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OL Reign’s original three look to build on their NWSL legacies

Lauren Barnes, Jess Fishlock and Megan Rapinoe will play their 10th season for OL Reign in 2022. (Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

OL Reign head coach Laura Harvey is embracing the NWSL preseason with veteran players Megan Rapinoe, Jess Fishlock and Lauren Barnes, because she can’t be sure how many she’ll have left with all three of them after this one.

Rapinoe, 36, said after the Olympics last year that she needed to “take some time to think” about retirement. Last month, she signed a one-year extension with the Reign, raising questions about whether this could be her last year (fiancé and Seattle Storm guard Sue Bird has announced this WNBA season as her farewell tour).

For Barnes, 32, and Fishlock, 35, the question appears further off as they and Rapinoe enter their 10th season with OL Reign. In January, Barnes signed a one-year contract extension and Fishlock a two-year, both of which have options for an extra year. 

The three original franchise players understand what it means to play for the Reign and, during a preseason with many new faces, Harvey can lean on them to set the tone.

“I think that’s their biggest legacy,” the coach said. “This club continues to stick with those standards on and off the field, within the player group, of what’s expected, and these have been setting it for 10 years. They created it, then they set it and then they impart that onto the new ones coming in.”

For Harvey, who also started at the club (then Seattle Reign FC) in 2013, “it’s hard to imagine the club without them,” she said. All three have been named to the NWSL Best XI during their careers, with 2021 NWSL MVP Fishlock earning the honor five times.

“We are 100 percent the product of our environment,” said Barnes, the NWSL’s 2016 Defender of the Year. “I am every single person who’s ever been part of this club — players, staff, playing one minute, to not playing at all, to playing every single minute.”

Barnes leads a steady backline alongside U.S. women’s national team defenders Alana Cook and Sofia Huerta. Kristen McNabb, who started 15 of 21 games for Reign last season, was selected by San Diego Wave FC in the 2022 expansion draft.

“We always hear about outsiders looking in and that they want to be part of the Reign, and I just want to continue that legacy as much as I possibly can and have these younger ones take it over after as the old ones move on eventually,” Barnes said.

That legacy is a conversation Harvey plans to have with Barnes, Rapinoe and Fishlock, but “not yet,” as she exclaimed during Tuesday’s media call.

The group still has an NWSL championship title to win after claiming the NWSL Shield twice, in 2014 and 2015, and finishing as runners-up those same years.

Since falling to the Washington Spirit — the eventual NWSL champions — in last year’s semifinals, the Reign have undergone one of the biggest roster turnovers in their history, signing nine new players in recent weeks.  The upcoming NWSL Challenge Cup will give them a chance to find their chemistry in competitive game settings before the regular season begins in May.

“There’s things around who Lu’s playing with … or whatever it might look like, where we have to find answers on some of the new players that we have,” Harvey said.

With Rapinoe up top, Fishlock in the midfield and Barnes on defense, Harvey has a strong core to build around. The Reign will enter the year with a healthy balance of veterans, younger players and those coming from other teams who are hungry for their shot. The mix creates a team that wants to win now, but also has depth and longevity.

The Reign get an early test, kicking off the Challenge Cup on March 18 against the Portland Thorns.

“It’s the game of our lifetime,” Barnes said of the Reign-Thorns rivalry. “It doesn’t even matter what place you’re in in the league. It’s like, that’s the championship game.

“Being able to pass that history down, that rivalry down to the new girls coming in and people overseas and stuff has been really fun to watch. I’ve had a couple girls come off those games and be like, ‘Best game I ever played.’ And we’re talking about girls who have been to World Cups.”

The game will also serve as OL Reign’s 2022 home debut at Lumen Field in Seattle, Wash., home to the NFL’s Seattle Seahawks and MLS’ Seattle Sounders. While hosting games at Cheney Stadium in Tacoma for three years, the Reign played their first match at Lumen last August against Portland, winning 2-1 in front of an NWSL-record 27,278 fans.

The move to Lumen marks the beginning of a new era for the Reign, and Barnes, Rapinoe and Fishlock are ready to lead the way.

“The club’s going in an exciting direction in regards to playing at Lumen, which is a huge step for us and I think the three of them,” Harvey said. “I was really excited for the three of them to have that opportunity because they deserve it.”

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Clark, Martin Square Off in First Pro WNBA Matchup

Kate Martin #20 of the Las Vegas Aces and Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever look on during the game
Things looked a little different Saturday night as the former Iowa teammates went head-to-head in Las Vegas. (Jeff Bottari/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa teammates Caitlin Clark and Kate Martin shared the court once again on Saturday, this time as professionals.

It was Martin’s Aces that got the 99-80 win over Clark’s Fever in Las Vegas. The pair's former coaches Lisa Bluder, Jan Jensen, Jenni Fitzgerald, and Raina Harmon were all in attendance to watch their Hawkeyes — Clark, Martin, and former national player of the year Megan Gustafson — take the court.

"It’s super special. It’s cool for our program, cool for Lisa, for Coach Jan, for all of them," Clark said in a pregame press conference. "They’ve known me since I’ve been 13 years old and now I’m 22 getting to live out my dream and they’ve been a huge part of that and helping me get here and helping Megan and Kate to get here too. It’s a great moment for them and I’m sure they’re not complaining about a trip to Vegas."

As for her college teammate, Clark had nothing but good things to say ahead of the showdown. 

"I’m just really happy for her and everything Coach [Becky] Hammon says about her is so true," she said. "Every person that played at Iowa and was around her knows that to be true. She’s the ultimate teammate, ultimate person, ultimate leader."

In the end, Martin stole the show with 12 points and seven rebounds in 22 minutes, while Clark amassed eight points, seven assists, and five rebounds over 29 minutes of playing time. 

"It was weird," Martin admitted after the game. "I'm not going to lie — just looking out on the court and seeing her in a different jersey than me, it was obviously different. But it's really fun. We're both living out our dreams right now."

The Aces next meet the fever on July 2nd at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

Barcelona Beat Lyon to Win Back-to-Back Champions League Titles

Barcelona's Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas celebrating after beating Lyon at the 2024 Champions League final
Ballon d'Or winners Aitana Bonmatí and Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona to a second-straight UWCL title on Saturday. (Ramsey Cardy - Sportsfile/UEFA via Getty Images)

Barcelona was crowned champion of the Champions League on Saturday with a 2-0 win over Lyon in Bilbao.

Alexia "La Reina" Putellas, who recently re-signed with Barcelona, came off the bench to score the team's second goal. Fellow Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí provided the team’s first. After the game, defender Lucy Bronze said Putellas was nicknamed "the queen" for a reason.

"Alexia is the captain of the team and she's the queen of Barcelona for a reason,"  defender Lucy Bronze told DAZN. "She's got the quality to do that in the last minute of the Champions League final when we were up against it at the end and it just sealed the win for us. It was amazing."

The victory marked Barcelona's first win over Lyon in a UWCL final, having previously gone up against the French side at both the 2019 and 2022 Champions League finals. It's also Barcelona's second Champions League title in a row.

"It's hard to win it once, but to do it back-to-back, Lyon showed how difficult it is and this team has finally done that," Bronze said. "I think we go down in history as one of the best teams in Europe."

This season, the team also secured a quadruple for the first time in club history, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. The win ensures that coach Jonatan Giráldez — who has officially departed the team to join the NWSL's Washington Spirit — leaves Europe a champion.

"It was an incredible game. I am really happy, it's one of the best days of my life for sure," Giráldez told broadcaster DAZN after the game. "We did an amazing job. I am very proud of all of them."

Following the win, Putellas said her team "can't ask for anything else."

"Our objective was to win four out of four," the Spain international told reporters. "We have achieved everything we wanted. Every minute of sacrifice has been worth the effort — and I'd say that not after the game, but before, just entering in the stadium, with all the support we had here, it was worth it."

2024 Laureus World Sportswoman of the Year Aitana Bonmatí said that the crowd support made it "feel like Camp Nou."

"I am on cloud nine right now," she said. "It is an historic day which we will remember forever."

Sun’s Alyssa Thomas Ejected After Flagrant 2 on Sky Rookie Angel Reese

Angel Reese said there were "no hard feelings" stemming from Alyssa Thomas's flagrant foul. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Angel Reese might have gotten knocked down on Saturday, but she got right back up again. 

Connecticut’s Alyssa Thomas was ejected from the Sun’s 86-82 win over Chicago following a flagrant foul 2 on Reese — the first of her career. While the two were battling for a rebound, Reese took a clothesline hold around the neck courtesy of Thomas before hitting the ground.

After the game, Reese told reporters that there were "no hard feelings" and she appreciated Thomas for playing her hard beneath the basket.

"I know she purposely probably didn’t do it towards me," Reese said. "But just being able to come out there and just be strong and stand on two feet, it was going to be a tough game and that’s what I’m built for. And my teammates had my back throughout the whole game. So I was prepared for it."

She also didn’t buy into the idea that it was a "Welcome to the WNBA" moment, but thanked Thomas "sending a message" because it helped her get back up and "keep pushing."

"It’s not just because I’m a rookie. I’m a player. I’m a basketball player. They don’t give a damn if I’m a rookie. I mean, I want them to come at me every day. I want them to come at everybody," she added. "I mean, they’re not supposed to be nice to me. I hope y’all know that. They’re not supposed to be nice to me or lay down because I’m Angel Reese or because I’m a rookie."

Reese finished the game with 13 points, five rebounds, and two assists over 33 minutes.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

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