CNU's seniors get another shot

More news about: Christopher Newport
Seniors Zhara Tannor, Jessica Daguilh and Madison Howdyshell all played against Scranton as freshmen in 2016, and will need to beat the Royals on Friday to extend their college basketball careers.
Christopher Newport athletics photo

By Joe Sager

Friday night’s game at Scranton will mark a full circle for Christopher Newport’s three seniors in Zhara Tannor, Jessica Daguilh and Madison Howdyshell.

As wide-eyed freshmen, their postseason came to an end with an 82-46 sectional setback to the Royals in 2016. Now, three years later, they face Scranton once again for a sectional showdown.

“We realize that it’s an opportunity to go back and try to finish the job we started four years ago. That game stuck with us. This is our chance now to redeem ourselves,” Daguilh said. “When I think about our freshman year, it’s almost like I can’t believe how young we were and all the inexperience we had and all the mistakes we made. But that’s all part of those growing process. We had to get our feet wet.”

That game in 2016 marked an end to one successful year. However, the three seniors produced more as they became the first group in program history to guide the squad to the sectional round each season, including a semifinal appearance in 2017.

“It’s an amazing feeling to do that each year,” Daguilh said. “For the three of us, we love that we get to leave something for the younger girls to work toward. They see that, if you work hard, you can be great.”

“I am so happy with how far we’ve come. I am hoping we can keep going,” Howdyshell added. “I am definitely happy and really proud for all the freshmen that they got a chance to experience this. Some people don’t get a chance to play in the tournament at all. For them to go is an awesome.”

All three came off the bench in that 2016 loss to Scranton. All three start this year. Tannor runs the point, while Daguilh and Howdyshell are forwards.

“It’s very ironic – my first time going to the NCAA Tournament, the season ended against Scranton,” Tannor said. “Now in my last year and last trip to the tournament, I play them again. Hopefully, that’s not the end of my career. We’re very excited for the challenge.”

Coach Bill Broderick has enjoyed seeing the three seniors continue to improve each season.

“Jess has grown how most players do over the four years. She has really dedicated herself to the team and worked on her fitness level. She had to overcome an ACL injury at the end of her sophomore year and she is first-team all-conference performer now,” he said. “Zhara and Madison have changed and matured maybe more over these four years than the other players I’ve ever coached, in terms of their maturity, leadership and just, overall, how they have gone from girls to young women. The transformation is amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

While their contributions on the court have grown over the years, so has their leadership. It’s been essential this season with a team featuring 10 freshmen, two sophomores and a junior.

“What they have done to really lead the team and help them understand what it takes to play at CNU and what it means to play in the NCAA tournament and how everything is ramped up is huge. I think our freshmen were as prepared as any freshmen could be coming in with all the experience they had to earn this year,” Broderick said. “Zhara has really taken the guards under her wing, while Madison and Jess have taken the post players under their wings. I think that’s been really, really helpful. They’ve been really good in practice helping the younger girls understand terminology and what we do and why we do it. We’ve been lucky to coach a lot of great players, but I think our system helps make us successful and they help with the buy-in on that.”

Junior Kiana Kirkland and freshman Sondra Fan join the three seniors in the starting lineup. Freshmen Jessica Foster (9.8 points per game) and Natalie Terwilliger (8.6), among others, have a big impact off the bench.

“The younger girls are super awesome to work with. That’s why I am so excited to experience this with them,” Tannor said. “They have been so receptive to learning. The three seniors know what it takes to be in the NCAA tournament and there’s a legacy we like to uphold. These younger girls have run miles trying to uphold that, too. I’m a super proud of them.”

“This year has been a huge change of pace. In prior years, we haven’t been very young. It’s been all about getting them up to speed,” Howdyshell added. “Going from high school to college basketball is a huge jump with the speed of the game and learning all the little details that make us so successful. I think they’ve done a great job listening to us and absorbing everything.”

When basketball season is over, Tannor and Daguilh will focus on wrapping up their degrees and looking toward more education in the medical field. Tannor is majoring in neuroscience and hopes to go to medical school. Daguilh is majoring in biology and wants to be a pediatrician and attend a program for that next year. Howdyshell, a business major, plans to stay at CNU next year and earn another degree. She’ll remain involved with the basketball program as a student assistant.

“I think it’s a really good opportunity. I have gotten close with a lot of the girls,” Howdyshell said. “It’ll be a different change. I am not sure how I’ll feel about not being on the court playing anymore.”

The three seniors have plenty of time to think about their future plans. Right now, they’re focused on beating Scranton.

“This season has been a ride. It’s been the best season of my career. I’m glad this is where we wound up,” Tannor said. “It’s going to take preparation and practice to beat Scranton. They are not going to be the same team we lost to, but, whatever they are, I respect their program. I know it’ll be a good game. We just have focus on doing what we’ve been doing.”