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Cathedral Catholic volleyball sets up mighty championship clash

The Cathedral Catholic volleyball team has remained atop the team rankings throughout the season. (Photo courtesy of Cazares Media)

The Cathedral Catholic volleyball team began the season at No. 1 and has yet to relinquish its grasp on the top spot.

The Dons passed their latest tests with flying colors, beating Torrey Pines for the third time in a month and then defeating top-10 Mira Costa in four sets to advance to the California Interscholastic Federation Southern California Open Division championship match. There was one slight blemish — Cathedral Catholic lost the second set to Mira Costa, the first time all season they have dropped a set.

It’s been that dominant of a season for the Dons, who won three regular-season tournaments, including the prestigious Durango Fall Classic.

Now, Cathedral is just one win from an undefeated season. Their final test? Fellow unbeaten Saint Francis in the state championship match on Saturday.

For the Dons, this is nothing new. They have been getting each team’s best shot all season and have yet to falter.

Cathedral Catholic remains at No. 1 in the final edition of the Just Women’s Sports team volleyball rankings. Click here to see last week’s rankings.

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 41-0

If Cathedral wins Saturday, it would be the program’s sixth state title.

2. Cornerstone Christian (Texas), 55-2

Cornerstone remains at No. 2 in this week’s rankings.

3. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 47-1

Sophomore Izzy Busignani had a combined 38 kills, senior Lauren Heming contributed 40 digs and Kentucky commit Ava Sarafa racked up 90 assists and 25 digs as the Mustangs won twice this past week to advance to the Division I state semifinals.

4. Prestonwood Christian (Texas), 40-1

Sophomore Macaria Spears racked up 37 kills in the semifinals and final to lead the Lions to the Texas Association of Private and Parochial Schools Class 6A state championship. Juniors Jadyn Livings and Camille Edwards added 27 digs and 57 assists, respectively.

5. Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.), 34-1

The 4A state champions will return 10 of the 12 players from this year’s team.

6. Washburn Rural (Kan.), 45-1

The Rural Blues are still savoring their first state title in 10 years.

7. Fayetteville (Ark.), 36-2

The Bulldogs won their third consecutive state crown in late October.

8. Tompkins (Texas), 41-4

Cindy Tchouangwa combined for 30 kills and 29 digs as the Falcons recorded sweeps on consecutive days to advance to the Class 6A state semifinals.

9. Mira Costa (Calif.), 38-5

After beating Sierra Canyon to advance to the Southern California Open division championship, the Mustangs did something no other team this year has accomplished when they won a set against No. 1 Cathedral Catholic. Alas, it wasn’t enough to extend their season as they lost 3-1 on Tuesday.

10. Mother McAuley (Ill.), 39-3

Michigan commit Ellie White had 43 kills, averaging over seven kills per set, and Northwestern recruit Gigi Navarrete amassed 39 digs as the Mighty Macs won two matches in two days to claim the Class 4A state title, the program’s 16th state championship.

11. Saint Francis (Calif.), 34-0

The Lancers defeated Archbishop Mitty for the sixth time this season to win the Northern California Open Division. Next up: a state title matchup against No. 1 Cathedral Catholic.

12. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), 35-5

A week after beating Mira Costa to win the Southern Section Division I championship, the Trailblazers fell in the rematch, losing a five-set thriller in the Southern California Open Division semifinals.

13. Wayzata (Minn.), 29-4

The Trojans’ 60-plus game winning streak ended in early September, but they were crowned Class 4A state champions for their third state title in the last four years.

14. St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.), 40-3

Yale commit Betsy Goodenow was named 5A Player of the Year, one of three Saints to earn first team all-state honors.

15. Ursuline Academy (Ohio), 25-3

Kentucky commit Brooke Bultema had 30 combined kills in the semifinal and final, Creighton recruit Sydney Breissinger totaled 37 digs, and Lindsey Green had 90 assists as the Lions won the Division I state championship.

16. Buford (Ga.), 38-5

The Wolves will go for a fourth consecutive state title next season.

17. Notre Dame Academy (Ky.), 34-5

The Pandas return 12 of 17 players from this year’s state championship team.

18. Pope (Ga.), 45-5

The Greyhounds are still savoring their state title.

19. ‘Iolani (Hawaii), 25-5

‘Iolani is the best team on the islands.

20. Corona del Sol (Ariz)., 39-5

Kierstyn Barton racked up 25 kills, Maggie Beauer and Erin Clark had 35 digs apiece, and Julia Owens played provider with 57 assists as the Aztecs knocked off the defending state champions in a five-set thriller to win the 6A state title.

21. Pace Academy (Ga.), 42-1

Pace’s sole loss was to Pope.

22. Northville (Mich.), 46-3

The Mustangs have dropped just one set during their playoff run, which has taken them to the Division I state semifinals.

23. Flint Hill (Va.), 36-0

The Huskies dropped their first set of the season in the Division I state championship but rebounded to win the next three and a state title, completing an undefeated season.

24. Immaculate Heart Academy (N.J.), 28-1

The Blue Eagles won their last 26 matches of the season to claim the Non-Public Group A state title.

25. Horizon (Ariz.), 32-10

There were plenty of bumps along the way, but the Huskies defeated Millennium in four sets to win back-to-back 5A state titles.

Phillip Suitts is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. He has worked at a variety of outlets, including The Palm Beach Post and Southeast Missourian, and done a little bit of everything from reporting to editing to running social media accounts. He was born in Atlanta but currently lives in wintry Philadelphia. Follow Phillip on Twitter @PhillipSuitts.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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