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Sue Phillips, Morgan Cheli bring varsity connection to U17 national team

Team USA’s Morgan Cheli is one of 12 players who will take the court for the U17 national team Saturday in Debrecen, Hungary. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Coach Sue Phillips first remembers meeting Morgan Cheli at a USA Basketball skills academy when the guard was only in elementary school.

She’s also had her in math class and coached her at Archbishop Mitty High School in California.

This past season, the sophomore Cheli led the Monarchs in all categories during a powerful 30-2 season. Now, just over a month after the end of the school year, Phillips and Cheli will pick up right where they left off, but this time for the USA Basketball U17 Women’s National Team, which begins play at the FIBA U17 World Cup on Saturday in Debrecen, Hungary.

“It was a great year,” Cheli said. “You know, I wish we would’ve ended it a little stronger, but that’s our call to get back to where we were. I’m looking forward to next season.”

Team USA coach Sue Phillips has amassed more than 760 wins at Archbishop Mitty High School and has sent 50 players to the next level. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

Cheli and eleven others among the top players from the classes of 2023 and 2024 will attempt to bring home the gold medal. For Phillips, it’s the fifth coaching assignment with USA Basketball. Last summer, she guided the U16 national team to an undefeated record and a gold medal in Mexico.

Returning from that U16 national team are 2023’s Madison Booker, Breya Cunningham, Jadyn Donovan, Juju Watkins and Jada Williams, as well as 2024’s Jaloni Cambridge. The team also boasts names such as Hannah Hidalgo and Mikaylah Williams, the unanimous No. 1 recruit in the class of 2023 who recently committed to LSU. Sunaja Agara, MacKenly Randolph and Kennedy Umeh round out the roster.

“It’s an incredibly talented group this year,” Phillips said. “A versatile combination of young women who can score at all three levels. They can wreak havoc defensively as well. It’s a really fun group to coach, and I think we’ll play an exciting brand of basketball.”

Though Phillips has garnered much success with Team USA, she carries nearly 30 years of experience coaching and teaching math at Archbishop Mitty. She herself is an alumna of the school and basketball program.

“[Teaching math is] what pays the mortgage, let’s be clear!” Phillips said with a laugh.

It’s also greatly impacted her coaching style.

“Empathy and teaching are such integral parts of your interactions,” Phillips said. “Watching film and starting with mistakes is like me handing back your quiz in our math class. You missed Nos. 7 and 15. We have the opportunity to walk through this, so that when we have our test — or playing on the world stage — we have the chance to remedy that error.”

Having the ability to draw parallels between teaching and coaching allows Phillips to diffuse difficult situations. While it may be embarrassing or disheartening to make a mistake, Phillips finds that approaching it with a growth mindset can make all the difference.

“The only way you are gonna get better is if we address those setbacks, those oversights, whatever you want to call them,” Phillips said. “It’s a great way to approach learning, especially during the lowlights. During the highlights, everyone’s having fun with it. But we shouldn’t shy away from opportunities to learn.”

At Archbishop Mitty, she has amassed more than 760 wins and sent 50 players to the next level. This past season, Phillips, Cheli and the rest of the Monarchs team won four championships and finished as state runners-up to champion Sierra Canyon, where Watkins and Randolph attend high school.

Phillips also runs her own non-profit, the San Jose Cagers, a girls AAU club program in the South Bay. It began in 2007 when a former student, Danielle Robinson (now of the Indiana Fever), and her mother spoke to Phillips about the lack of an AAU team in the area. The Cagers have teams for fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grade teams, as well as three high school teams.

“It’s another way to provide a program that is intended for skill development and a platform for college recruitment,” Phillips said. “It’s about growing the game at the youngest of levels.”

It was in seventh grade when Cheli played for the Cagers that she first started to connect with Phillips.

“I got to know her through Cagers,” Cheli said. “We started building our relationship then. I got to learn more about Mitty and her program. One of the deciding factors was that I would get to play for her. She would help develop me to get me to where I wanted to go.”

With the choice to attend Archbishop Mitty, Cheli paved her own path.

“Cheli’s older siblings attended another local private school in the area,” Phillips said. “But Morgan played club for us, and she and her folks really connected with my staff and I. And we had a player at Mitty, Haley Jones, who Morgan would watch. I think when you watch a player like that thrive and flourish, you say, ‘Geez, I would love to be in that kind of situation.’”

At 6-foot-1, Cheli is versatile. She’s an elite shooter and has the ability to play everything between point guard and power forward depending on what’s needed of her. She has the ability to fill several roles while on the court in Hungary.

But in order to uphold the integrity of the tryout process, Phillips did not speak on Cheli to anybody on the selection committee.

It was important to Phillips that Cheli was treated like everybody else. She was an applicant; not necessarily a name thrown around at the highest level until this spring. However, once she received her tryout invitation, she stepped up. At one point during camp, Cheli led the group in assists and finished with double-digit rebounds.

“It was nice to have that familiar face there as a comfort that going in, I knew somebody,” Cheli said.

Team USA's Morgan Cheli was in seventh grade when she first played for coach Sue Phillips' San Jose Cagers AAU team. (Courtesy of USA Basketball)

“We kept our distance.” Phillips said. “All of a sudden, we moved to the finalist stage, and I realized she had a real shot. I have no say on the selection process. She earned it. She’s put the time in. She’s continued to make personal sacrifices to make basketball a priority, and over the course of two years, she’s emerged as one of the top players in her class.”

Just as she does on the Archbishop Mitty roster during the school year, Cheli will add to a team packed with talent when Team USA takes the court in Hungary.

“I’m so fortunate to have made the team,” Cheli said, “and it’s really incredible to have my high school coach as my coach here as well. It’s pretty special.”

Expectations are high for Team USA, which opens play against Mali, but Phillips believes in the process and path to reach gold.

“On paper, we are arguably one of the contenders to win gold,” Phillips said. “To be clear, until we take the floor to compete, it still remains to be seen. We are certainly striving to make our mark at the World Cup, but we have to demonstrate our abilities to be the best team on the floor for a particular day.”

Caroline Makauskas is a contributing writer for Just Women’s Sports. She also writes about college basketball for Blue Ribbon Sports and covers a variety of sports on her TikTok @cmakauskas. Follow her on Twitter @cmakauskas.

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.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

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