CNU built on Schweers and Moore
By Gordon Mann
Deputy Managing Editor, D3hoops.com
|The career list of accolades for Chelsie Schweers is about to get longer.|
During the week leading up to the Division III women’s basketball championship, you’re going to hear a lot about Chelsie Schweers and the Christopher Newport Captains. It will probably be phrased that way with Schweers out front, like the star singer for a rock and roll band.
That attention is well deserved for the senior guard who is finishing an amazing career. Schweers is a pure shooter who makes 3-pointers like other players make layups. Her shots are long, quick and deadly accurate. She’s made more 3-pointers than any player in Division III women’s basketball history and has shot close to 50 percent in doing so. With 2,827 points, she has second highest career total in Division III women’s basketball, trailing only Jeannie Demers of Buena Vista. Schweers scores on the run, around the rim and pretty much anywhere else she gets a little space.
If Schweers doesn’t have a separate room to display all her individual accolades, she will need one after this week. She has already won the USA South Athletic Conference Player of the Year three times. The University retired her jersey before she was done using it. She was the conference and national rookie of the year in 2008. She has been the D3hoops.com South Region Player of the Year twice and an All-American twice. It’s not giving too much away to say Schweers will be an All-American again this year.
Even with that level of individual success, few teams reach the national semifinals with just one great player. They need more than a Chelsie Schweers. In the Captains’ case, they need Moore – Jessica Moore – and Chelsie Schweers.
|Jessica Moore and Chelsie Schweers tied with a game-high 31 points against Ferrum last month.|
Moore is also a senior finishing a four-year playing career at Christopher Newport. She has started every game the last two years and picked up all conference honors twice along the way. She started her college career in the post because of her rebounding ability. Now she plays small forward since she also has a nice mid-range jumper. When Moore doesn’t have the ball, she provides the screens that give Schweers enough space to launch and hit open jumpers.
In the Captains’ two victories at last weekend’s sectional, Moore and Schweers shared the ball when the games were on the line. In the sectional semifinal against Kean, Moore made two pressure packed free-throws in the closing minutes to give the Captains the lead for good, 77-76. In the sectional final against Lebanon Valley, the Captains saw a double-digit lead dwindle to two points with six and half minutes to play. Schweers responded with a 3-pointer – her 21st of the NCAA tournament – and then Moore scored to push the lead back to seven. Lebanon Valley never recovered.
During their four years together, Schweers and Moore have built a special friendship on and off the court. Schweers remembers their first meeting in the University bookstore in 2008. “I was with my mom and we just kind of ran into each other. I knew she was a big player, like a post player so I was excited. I met my first friend and a teammate as well.”
The freshmen met again at opening gym for their first athletic encounter at open gym. “[Schweers was] acting cocky and just jacking threes. At first I was a little like, ‘Who is this girl?’ But then, as time went on and the season got going, [I realized] she’s a hard worker and a great person. I like what she’s about.”
When Schweers and Moore are asked to describe their friendship, they both laugh in the way that hints the answer is a long, good story full of ups and downs like most strong friendships. Moore says, “A lot of people refer to us as a married couple, bickering all the time. But deep down I know she has my back until the end. We’ve been together for four years and it’s been amazing.” Schweers uses similar terms. “We’re definitely close. We definitely get on each other’s nerves. It’s more like a sister relationship. We always have each other’s back on the court.”
It is hard for an outsider to get full appreciation for the richness of their relationship. So fortunately coach Carolyn Hunter provides more insight.
“They know each other so well and they joke about each other but they have a great love for each other. They really kind of feed off each other and that’s where our chemistry starts is with those two ... Those two have been our foundation since their sophomore year.”
“Chelsie needs Jessica Moore and Jessica Moore needs Chelsie. Jessica Moore is probably the leader type, the vocal leader. Chelsie is probably more ... lead by example and, out here with her play, [her teammates] listen to her.”
As Hunter notes, Schweers and Moore are the foundation for the Captains’ success. The third senior, Barbara Davis, has helped build on that foundation, making Christopher Newport into a championship caliber team. This is the Captains’ third consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament, but they hadn’t advanced past the Sweet 16 until this year.
|Barbara Davis has scored in double figures in 12 games this season for the Captains, including four of the past five.|
Davis shares captain responsibilities with Schweers and Moore, but she has had a different path to the Final Four. She started her college career at UNC-Greensboro. Then she moved to Division I Hampton where Davis didn’t get much playing time. So she looked to transfer again with Christopher Newport as a natural option since it is only 13 miles away. “I just love basketball and I want to play,” Davis explains. “Why sit on the bench when you can get in and make an impact on the team?”
The connection between Christopher Newport and Hampton is more than geographic proximity. Coach Hunter was a former assistant coach and served as interim head coach at Hampton and her husband is a professor there now. When Hunter heard from Hampton’s coach that Davis was thinking about transferring, Hunter got in touch with Davis and they worked through that process. Now Davis gives the Captains a long, athletic low post presence whose shot blocking prowess alters opponents’ approach physically and mentally.
“She’s been tremendous defensively,” Hunter notes. “She’s really been entertaining to our crowds who come and watch her block shots because of her length and she can jump and time things like a volleyball player. I think that’s what she likes to do. She’s a better defensive player and she likes defense more than she likes offense.”
Davis will be crucial to Christopher Newport’s chances for a national championship this weekend. The Captains do not have a lot of depth so they can’t afford Davis to have an off night or struggle with foul trouble. Of course, the same is true of Schweers, Moore and the other two starters, Lauren Gural and Kimmy Hopkins. They scored 73 of the team’s 80 points against Kean and 59 of the 62 against Lebanon Valley.
Whatever happens this weekend, this has been a special run for Christopher Newport. It started with Schweers and Moore, who became the foundation for the best team in program history. Along the way they built a friendship that will continue after their playing careers are done. With Davis’ help, they also built a legacy as the first team in conference history to make the Final Four.
Those three seniors will try to finish that legacy this weekend with a national championship.