When the Colonial Athletic Association unveiled its preseason poll in January, Penn State and Towson were atop the poll, while Delaware was bringing up the rear. That snub has resonated with the Blue Hens.
"I think any team that is picked to be less successful than what they think they can be is going to play with a little chip on their shoulder," coach Bob Shillinglaw said Wednesday. "Coming back, everybody's trying to work through the season. You're seeing some games where there are some surprises here and there, but I think this team is playing well together. The chemistry is there. Like any other team, we've had to deal with some injuries to key players, but the next man steps in and hopefully, he can produce."
To be fair, Delaware – which can fire a volley at the pollsters by upsetting the No. 20 Tigers (6-2) on Saturday at 7 p.m. at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson – finished in fifth and sixth place in 2012 and 2013, respectively, with identical 1-5 records. And the graduation of the team's top two scorers and one of its three starting defensemen likely contributed to the low prediction.
Shillinglaw understands the players' unhappiness about their positioning in the preseason poll, but he pointed out that the best remedy is to do something about it on the field.
"We definitely felt that we're better than what we were predicted to be, but we've still got to prove that at this point," he said. "Going into the conference games, we definitely have an edge at this point and want to prove that all the pollsters were incorrect."
Although the Blue Hens lost, 11-9, to conference rival Hofstra on Saturday, they are 5-3 overall. It has been a positive start for a program that was last 5-3 in 2011, which was the last time Delaware captured the league tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
"Obviously, we're happy with the fact that we have won five games," Shillinglaw said. "At times, we have played well. The three losses, we wish we could play over, but we're definitely preparing for Towson. It's a conference game and Delaware-Towson has always been a competitive battle. Historically in my career here, those two teams get together and go at it very hard. So Saturday should be a great game."