I am pregnant. I am actually very pregnant — 39 weeks as we speak. I’m also the founder and CEO of an early stage company, and for the first time in my life, I’m wondering if I bit off more than I can chew.

For the last four years, I have poured my whole self into Just Women’s Sports. It’s been a wild, unpredictable ride, one that’s been both incredibly fulfilling and incredibly hard.

When I started JWS, no one wanted to bet on women’s sports, media, or a 26 year old with only one year of actual work experience under her belt. People didn’t think women’s sports could work as sports, and even stakeholders in the space talked about these leagues like they were charities — something nice to have, but not anything that would ever make real money. And that was from the people who "believed" in women’s sports — you don’t want to know what the doubters had to say.

In the early days, it was all heart and hustle. There was no playbook. We had a vision, but that was about it — no real money, connections, or media experience. To keep the lights on and get JWS off the ground, all I did was work. I ran from fundraising meetings to posting on social, to listening to and editing our first podcast with Kelley O’Hara. I designed graphics. I sold to brands. I worked all the time. 

At one point, I even hospitalized myself from working too much. But even that wasn’t enough to tell me to chill out — I closed our first big deal sitting in a hospital bed, with a virtual background so they couldn’t tell where I was. For better and for worse, I was willing to sacrifice myself in order to win.

Slowly but surely, we started stacking wins and building some real momentum. But even as we grew and found our footing, I still had the same existential paranoia and grind-it-out mentality that had been there from the beginning. Every win, every new milestone, felt like a reason to push even harder.

But getting pregnant changed that.

I’m fortunate to say this has been a healthy pregnancy, but even then… it’s been tough. I’ve been nauseous the whole time. I can’t sleep. I never knew my back and hips could feel this bad. And in these final stages of my pregnancy, I’ve been more emotional than I’ve ever felt in my life — which is just not ideal when the bulk of your job is to stay level-headed, decisive, and be able to make unemotional decisions.

For the first time in my professional career, I physically cannot just grind it out and push through. Being pregnant has forced me to do something not even a week in the hospital could do: recalibrate my work habits and take time off. 

The idea of stepping away for maternity leave is anxiety-inducing. I’ve poured my entire self into getting JWS to this point, women’s sports are taking off like never before, and now I’m supposed to just detach from it for an extended period of time? What will that mean for the company? Will I be able to balance being a CEO and a mom when I come back? Can we keep the momentum we worked so hard to achieve?

I have so many people asking me if I'm ready. And I can say with unequivocal confidence: No, I am absolutely not. My only expectation is that I’m about to get smacked in the face with a brand new version of my life any day now. 

But this pregnancy and impending leave have had an unexpected side effect — being forced to "take it easy" and think about not being here has actually improved my leadership.

I’ve had to learn how to get out of the weeds. I’ve had to empower other leaders at the company and build systems where they can step up and take ownership. I’ve also gotten better at saying no and being ruthless about what matters.

Ultimately, I’ve had to learn how to let go a little bit and trust the people around me to a greater degree than I’ve ever felt comfortable doing.

And so far, the wheels haven’t fallen off. In fact, it’s been the opposite — people have stepped up in big ways across the board, traveling for me when I can’t go to events, driving initiatives that I usually would have been leading, and taking things off my plate to help ease the transition. We’re actually growing faster than we ever have before, and the team has collectively taken on a whole new level of ownership.

I’m definitely not the first pregnant CEO, but the fact is, there just aren’t many places where women can lead and grow a family. There isn’t a tried and true blueprint for how to balance being both a mother and a founder. And I won’t lie — that scares me. There’s no way to know what this future will look like. But to be able to build a company and culture where that is possible is, I think, really special.

As we all step into this next chapter, my overwhelming feeling is gratitude. For my family and for a healthy pregnancy, but also for everyone I get to work with everyday building this company and changing women’s sports. For my leadership team, who were the first people I told about my pregnancy after my immediate family. For the whole JWS team that has been unbelievably empathetic, thoughtful, and simply human during this time. And for our investors, advisors, and partners, who never made me feel like I was neglecting the company by starting my family.

We’re all nervous, to some degree. Inevitably, something will happen while I’m away that will be intense. There will be decisions that I would have made differently. Something will slip through the cracks.

But I’m also hopeful — this pregnancy forced us to empower the team to steer the ship and make decisions autonomously, and we’re already seeing the payoff.

There wasn’t a playbook when we started and there isn’t one now. But as has been the story of JWS since day one: We believe in our vision, and we’re taking the leap.

Haley Rosen is the CEO and Founder of Just Women's Sports. Follower her on X @haleyrosen.

Argentina women's national football team starting goalkeeper Laurina Oliveros, defender Julieta Cruz, and midfielder Lorena Benítez have officially left the team after a dispute over a lack of pay and conditions.

The news comes while the team is away at training camp during the FIFA international window. Argentina is scheduled to play two international friendlies at home against Costa Rica on May 31st and June 3rd — matches that Argentina's soccer association is refusing to pay its players for, according to Cruz and Benítez.

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"We reached a point in which we are tired of the injustices, of not being valued, not being heard and, even worse, being humiliated," Cruz, a defender, wrote in an Instagram post published early this week. "We need improvements for Argentina's women's soccer national team, and I am not only talking about finances. I speak about training, having lunch, breakfast."

Argentina qualified for the 2023 Women’s World Cup, but failed to make it out of the group stage after losing to Italy and Sweden and drawing with South Africa. That stands in stark contrast to the men’s team, which won the 2022 FIFA World Cup behind star forward Lionel Messi. 

In her own Instagram post, Benítez alleged that players were provided only a ham and cheese sandwich and a banana as food during training camp, and that their families were being charged 5,000 pesos per ticket to see them compete against Costa Rica.

"And so millions of things we've been through, being FOOLED over and over again," Benítez added.

Goalkeeper Oliveros’s message was more concise than her teammates: "My wish for this year and the following? That generations to come may enjoy and be happy running behind the round, as perhaps at some point we were." 

The USWNT gutted out a win on Wednesday night over Canada, but the real story of the night was the game’s playing conditions. 

The first half of the game featured a pitch that was borderline unplayable, with rain creating significant puddles on the pitch. At points, it was impossible for the ball to move, and players could be seen wringing out their jerseys, while others slid across the pitch in an attempt to make a tackle.

Jaedyn Shaw's opening goal for the US was essentially assisted by a puddle.

A number of the game’s biggest stars called for the match to be postponed due to the playing conditions. 

“Call the game. Don’t wait another minute,” wrote Lauren Holiday, while Sam Mewis questioned why players were being put in potentially unsafe situations.

Similarly, Julie Foudy called it “insane” and noted that "if ball can't roll, they typically call match."

San Diego Wave head coach Casey Stoney called the pitch “dangerous” and called on Concacaf to “make the right call for player safety.” Three of her players – Alex Morgan, Jaedyn Shaw and Naomi Girma – started in the match for the USWNT. The NWSL season is set to kick off on March 16. 

Postgame, both coaches and players discussed the conditions of the match. 

"It's obvious that the game was unplayable," Canada coach Bev Priestman said. "We put in a lot of work in a game plan and within minute one, it's thrown out the window. … What I feel most concerned about is the players’ [safety] … I think the pitch, it changed the game."

Even still, Priestman acknowledged that the waterlogged pitch impacted both sides. 

"I'm not going to make excuses as to was it fair, was it unfair," Priestman said. "We played the game in front of us. Both teams had to play on the conditions, and it was who could adapt the most."

USWNT captain Lindsey Horan was visibly upset by the conditions, at one point even approaching the referee in the first half to talk about the pitch. But the two sides played on, and postgame Horan criticized the conditions while also applauding her team’s effort. 

"A little bit of frustration for me, it's not a day that you can play football,” she said. “It’s really unfortunate but at the end of the day me and [Canada WNT captain] Jessie [Fleming] were just like we gotta move forward and we gotta play. It is what it is and we played on.”

Sophia Smith, who had a goal and converted on a penalty kick, said that the conditions in the first half were “a little bit unplayable.”

When asked whether or not the game should have continued, USWNT interim head coach Twila Kilgore said “probably not.”

“But those decisions aren't my decisions,” she continued, “and if the referees make those decisions and the game goes on, it's our job to figure out how to win.”

At the half, Concacaf issued a statement on the conditions saying: “It is solely at the discretion of the referee as to whether the field is safe and playable.”

But others, including Christina Unkel, who is a referee and CBS Sports contributor, refuted that idea. 

"Technically and practically, by law, it is always in the ultimate decision of the referee to make that decision," Unkel told CBS Sports' broadcast. "That being said, practically speaking, there is a match commissioner at each of these Concacaf matches, and as we saw within the first early minutes of this [W Gold Cup semi] game, the referee went and demonstrated that the ball was not in fact rolling when she went over to near the fourth official station, which is where the match commissioner stands.

"I want to be very, very clear: It was very clear from her demonstrative showing that she does not necessarily think this is a safe condition but is being told to continue this match by that match commissioner."

Ashley Hatch is staying in D.C., with the Washington Spirit signing the forward to a new three-year contract. 

Included is an option for 2027, and the contract will take effect immediately. It replaces the contract Hatch was on, which was set to expire after the 2024 season. 

A former NWSL Golden Boot winner, Hatch started in all 22 regular season matches for the Spirit last season. She had nine goals and finished tied for third in the league – her highest finish since winning the Golden Boot in 2021. 

“Hatchy has been a key component of the Spirit attacking third for the past six years and still has the prime of her career ahead of her,” said President of Soccer Operations/General Manager Mark Krikorian. “We’re thrilled to have her commit to the club for at least the next three seasons.” 

Across 128 total matches, which includes time with the North Carolina Courage, Hatch has recorded 46 goals and six assists. She’s also spent time with the USWNT, although she did not make last summer’s World Cup roster. 

She responded by putting up two goals and an assist in the team’s subsequent Challenge Cup games. In four consecutive seasons, she has scored at least seven goals. The only player to have more goals in the NWSL since 2021 is Portland’s Sophia Smith. 

“Super excited and grateful to re-sign with the Spirit through 2027,” said Hatch.  “I truly feel this is the best place for me to continue to grow and develop as a player and person. The DC community is home, and I am so glad to be a part of it for another 4 years!” 

USWNT and Chelsea star Catarina Macario is back on grass and training in cleats.

After Chelsea women posted a photo of Macario in warm weather training, Macario wrote that she is “Happy to be back on the field” in response.

It’s a welcome sign for Chelsea and U.S. women’s national team fans everywhere, after Macario’s status remained in limbo late into 2023. The star midfielder tore her ACL with Lyon in the Women’s Champions League final back in June of 2022.

In November, Chelsea coach and soon-to-be USWNT manager Emma Hayes said that it was unlikely Macario would make her return in 2023. Interim USWNT head coach Twila Kilgore had said earlier that month that Macario was “integrating at Chelsea” but wasn’t yet ready for international minutes.

“When you’ve been out a long time, this isn’t about me withholding something, this is about the recognition that – with all the will in the world – you can’t just put a player on the grass with a knee history, and sometimes if the knee blows up, you then have to come back off it again,” Hayes told Forbes.

Macario signed with Chelsea in June of 2023, but has yet to compete for the WSL club. Earlier this week, Hayes said that she was excited to finally include Macario – as well as forward Maika Hamano – in the lineup. And it comes at the right time, as star forward Sam Kerr tore her ACL in training and will be out for the remainder of the season.

“Cat and Maika are going to feel like new signings for us,” Hayes said. “That’s why we built the squad like this. We knew there would be more games coming in the second half of the season.”

Reigning NWSL champions Gotham FC are adding to their remarkable free agency haul, announcing the signing of World Cup champions Rose Lavelle and Emily Sonnett on Thursday.

Sonnett and Lavelle are the third and fourth USWNT mainstays to sign with the New Jersey club this year after midfielder Crystal Dunn and defender Tierna Davidson also reached multi-year deals with the team. All four World Cup champions will remain with the club through 2026.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett join Gotham most recently from OL Reign, where Lavelle won an NWSL shield and both players reached the 2023 title game (losing in the championship match to Gotham.) 

“Rose is an amazing talent, and we are very excited to have her as a part of the club,” said Amorós in a team release. “She is a very exciting player to watch because of her creative and technical abilities.”

Sonnett is a two-time NWSL champion, first with the Portland Thorns in 2017 and the Washington Spirit in 2021. The 30-year-old flourished in 2023 after making a position change from center-back to defensive midfielder, becoming a USWNT starter at the position during and after the 2023 World Cup.

Both Lavelle and Sonnett are also well-known at the international level, winning the 2019 World Cup with the USWNT as well as a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. They join a stacked Gotham roster, which includes Spanish World Cup champion Esther, Lynn Williams, Midge Purce, Kelley O’Hara, Allie Long and more. The club finished a storybook “worst to first” run in 2023 behind a roster refresh and the clear leadership of manager Juan Carlos Amorós.

“We are incredibly excited to have two exceptional talents like Rose and Emily join the club,” Gotham general manager Yael Averbuch West said. “Rose is a crafty and entertaining player, and our fans and club will be very excited to watch her at Red Bull Arena, and Sonnett is a true professional and competitor, who understands what success in the league looks like. The club and our fans are extremely excited to have players of their stature as we build upon the success of last season.”  

The signings coincide with a Thursday morning announcement by the NWSL that the 2024 salary cap will be $2.75 million, almost doubling teams’ operating budgets from last year. The league is also slowly doing away with allocation money, which limited the flow and usage of funds despite not counting towards a team’s salary cap.

For fans trying to understand how Gotham could possibly afford to bring in four of the biggest stars in the league, the salary cap increase alongside a few big player departures might prove to be a big part of the puzzle. World Cup champion center-back Ali Krieger has retired, and star midfielder Kristie Mewis recently finalized a transfer to West Ham United in the WSL, with an immediate severing of her contract at Gotham. 

It’s possible that Dunn could slot into Mewis’s role, or the team will rethink the midfield with Lavelle as the primary playmaker and Sonnett as a defensive midfielder. 

Long, who most recently came off the bench in a No. 6 role, is currently an unrestricted free agent out of contract with the team, as well as veteran midfielder McCall Zerboni.

Davidson will likely replace Krieger at center-back, who retired at the end of 2023. She’ll slot into a backline that includes 2023 NWSL Rookie of the Year Jenna Nighswonger, rising Brazilian talent Bruninha, and Spanish international Maitane López.

No matter how Gotham lines up on the field in 2024, all four signings should be considered a historic high in the league’s young history with free agency, only in its second year. The era of the NWSL superteam might be upon us, and all roads are leading to New York.

USWNT superstar and three-time NWSL champion Crystal Dunn has signed with reigning champions Gotham FC, at long-last playing club soccer near her childhood home of Long Island.

Dunn is the first high-profile signing in just the second year of NWSL free agency, after announcing at the end of the 2023 season that she’d be stepping away from the Portland Thorns. She joins an already stacked roster that includes multiple NWSL and World Cup winners, fresh off the club’s first Championship title.

“Crystal is an exceptional player who can play anywhere at any time and have an incredible impact on the game,” Gotham head coach Juan Carlos Amorós said in a team release. “We are excited to have a player of her quality join us for this upcoming season as we look to continue to build upon the success of last season.”

An established winner with awards too plentiful to list in full for club and country, the 31-year-old had many factors to consider when making a decision where to pursue the next chapter of her career.

Reports in the offseason linked a “significant offer” of up to $400,000 a year from the Orlando Pride to the midfielder, as well as interest from both Gotham and the Washington Spirit. Gotham’s vision and the pull of home won out, with Dunn signing on in a multi-year deal through 2026.

“I’ve worked extremely hard in my career, [and] getting a really good contract is something that I’m like, ‘Yeah, I truly deserve it. I’ve won a lot in this league, I have been successful, I’ve competed at the highest level,’ Dunn told Just Women’s Sports prior to Sunday’s announcement. “But I also know that I am a mom, I’m a wife, I have so many things that matter to me along with being successful and winning and helping teams win.”

“It really came down to that,” she continued. “It was kind of like, I’m either going back home, or I’m still going to be a nomad and I’m going to be far away and see my family once or twice a year.”

While this is her first foray into NWSL free agency, Dunn has never been afraid to make those necessary nomadic journeys to be happy in her club environment. Drafted by Washington in 2014, she made the jump to Chelsea FC in England in 2017, and then returned to the NWSL the following year through a trade between the Spirit and the North Carolina Courage.

She then requested a trade to Portland in 2020 to be near husband Pierre Soubrier, a trainer with the Thorns at the time (Soubrier was fired from his position in early 2023.)

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Dunn most recently won an NWSL Shield and a Championship title with the Portland Thorns (Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports)

Dunn is keenly aware of the NWSL’s history of strict rules that impact player agency.

“I was very fortunate in my career where, if I wanted to change or wanted to make a move, I was able to kind of fall into the place that I ultimately want to play. And I know that that’s not the reality for a lot of players,” she says.

She notes how rare it is for players who fight for progress to reap the benefits while they’re still playing, something she’s grateful for. “I’m such an advocate for free agency, because players should have leverage, they should have some control and some say over where they want to go.”

“And they should be able to say that ‘Hey, I’m a good player, and I know I can help this organization, so give me a try.’”

Dunn also had a little bit of fun with the process, participating in the 2023 NWSL Skills Challenge prior to the Championship game as an unattached free agent, joking that she was “looking for a job.” But the decision to make the announcement that she’d be leaving the Thorns long before she’d made her final decision on a new club came from a more serious place: wanting to say goodbye.

“That moment is special in its own, and I think it allowed my fans to kind of hear me and hear that message loud and clear from me, versus getting it heard from the club,” she said. “So I think I’m happy I did it the way that I did, because I also think I wasn’t completely certain where I wanted to go just yet.”

Now with her attention fully focused on New Jersey, Dunn mentions that showing up in a new environment for the first time always feels a little bit like being the new kid at school, but she won’t be lacking for friendly faces. 

She’s joining USWNT teammates Lynn Williams and Midge Purce, as well as former Portland teammates Abby Smith and Yazmeen Ryan and former North Carolina teammate Taylor Smith, among others. Her USWNT connections could run further still, as reports have also connected free agents Tierna Davidson, Emily Sonnett, and Rose Lavelle to advanced talks with Gotham.

Numerous connections gave Dunn peace of mind when making an estimation of the club’s locker room culture, only further punctuated by their Championship win in 2023. She says she spoke with Williams as well as recently-retired Gotham captain and close friend Ali Krieger.

“Getting some of those answers I think really helps me be like, ‘Alright, you guys seem to really love being here,” she says. “You seem to love the environment, you love the leadership, the culture, and those are things that really matter.”

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Dunn will be reunited with former North Carolina and current USWNT teammate Lynn Williams at Gotham (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

With the culture already established, Dunn can now focus on a new challenge on the field. It’s well known in women’s soccer circles that she is one of the most versatile players in the sport, playing outside-back for the USWNT while shifting in multiple midfield and forward roles for her various clubs. Dunn says she hasn’t spoken in detail with Amorós about where she’ll fit in his system (though the recent departure of midfielder Kristie Mewis to West Ham might provide a hint.)

The midfielder thrives the most when able to get close to the opposition’s goal, whether in a box-to-box role in the midfield or as more of an attacking playmaker. But Dunn says early conversations with the coaching staff have focused on her fit in the squad as a person first, and carrying those principles into her role in the locker room and on the pitch. 

“The most successful teams I’ve been on are the teams that I’m like, ‘Yeah, we are talented,’ but it really is about that mentality of — are you willing to do whatever it takes to help the team win?” she says. “Talent is great, but how well do you guys play together? How well do you guys read each other?”

With one of her biggest decisions yet now behind her, Dunn is looking forward to the chaos the NWSL will continue to bring in 2024. Two new expansion sides joining the league, there’s expected player turnover at numerous clubs, and Gotham now setting themselves up to push to turn a Championship into a dynasty. Now in her 10th year in the league, Dunn simply can’t wait to get started.

“Honestly, to be fair, every year so crazy and wild,” she says. “And every year I’m excited, because there’s going to be something wild and crazy every single step of the way.”

College basketball is giving viewers must-see matchups to finish 2023 on a high note.

Conference play is in full swing and every game counts. This weekend’s action is full of battles between ranked teams and matchups we could see again come March and April.

Here are the top five NCAA women’s basketball games of the weekend, in order of schedule.

No. 10 Baylor @ No. 5 Texas

These undefeated Texas teams have been putting on a show early in the 2023-24 season. The Longhorns have put up five 100-point games in their 13 games played, while the Bears have posted two.

Both Baylor (11-0) and Texas (13-0) have beaten fearsome opponents, but Baylor’s ranked victories stand out. The Bears have taken down then-No. 4 Utah and then-No. 24 Miami. The Longhorns beat UConn on Dec. 3 at the Jimmy V Classic but have not faced a ranked opponent since then.

Both teams enter this matchup with confidence after significant wins in their most recent games. Texas almost doubled their previous opponent in scoring, beating Jackson State, 97-52, and Baylor topped South Florida, 73-50. With such high rates of offensive production between these Big 12 rivals, it could be anyone’s game.

2 p.m. ET Saturday — FOX

No. 12 Utah @ No. 8 Colorado

These Pac-12 teams have been mainstays in the AP Top 25 all season, and this matchup should reflect that. Four Buffaloes average double-digits in scoring, and they are overall a higher-scoring team than the Utes. But Utah’s Alissa Pili is a force to be reckoned with.

Utah (10-2) presented undefeated No. 1 South Carolina with its toughest challenge of the season so far. A high-scoring outing from Pili and a quality defensive showing like the Utes’ matchup with the Gamecocks could lift them over Colorado (10-1). But they have to get through the Buffaloes’ freshman trio of Frida Formann, Aaronette Vonleh and Jaylyn Sherrod first.

3 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

No. 6 USC @ No. 2 UCLA

Both USC (10-0) and UCLA (11-0) have steamrolled their way through the early season. Both squads are undefeated, and both are putting up high numbers on the scoreboard.

The Bruins have played a notably tougher schedule than the Trojans — UCLA has topped three ranked opponents since the season began, while USC has faced just one ranked team. But that hasn’t stopped the Trojans from winning in style.

USC freshman JuJu Watkins ranks second in the NCAA in average points per game. She puts up an astronomical 26.8 points per game, and she leads her team in assists and steals as well. But the Bruins starting five all average double-digit scoring, with Lauren Betts and Charisma Osborne averaging 16.9 and 14.5 points per game, respectively. This southern California rivalry will bring the offensive power that viewers crave from young rising talent and veteran players.

8 p.m. ET Saturday — Pac-12 Network

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UConn is finding its footing after a shaky start to the season. (G Fiume/Getty Images)

No. 15 UConn @ No. 18 Marquette

After their shakiest start to a season in decades, the Huskies are climbing their way back up the poll right in time for conference play. The Golden Eagles are experiencing the opposite start to their slate. After appearing on the AP Top 25 for just one week last season, Marquette has been near-constant presence this year after the best start to a season in program history.

Entering Sunday’s contest, UConn (9-3) has dropped three early games, and Marquette (12-0) is undefeated. The Golden Eagles rarely find themselves in this position against their conference rivals, but their Liza Karlen is putting up numbers rivaling those of Player of the Year candidate Paige Bueckers. UConn is Marquette’s toughest challenge yet, but the Golden Eagles should not be overlooked.

1 p.m. ET Sunday — SNY

No. 13 Notre Dame @ Syracuse

While the Irish are the only ranked team in this contest, the ACC matchup is still worth a watch. Notre Dame and Syracuse are 9-1 and 10-1, respectively, and the game could be close.

The Orange’s only loss so far came at the hands of then-No. 20 Maryland, and the Irish fell to then-No. 6 South Carolina. Notre Dame has played more intimidating opponents than Syracuse, including then-No. 20 Tennessee, but the Orange have beaten most of their opponents handily, some by almost 50 points.

Regardless of the outcome of the game, watching Notre Dame’s Hannah Hidalgo and Syracuse’s Dyaisha Fair go up against each other in a conference match should be quality basketball.

2 p.m. ET Sunday — ACC Network

Summer McIntosh has been named the Canadian Press female athlete of the year for 2023 after defending her world titles in the 200-meter butterfly and 400-meter individual medley at the world championships.

The 17-year-old said she is “honored” to receive the award and called it “just really cool.” She is expected to build on her successful year at the Paris Olympics in 2024, but she is keeping a level head.

“What I’m most proud of is just how much I’ve learned about myself and kind of how much I’ve gained from each experience,” McIntosh told CBC. “Going into big meets like a world championship, I don’t really have exact expectations of myself especially when it comes to placement or medals, but I definitely tried to just reach my full potential in each one of my races and I think I did that for the most part.”

After a disappointing 400 freestyle at the world championships, McIntosh rebounded to earn bronze in the 200 freestyle before winning gold in her next two events.

She also helped anchor Canada’s medley relay team to bronze, helping the team qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. McIntosh also set two world record at the Canadian trials in March in the 400 IM and 400 freestyle.

She became the first swimmer in history to hold both of those world records at the same time.

“This time last year, I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d break two world records or previous world records. I think it’s still a bit surreal to be honest,” she said. “That just kind of comes back to trying to just keep my head down and keep working and not focus too much on records like that, but it’s a really cool part and kind of a timestamp in history.”

To end the year, McIntosh beat Katie Ledecky in the 400 freestyle at the U.S. Open in early December, marking the first time that Ledecky had lost the event on U.S. soil in 11 years.

As the new year approaches, the college basketball season is heating up, and so is the player of the year race.

The Naismith Player of the Year award recognizes the best players in NCAA men’s and women’s basketball. Several players on the 50-player watchlist have lived up to their billing. One in particular has done even more.

Here are Just Women’s Sports’ contenders in the player of the year race heading into 2024, in no particular order.

Caitlin Clark, Iowa

Not much more needs to be said here. Last year’s Naismith Award winner is putting on an even better show this season. At the time of publication, Clark averages a league-leading 30.5 points per game and is seventh in NCAA Division I in assists (7.4 per game). At her current pace, Clark could overtake Kelsey Plum’s college scoring record by February. And while she’s a high scorer, she also spreads the wealth around to her team.

In what could be her final year in the NCAA, Clark has also stepped up her defensive play. She’s gathered 91 defensive rebounds through 13 games played, and her turnover rate is at a career low.

For the second year in a row, Clark may well be the best all-around choice for player of the year.

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(Greg Fiume/Getty Images)

Alissa Pili, Utah

Few players on this list have taken their team on their backs the way Pili has. When she shoots, she rarely misses. When she defends, she gives her all.

Pili averages just under 25 points per game, good for fourth in D-I. She also has a 69.7 shooting percentage, the fifth-highest in the NCAA. And she is making 56.5% of her 3-pointers, which ranks first in the NCAA.

Pili’s WNBA potential has been debated. But after the show she’s been putting on this season, there’s no question that she could thrive in the pros. Her size, scoring ability and athleticism make her an ideal draft candidate in 2024 — and perhaps a player of the year candidate as well.

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(Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

JuJu Watkins, USC

The freshman guard is already making a huge impact for the Trojans. In the seven-week old college basketball season, Watkins has taken home six Pac-12 freshman of the week honors. And for good reason.

Watkins is averaging a staggering 26.8 points per game, placing her at second in D-I as a first-year player. She shoots over 46% from behind the arc, and she’s snagged 62 rebounds in her nine games played.

Before finishing her first semester of college, Watkins has cemented herself as a regular in USC’s starting lineup and as a favorite for national freshman of the year honors. And if she keeps it up, she could set her sights even higher.

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(M. Anthony Nesmith/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Paige Bueckers, UConn

Bueckers started the 2023-24 season with something to prove. The redshirt junior guard had less than 50 college games under her belt due to injuries — a good amount lower than many other players in her year. But she hit the court without missing a beat.

The 21-year-old averages almost 19 points per game, shoots 48% from the three-point line and leads her team in points this season. Bueckers also averages more than three assists per game, and she’s snagged 23 steals in 12 games. She is stepping up her defensive game as well. So far, she’s batted a team-leading 16 blocks as a guard and she’s collected 50 defensive rebounds.

If she continues to heat up despite the pressure of leading a depleted UConn squad, she could play her way into the national award conversation.

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(Michael Hickey/Getty Images)

Aneesah Morrow, LSU

Morrow is another player whose all-around skillset is serving her well early in the 2023-24 slate. Her versatility is allowing her to shine at LSU after her transfer from DePaul in the offseason.

The 20-year-old forward makes her presence known on the scoresheet, averaging 18.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. But her excellence continues on the other side of the ball. Morrow leads the Tigers with 34 steals and 17 blocks in 13 games played.

Through many challenges LSU has faced this season, including a prolonged absence for star Angel Reese and the removal of former starter Kateri Poole from the team, Morrow has taken everything in stride and remained a consistent and reliable player for the Tigers.

Honorable mentions:

  • Cameron Brink, Stanford
  • Aaliyah Edwards, UConn
  • Deja Kelly, UNC
  • Ta’Niya Latson, Florida State
  • Jacy Sheldon, Ohio State