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20 Not Horrible Things That Happened in 2020

SANDY, UTAH – JULY 26: Kristie Mewis #19 of Houston Dash celebrates after the Dash defeat the Chicago Red Stars in the championship game of the NWSL Challenge Cup at Rio Tinto Stadium on July 26, 2020 in Sandy, Utah. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Happy New Year’s, squad. We don’t need to tell you that 2020 was the worst. But in a tough year for everyone, and a bumpy year for sports, the world’s best and brightest still found a way to break records, win trophies, lead movements, and inspire fans.

So while we’re all ready to wave 2020 goodbye, here are 20 things that happened in women’s sports that didn’t totally suck.


1. The WNBA signed a groundbreaking CBA

It’s hard to remember now, but the year got off to a sparkling start when the WNBA announced a historic new Collective Bargaining Agreement. With a significant salary bump, fully-paid maternity leave, improved travel arrangements, increased investments in marketing, and a future 50-50 revenue split, the new eight-year CBA was not just a momentous achievement for the league and its players, but a watershed moment in women’s sports.

2. And the Wubble rewrote the athlete-activist script

There will never be another “Wubble” (we hope). But what the players did this season inside their Florida bubble changed sports forever. From a season-opening moment of silence in honor of Breonna Taylor, to a nationally-aired roundtable on politics and race, the W made social justice an integral part of its season. Players wore jerseys honoring victims of racial violence, endorsed a US Senate candidate, and spearheaded voter registration campaigns, all while putting on a show on the hardwood, night in and night out.

3. They weren’t alone in answering the call

Athletes everywhere found their voices this summer. Sparked by the police killing of George Floyd, protests against racial injustice spread from the streets of Minneapolis to the tennis courts of New York, with female athletes everywhere leading the charge. Many, like Coco Gauff and Simone Manuel, spoke out at rallies and through social media. Others, like Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry, were vindicated after being punished for protesting earlier in their careers. Together, they reset the expectations of what athletes can do.

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4. Naomi Osaka talked the talk, walked the walk

One of those athletes who rose to the moment was Naomi Osaka, the once-reticent superstar who in 2020 transformed herself into an outspoken activist. Osaka first led a player strike at the Western & Southern Open before winning the US Open while donning a series of seven masks, each one honoring a Black American killed by police or in an act of racial profiling. Osaka said ahead of time she needed to win every match to present every mask, and she did just that, claiming her third major title in three years while reaffirming her status as tennis’ best young player.

5. Women’s sports bucked the trend 

Sports viewership was down everywhere this year—everywhere, that is, except women’s sports. The NWSL became the first major team sports league to return to play, staging a Covid-free Challenge Cup en route to a 500% increase in television viewership on the year. WNBA regular season viewership was likewise up 68% for the regular season, while Athletes Unlimited brought softball to television, and NBC picked up FAWSL games from across the pond. In a year when sports viewership was down everywhere else, women’s sports showed up and showed out.

6. The Houston Dash won a trophy

The Challenge Cup was one small step for team sports, one giant leap for the Houston Dash. The oft-derided underdogs from H-Town played with a Texas-sized chip on their shoulders for most of the Cup, winning the club’s first-ever major trophy before double-fisting Budweisers in a celebration fit for Queens.

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7. Kristie Mewis won the year

Her post-Challenge Cup shenanigans sent the internet into a tizzy (see above), while her remarkable return to the USWNT after more than six years away had many of us in tears. No athlete better encapsulated the meaning of perseverance in 2020 than Kristie Mewis, whose 2,722 days between USWNT goals was both a national team record and the epitome of grit.

8. Sabrina Ionescu cemented her status as triple-double queen

Her first WNBA season might have been cut short by injury, but let’s not forget all that Ionescu did in 2020. Already the NCAA’s all-time leader in triple doubles, she became the first college basketball player ever (men’s or women’s) to collect 2,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists in a career—on the very same day she spoke at the memorial service for her mentor Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.

9. A’ja Wilson made the leap 

We all knew A’ja Wilson was going to be a WNBA superstar. We just didn’t know when. But in year three, the 24-year-old made the leap, winning league MVP en route to leading the Las Vegas Aces to the WNBA Finals. Watching her and Breanna Stewart first duel for the MVP and then for the title, it’s safe to say the league is in very good hands.

10. Christine Sinclair scored goal No. 185

Canadian legend Christine Sinclair etched her name into the history books this January when she scored international goal No. 185 at the CONCACAF Women’s Olympic Qualifying Tournament, passing Abby Wambach for the most all-time. At 37 years old, Sinclair is the most-capped international footballer playing today (with 296 national team appearances), and is still going strong heading into next summer’s Olympics.

11. Sarah Fuller kicked her way into history

The feel-good story of the year was none other than Vanderbilt kicker Sarah Fuller. First, she led the Commodores soccer team to their first SEC Tournament title since 1994. A week later, she became the first woman to play in a Power Five conference football game when she kicked off for the Vanderbilt team. Two weeks later, she knocked home two PATs to become the first woman to score in a Power Five game, inspiring countless fans while expertly laying waste to the trolls of Twitter.

12. We started a podcast!

We’re going to throw ourselves a high-five for this one. The Just Women’s Sports podcast debuted at #1 in sports and #16 overall, and just 20 episodes in, we’re cruising past 750,000 downloads at last check. This wouldn’t be possible without all you faithful listeners. Thank you, thank you, thank you—and rest assured, more pods are coming in 2021.

13. Alex Morgan became a mom 

Our very first podcast guest was none other than Alex Morgan, USWNT superstar and, as of May, a first-time mom. Her daughter Charlie accompanied Morgan abroad as she suited up for Tottenham Hotspur this fall, where the two-time World Cup champ barely missed a beat in her return to play. Recording two goals in five appearances for the club, Morgan is on track to lead the USWNT in Tokyo next summer.

14. Sue Bird got two rings

In a year of surprises, Sue Bird reminded us that some things never change. At 40 years old, she’s still one of the best floor generals in the WNBA, leading the Seattle Storm to their fourth league title inside the WNBA bubble while also playing a pivotal role in the league’s social justice efforts. Adding to her jewelry collection, Sue Bird also got engaged to fellow superstar Megan Rapinoe. Name a more anticipated post-Covid wedding. Spoiler alert, you can’t.

15. Cat Osterman proved age is just a number 

Pitching legend Cat Osterman likewise spent 2020 proving that age is just a number. After coming out of retirement in 2018 in the hopes of earning a spot on Team USA, Osterman casually pitched her way to the first-ever Athletes Unlimited individual title, fanning a good number of players who grew up watching Osterman play. 37 years old and still the best in the world, Osterman is on a mission to win Olympic gold in Tokyo.

16. April Ross and Alix Klineman showed they’re Olympic-ready

In a condensed season, Ross and Klineman swept the three-tournament AVP Champions Cup, winning all 12 of their matches over three weekends of competition. After winning bronze with Kerri Walsh Jennings in 2016, Ross and her new partner now look poised to enter next summer’s Olympics as the favorites to take home gold.

17. The NWSL announced not one, but two expansions

Already the longest-running professional women’s soccer league ever in the U.S., the NWSL looks poised to achieve even greater heights as it expands its footprint with two additional clubs. Racing Louisville FC will begin play in 2021, while Angel City FC, led by a superstar ownership featuring Natalie Portman, Alexis Ohanian, Serena Williams, and many others, will kick off in 2022. High-profile investors signal a new era of growth for the NWSL, and you better believe we’re ready for take off.

18. The LPGA proved its future is already here

All four 2020 LPGA majors were won by first-time major winners. Sophia Popov’s British Open win may have been the most unique, as the 304th-ranked player had been caddying for a friend just a few weeks before, but in each of the year’s majors, the LPGA’s parity was on display. As the year concludes, eight of the top ten ranked players are 27 or younger, and the future of the tour has never looked brighter.

19. Vivianne Miedema put the football world on notice

Speaking of future superstars: at 24 years old, Vivianne Miedema has already scored more international goals (70) for the Netherlands than any other player before her, on either the women’s or men’s teams. And this year, she became the all-time leading goalscorer in FA Women’s Super League history, with 53 goals (and counting) in only 55 appearances for Arsenal. Look for the Dutch striker to be a star at next summer’s Olympics.

20. Tara VanDerveer won game No. 1099

With a 104-61 win over Pacific on December 15th, longtime Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer passed the Pat Summitt for the most victories in Division I history. It may have come in an empty gym, but nothing could diminish the importance of VanDerveer’s achievement. “I really hope Pat Summitt is looking down and saying, ‘Good job, Tara. Keep it going,'” said VanDerveer after the game. With Stanford 7-0 and ranked No. 1, VanDerveer looks ready to add to her tally as well as her trophy case in 2021.

2021: ONE BIG THING
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2020 is over. But as we look back on a year like no other, it seems only right to take a peek at what’s to come, and no sporting event in 2021 will be bigger than the Tokyo Olympics.

Next summer’s Olympics will provide the first opportunity for the world to come together since the pandemic began. No matter what happens, it’s bound to be historic, with so many pre-Olympics storylines already swirling. What will organizers do to keep everyone safe? How will athletes use the stage to drive social change, especially after the US said there will be no punishments for protesting?

And then there’s the question of who wins all the medals.

Needless to say, there will be drama, exultation, disappointment and relief, and Just Women’s Sports will be there to cover it all. Be sure to keep your eyes (and ears) peeled this winter and spring, as we’ll be rolling out special coverage starting in January. And trust us, you won’t want to miss what we’ve got cooking up.

Caitlin Clark stuns in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports. It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation and shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing him a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her best line of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns start NWSL season winless, in uncharted territory

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage and remaining winless through its first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before. Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 


She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, answers need to be had from head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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