DALLAS, Texas (Courtesy CNU Athletics) – In an historic, joint championship event hosted at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, the top-ranked Christopher Newport women’s basketball team is set to take on undefeated and second-ranked Transylvania University (32-0) at noon Saturday.
The game comes as part of the second-ever joint championship event put on by the NCAA, which includes the Division I Final Four games Friday night, the Division II and III championship games Saturday, and the Division I title matchup Sunday afternoon.
The Division III crown will be the first awarded as the Captains and Pioneers take the floor Saturday morning.
It marks the first time in Division III history that undefeated No. 1 and No. 2 teams will face off for the national title. It also marks the first-ever appearance by either team in the championship game and the first time the two teams will match up in program history at any point.
“I just want to really thank the NCAA for everything they’ve done, putting on this experience for our young ladies – it has been awesome,” said CNU women’s coach Bill Broderick. “To be one of two teams to represent Division III here in Dallas in the joint championship, for the biggest celebration of women’s basketball, we truly feel blessed and honored.”
The Captains (31-0) advanced to the team’s first championship game despite suffering the loss of two starters during the NCAA tournament run.
Senior All-American Anaya Simmons (Jamestown HS, Williamsburg) and senior forward Katy Rader each suffered season-ending injuries during the five-game spurt in postseason play, but Christopher Newport managed to continue the second-longest win streak in program lore with a 31-game roll.
The ‘next woman up’ mentality has been at the forefront of the Captains’ success all season long, as Camille Malagar stepped into the starting point guard spot when Gabbi San Diego was sidelined for eight games with an injury of her own.
In the postseason, Hannah Orloff has been inserted into the starting lineup and the Captains’ depth has played a massive role in their success. Only two active CNU players are averaging more than 18.4 minutes per game this season with graduate shooting guard Sondra Fan (22.5) (Poquoson HS) and San Diego (22.3) leading the way.
A record-breaking season includes the most victories in program history, with 31, the most points scored and the fourth-highest scoring average (84.2 ppg), and the fourth-best team field-goal percentage (.459). CNU has dished more assists in 2022-23 than ever before, with 559, besting a program mark that has held since 1996. The Captains also boast one of the top scoring defenses ever by allowing only 51.5 points per game, ranking third lowest.
The team has been led by Fan, who will be appearing in her 115th career game. That slots her into a three-way tie for the third most games in program history with Tia Perry (2013) and Makenzie Fancher (2017) and she continues to log one of the most impressive resumes in program history. She is 12 points shy of becoming just the sixth player ever to reach 1,500 career points and is the second all-time leading three-point shooter with 216 made from beyond the arc.
She is joined in the backcourt by junior point guard San Diego, who already ranks among the program’s all-time leaders in assists per game (4.0) – she has 198 career dimes in 50 games played. This season, even despite missing eight games, the calm presence on the court leads the team in assists.
“I think the resilience we have shown and how much our sophomores, juniors, freshmen have stepped up in practice and in the games each week has been incredible,” San Diego said. “We couldn’t be more proud as leaders. I think we have embodied the next woman up mentality and just try to show up every day and compete and leave everything we have on the court.”
The rest of the starting lineup features Malagar, Hannah Kaloi, and Orloff, who has 15 blocked shots in tournament, matching the most for a Division III player since the 2016 version of the tournament.
Kaloi is the only player to start all 31 games this season and is pouring in 7.8 points per game with 4.3 rebounds. Malagar has been an impact player in all 31 games with 13 starts, including four straight since the injury to Simmons.
Another player with Hampton Roads ties, junior forward Alivia Giles (Nansemond-Suffolk Academy, Suffolk), has averaged 13.5 minutes per game and averages 6.5 points-per-game and 4.2 rebounds.
The Captains will take on a Transylvania team that is the only other team in Division III that can boast what CNU can, which is that the team has suffered only one loss in the last two seasons. CNU and Transy have combined for an unconscionable 116-2 overall record since the start of 2021-22, with only one loss apiece.
The Pioneers, based out of Lexington, Kentucky, have leaned on one of the best defensive units in the nation, ranking sixth overall by holding opponents to 47.4 points per game. Transylvania has limited opponents to just 31.7 percent shooting while also scoring at a high level themselves, ranking 28th nationally with 74.1 points per game.
Unlike the Captains, the Pioneers lean heavily on their starting five with only two reserves averaging double-digit minutes this season. The Pios start four seniors and one junior, including first team All-American Maddie Kellione – she is averaging a team-high 15.3 points per game while dishing 143 assists for an average of 4.5 per game.
Coverage of the game will be provided by CBS Sports Network. There will be watch parties in Newport News for fans unable to make the trek to the Lone Star State. For more information on how to view the Saturday matchup, click here.