner over Hofstra last night, in Saturday's CAA championship game.
The season opened with a bang for the Dragons, topping top-ranked Virginia, the defending national champion.
Things only got better from there.
For the first time in its 6 years with the CAA, Drexel (11-5, 5-1) took a share of the regular-season championship, going 5-1 in the conference. The Dragons clinched it with Saturday's first-ever victory over Hofstra.
A win last night would have given Drexel a team-record 12 wins, but Delaware wanted no part of it.
Delaware had a 7-2 lead going into the third quarter. That was when Drexel finally picked up its offense.
"All year long we've been resilient and never quit," Bates said. "[We're] not allowed to quit in this group."
The Dragons scored three times in fewer than 3 minutes, including one of freshman Greg Casey's two goals, cutting the lead to two. But the Blue Hens followed with three goals in 3 minutes.
Delaware coach Bob Shillinglaw sees a lot of potential in the Drexel team.
"Coach Bates has done a terrific job," said Shillinglaw, whose team avenged an 11-7 regular-season loss to the Dragons on April 4. "They have real talent.
"I knew we weren't going to hold them to two goals all game. It's a game of spurts, and luckily we countered when they had theirs."
Adam Zuder-Havens was a big part of Delaware's fourth-quarter run. The senior scored two of his four goals in the fourth quarter and noted, "We possessed the ball, but we won this with our defense."
Teammate Kevin Kaminski, who contributed two goals, felt at home during the game. The freshman from Wallingford saw a lot of familiar faces in the stands at Drexel's Vidas Field.
"A lot of my family was here," Kaminski said. "A lot of my friends were here. I'm just glad I could play well in front of them."
Shillinglaw has been to the CAA championship game before. The Blue Hens have been in the finals 3 straight years now, but have never won a title. The Blue Hens fell in the final to Towson in 2005 and Hofstra last season.
"It's the third year in a row and our guys will have a bounce in their step," he said. "We'll start preparing tomorrow and make our adjustments. We've seen Towson before."
The Delaware fans are ready to see the Tigers. Towson chants filled the air while the Blue Hens players rushed the field after the win.
"It's a huge rivalry," Zuder-Havens said. "We have to keep doing what we're doing and get revenge on them."
Despite the loss, Bates sees a bright future for his team. And the fans were proud of the season the Dragons put together, giving the players a standing ovation as they left the field.
"We've had a hell of a year and it's nice there's some appreciation," Bates said. "It's disappointing, but we're playing great lacrosse. I'm proud of the program, proud of the team. We can play with anybody." *