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Delaware has big shoes to fill, but plenty of talent to compete

The Blue Hens lost their all-time leading scoring and several other impact players, but have five preseason all-conference performers returning

Thibault Philippe during a preseason match against St. Joseph’s University
Matt Ralph

Losing the program’s all-time leading scorer and several key contributors from last year’s NCAA Tournament team, the University of Delaware will have big shoes to fill but a promising group of returners and newcomers is up to the task.

“Obviously, we had a large graduating class last year and fortunately one thing that happened was we got two guys into the MLS draft,” said junior defender John Schroeder, a Philadelphia Union Academy grad.

He’s referring of course to Guillermo Delgado and Thomas de Villardi, who were selected 27th and 42nd in the draft back in January. De Villardi is with Minnesota United and Delgado has yet to find a club home after being drafted by Chicago Fire (he spent a couple weeks training with Bethlehem Steel FC over the summer). Delgado, who finished his career with 49 goals and 117 points, de Villardi and players like Jaime Martinez and Ben Sampson were key in leading the Blue Hens to three straight conference tournament championships.

“There have been a lot of changes and new players coming in, but it’s been a really good preseason,” Schroeder said.

Schroeder is one of five Blue Hens on the preseason all-conference team in the Colonial Athletic Association. Joining Schroeder is co-captain Thibault Philippe, junior midfielder Robert Gillin (Marlton, N.J.), redshirt junior goalkeeper Todd Morton (West Chester, Pa.) and sophomore midfielder Fede Prieto.

Head coach Ian Hennessy called the preseason honors a “a nice tip of the hat by all the CAA coaches, as our league is filled with terrific players,” in a news release.

“I hope that our guys can overcome the challenge of replacing the guys that have moved on, and draw confidence from the fact that they train daily with some of the top players in the conference,” Hennessy said.

In addition to his returners, Hennessy has brought in an impressive cast of newcomers led by High Point transfer Chad Poarch (Middletown, Del.). The former Continental FC standout has looked strong in the preseason, scoring a pretty goal in a 2-1 win over St. Joseph’s.

Other newcomers include Central Connecticut State transfer Halvard Ramstad, a defender from Norway, former Ajax youth Noa Benninga and Ásgeir Eypōrsson, a defender from Iceland. Continental FC has a strong presence on the team with freshmen additions Kexx Camarco, Ryan Calhoun and Max Sakiewicz, who played for the local club before joining the Philadelphia Union Academy.

Despite the roster turnover, and the uncertainty that led to them being picked to finish fifth in the conference, the goal remains the same.

“The goal is always to do better than the last year and last year was a good year but we can do better,” said Philippe, a senior central defender from France. “I’ve been to three (conference) finals and want to go to another one for my last year.”

The Blue Hens open their season tonight at home against Bryant at 7 p.m. and host Temple on Thursday at 2 p.m.