The 2022-23 NCAA DII sports season saw a little bit of it all. There were repeat champions, record-setting performances, and plenty of newcomers to the national championship stage. Here is a look back at all the 2022-23 national champions by season.
Ferris State rumbles to second-straight national title
Repeat champions aren't that rare in DII football, but it is still no easy task. That is especially true for Ferris State, a program that has to get through all-time powerhouse Grand Valley State twice a year just to have a chance to play for the title. Although the Lakers won the regular-season tilt, the Bulldogs exacted their revenge in the playoffs and defeated the Lakers 24-21 in yet another instant classic. The Bulldogs then went on to dominate Colorado School of Mines 41-14, winning the national championship by at least 27 points for a second-straight year. Ferris State is the first repeat DII football champions since Northwest Missouri State went back-to-back in 2015-16. The Bulldogs are 28-1 over that span.
West Texas A&M back on top in DII women's volleyball
You could argue that either Northern Michigan or West Texas A&M was the DII women's volleyball program of the 1990s. The Buffs went back-to-back in 1990-91 and tacked on another in 1997. However, in the 2000s, championship match appearances weren't as plentiful as DII women's volleyball became Concordia-St. Paul country. That's exactly who the Buffs defeated to return to the acme of the sport for the first time in 25 years. It was actually the second time the Buffs and Golden Bears faced in the championship match, with Concordia-St. Paul winning the first time around back in 2009 — the Golden Bears' third-straight title in their record-setting "seven-peat." This time around the Buffs dominated, taking the national championship 3-1.
Wingate, a national runner-up in DII men's cross country?
This isn't a slight to the Colorado School of Mines men's cross country team. Head coach Chris Siemers led the Orediggers to their second national championship in three seasons to go with a national runners-up finish in 2018. But the simple truth is, you can predict one of Mines, Grand Valley State, or Adams State — either the winner of or national runners-up in each of the last 10 DII men's cross country national championships — will win it all in any given year. That's what makes Wingate a surprise national runner-up in 2022. Not only was it the best finish in Bulldogs' program history, the surprising second-place ending was the highest ever by a Southeast Region school.
Other fall champions: Adams State defeats Grand Valley State in women's cross country for the third year in a row; East Stroudsburg defeats Shippensburg in DII field hockey to keep the trophy in the PSAC for the 11th year in a row; Western Washington — in its third DII women's soccer title match since 2016 — wins national championship No. 2 in a 2-1 thriller over West Chester; Franklin Pierce men's soccer wins its first DII men's soccer title in 15 years, blanking CSU Pueblo 2-0.
Nova Southeastern head coach Jim Crutchfield is finally a national champion
There is no doubt that Jim Crutchfield will go down as one of DII men's basketball's all-time great coaches. Dating back to his West Liberty days, his offenses were among the best to ever play the sport and DII Men's Elite Eight performances have always been plentiful, as he's been there with both West Liberty and Nova Southeastern just about as much as any coach in the history of the sport. However, that shiny trophy just kept eluding him every time. His third trip to the DII Men's Elite Eight since taking over the Sharks' program in 2017-18 was the charm, as 2023 Bevo Francis winner RJ Sunahara led the Sharks to a historic 111-101 victory over Crutchfield's old team for Nova Southeastern's first national title. The Sharks became the sixth undefeated national champion in DII men's basketball history while setting the record for the highest scoring championship game ever.
Ashland women's basketball back in the saddle
Let the debate begin. Since 2010, the conversation for best DII women's basketball program of the past 13 years is Ashland or Lubbock Christian. Ashland made the debate that much harder, joining the Lady Chaps as the only two-time undefeated national champions in DII women's basketball history. It was the third national championship for the Eagles since 2013 — who also finished as national runners-up in 2012 and 2018 — which is all the more impressive when you consider the gauntlet that the Midwest Region is. Head coach Kari Pickens has had quite the journey, winning as a player in 2013, an assistant coach in 2017, and now the head coach in 2023.
A changing of the guard in DII men's and women's swimming
With Queens (NC) — which won the past seven DII men's and women's swimming and diving national championships — jumping to Division I, it opened the door for some new blood in the lore of championship history. In both cases, it was two first-timers as Nova Southeastern — which had a banner year across the board in all sports — claimed its first DII women's swimming and diving title and UIndy — which made a push in 2021 as national runners-up — claimed its first DII men's swimming and diving championship.
Other winter champions: Central Oklahoma wins its eighth DII wrestling title and first in 15 years; Pittsburg State wins its second DII men's track and field championship since 2018; Adams State wins its fourth DII women's track and field title in the past decade.
Angelo State wins first DII baseball title in program history
It was a long-time coming for the Rams. Angelo State, which between the Rams or Colorado Mesa have become the program to beat in the South Central, finally hoisted the DII baseball trophy, solidifying head coach Kevin Brooks' spot among the DII baseball greats. It was the Rams' third-straight trip to the finals, but this time, they left no doubt, sweeping their way to the title. Angelo State set the program and Lone Star Conference record for wins in a season, while also becoming the first DII baseball national champion ever out of the Lone Star Conference. Kade Bragg was named NCAA.com's DII pitcher of the year.
North Georgia wins second DII softball title since 2015
Repeat champions are hard to come by in DII softball. In fact, there hasn't been one this millennium. North Georgia, however, did something few others have this century, winning its second national championship since 2015. The Nighthawks join West Texas A&M and Lock Haven as programs with multiple titles in the 2000s. Like Angelo State, the Nighthawks were making their third-straight trip to the finals and have been a final-eight regular for what seems like the past decade. With so much of the lineup and pitching expected to return, there is a strong chance we may see that repeat championship drought broken in 2024.
A pair of first-timers top DII men's and women's lacrosse
Lenoir-Rhyne and Pace made DII lacrosse history this season, each one winning its first national championship in the sport. The Bears rumbled to the DII men's lacrosse championship game as the first five-seed to ever do so, upsetting top seed after top seed along the way. The victory was the school's first national title in any sport as a DII program (its 1960 football title was in its NAIA days). The high-scoring offense showed proved to be just that in the title match, defeating Mercyhurst by 15 goals, the second-most in DII men's lacrosse championship game history.
The Setters, too, made history, winning their first DII women's lacrosse national championship. To do so, they defeated a West Chester team — that has three national runners-up finishes since 2010, mind you — by 10 goals. The 19 goals scored by Pace in its victory were the most ever in a DII women's lacrosse championship game. It was no fluke either, as 17 of the 21 Setters' victories came against ranked opponents.
Other spring champions: Nova Southeastern wins its second DII men's golf title since 2015 as Oklahoma Christian finishes as national runners-up for a second year in a row; DBU wins its second DII women's golf title in three years; Cal Poly Humboldt (formerly Humboldt State) wins its third DII rowing title since 2012; Barry wins its fourth-straight DII men's tennis title, defeating Columbus State for the third time over the same span (fun fact: Columbus State defeated Barry in 2018 which has created one of DII's best postseason rivalries); Barry also wins its sixth-consecutive DII women's tennis title; Pittsburg State goes back-to-back in DII men's track and field as West Texas A&M finishes as national runners-up for a third-straight year; Azusa Pacific wins its second DII women's track and field championship in three years.