Mar 15, 2014, 5:32 PM EDT
Yes, it’s the fourth straight CAA Tournament championship game featuring Delaware, but if you’re Erika Brown or Hannah Jardine or one of the four other freshmen starters on this Blue Hens team, it’s your first.
Delaware (20-9) rallied to defeat College of Charleston 60-52 in Saturday’s second CAA Tournament semifinal at The Show Place Arena. The Blue Hens will meet James Madison at noon on Sunday.
“At one point during the year I felt like I was coaching a high school team,” said Delaware Coach Tina Martin. “Now I’m coaching a college team.”
Martin has talked about her team’s youth all season — 10 freshmen and sophomores and a first practice she jokingly referred to as a Chinese fire drill. Delaware graduated seven seniors and returned no one with significant experience. CAA title game? It seemed far away back in October.
“But it was always our goal,” said Jardine from St. John’s, Newfoundland and one of two freshmen starters along with Brown. “For me, it’s crazy, coming from such a small place and having the chance to go to the tournament. It’s pretty surreal.”
“From the first practice, Coach talked about going on the road to the championship,” Brown said. “I’ve always played for a coach who, every year, harps on, ‘We’re going to be a championship team,’ so I like the fact that Coach Martin didn’t doubt us because we were young.”
Initially, Martin said the players were taken aback by her intensity, as she is not exactly mild mannered in practice or during games. “I had to take a step back,” Martin said. “As we went through the year, they got used to my craziness and realized it was my passion.”
“You get used to getting yelled at,” Brown said.
“We had to play outside of a freshman role because we graduated so many,” Jardine said.
Jardine finished with seven points, seven boards and two steals against the Cougars; Brown had two points and four assists.
Can Delaware beat JMU? Both players nod.
“They are definitely beatable,” Brown assured. “College of Charleston showed that when they beat them. We just have to come together, play defense, keep our head up and keep our composure.”
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