NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — The Captains are willing to acknowledge the moment.
"It is different, mostly because they're our neighbors," says shortstop Natalie Carmichael, accepting of the fact that this is no ordinary game, even for the NCAA tournament.
"It's a different emotion, just because we know them and we know their players, we know their coaches," Caroline Helmer continues, refuting the necessity to label this "just another game". Of course it's "just another game" and sure, that may be the safest way to keep the pressure at bay, but it doesn't change the facts: Virginia Wesleyan and Christopher Newport are two of the very best Division 3 softball teams in the country. They each regularly compete for national titles and collect NCAA tournament appearances like it's easy. The two schools also happen to occupy the same area code. They are about 40 minutes away from each other depending on bridge traffic. They compete for the same recruits from the same schools. They've played 11 times since 2018, and that's with a lost COVID season in 2020. It's just another game like Thanksgiving is just another meal. There's familiarity, expectations and with them higher stakes.
Christopher Newport has also won just 3 of those last 11 matchups. It's the Captains, however, who hold a number 1 national ranking and sports just a single loss on the year. They are the favorite.
Helmer's travel coach in high school is now an assistant at Virginia Wesleyan. She said they haven't talked this week. Unsurprising, but not totally reflective of the Captains attitude towards their geographical rivals. The proximity has bread respect more than animosity. Helmer even goes so far as to describe the heightened familiarity as a positive.
"We know their team, so we know everything about them, we've played them in the past. I think it's more comfortable honestly, just because we know who they are. The atmosphere's gonna be electric based on our past games," says the senior.
The teams square off in the NCAA super regional this weekend. The next round of the tournament looms, but the winner of this series, wins neighborhood bragging rights, for now.