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Georgetown lacrosse shockingly stumbles in its NCAA tournament opener

NCAA tournament first round: Delaware 10, Georgetown 9

Georgetown suffered a stunning loss Sunday night. (Georgetown athletics)

Georgetown’s NCAA tournament first-round men’s lacrosse game started about 50 minutes late Sunday night because of a lightning delay. A little more than two hours later, the Hoyas’ season ended a few weekends earlier than they expected.

JP Ward deposited a Drew Lenkaitis feed with 8.8 seconds left as the unseeded Blue Hens toppled the second-seeded Hoyas, 10-9, at Cooper Field to close the opening weekend of the tournament.

“It’s playoff lacrosse. Everybody’s good,” Georgetown Coach Kevin Warne said. “I think you have to respect winning because winning will be taken away from you in a second if you don’t respect it and how you’re able to get there. They were the better team tonight, and they beat us.”

Graham Bundy Jr. scored three goals for the Hoyas (15-2), whose 11-game winning streak came to an abrupt end. Delaware (13-5), making its first NCAA tournament appearance in 11 years, will meet seventh-seeded Cornell (12-4) in the quarterfinals this coming Sunday in Columbus, Ohio. The Big Red advanced with a 15-8 defeat of Ohio State.

“I think we just had a history-making win,” said Blue Hens goalie Matt Kilkeary (14 saves). “Hopefully now we’re on the map and people don’t take us lightly.”

Georgetown came into the postseason seeking to go a step further than last year, when it was buried in a 14-3 quarterfinal loss to Virginia. But instead of aiming for their first trip to the semifinals since 1999 and the second in program history, the Hoyas will be at home after one of the more stunning first-round upsets since the tournament expanded to 16 teams in 2003.

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Only four previous No. 2 seeds — 2007 Virginia, 2010 Syracuse, 2014 Syracuse and 2016 Denver — had stumbled before the quarterfinals, and Delaware coincidentally pulled the first of those upsets. Now the Blue Hens have turned in another surprise after the Hoyas never achieved much traction.

“I felt we were choppy all night,” Warne said. “We didn’t get into a flow.”

Still, Georgetown led 9-7 after Connor Morin’s goal with 4:39 to go. For the nation’s top defense, which had allowed eight goals per game entering Sunday, that usually would be enough.

Goals by Lenkaitis and Tye Kurtz in a span of 76 seconds tied the score at 9 with 2:13 remaining. Georgetown won the ensuing faceoff, but TJ Haley’s pass got away from Morin, allowing the Blue Hens to clear it and call a timeout with 1:04 left.

Lenkaitis didn’t initiate the final play until 16 seconds remained, and he found Ward for the winner.

Sunday was an illustration of one of the steps the Hoyas haven’t taken in their surge from national afterthought to championship contender. Georgetown was a surprise NCAA tournament team after winning the Big East in 2018 and 2019; at the start of the tournament last May, it wasn’t expected to reach Memorial Day weekend.

But after last year’s quarterfinal breakthrough and a full season spent ranked in the top five, the Hoyas were a target. Delaware, meanwhile, was making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011, and its 20-8 play-in pummeling of Robert Morris on Wednesday was its first postseason victory since 2007.

From the opening minutes, it was clear the Blue Hens were not satisfied ending the season with only those accomplishments.

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“A big piece of our plan and what we’ve been doing over the course of the season, particularly the past couple weeks, has been belief,” Delaware Coach Ben DeLuca said. “Belief in what we’re doing, belief in themselves, belief in our team, belief in our process — it was a major ingredient to what we needed to have coming into tonight, and our guys showed that. Without a doubt, never wavered.”

It helped that Delaware jumped to 3-0 lead, establishing it could compete with the Hoyas. And after Georgetown rattled off four goals in a row to go up 5-4 in the second quarter, the Blue Hens limited the Hoyas’ penchant for scoring in bunches and prevented any deficit from growing larger than two.

Georgetown is left to dissect how things unraveled. Shaky shooting (9 for 46) played a role, and the Hoyas were not able to exploit Delaware’s decision to put a short stick defensive midfielder on leading scorer Dylan Watson, who had a team-high 58 goals this season but was held scoreless on five shots. Late-game defensive struggles didn’t help, either.

“I think we had good effort,” Warne said. “I don’t think we played very smart. That’s what it really came down to.”