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Abby Erceg describes emotional trade from Courage to Louisville

Abby Erceg has played for the Western New York Flash/North Carolina Courage since 2016. (Lewis Gettier/USA TODAY Sports)

When trades occur abruptly in the NWSL, sometimes the hardest part for players involved is what comes immediately after the phone call. The trade that sent longtime North Carolina Courage captain Abby Erceg to Racing Louisville alongside teammate Carson Pickett took both players by surprise, leaving them with little time to process their emotions.

“I think when [Pickett] and I both got off the call, my first reaction was to cry,” Erceg told the media after their first training in Louisville on Wednesday. “Because you don’t really know how to take that kind of news.”

Describing the following days as an emotional rollercoaster, Erceg and Pickett — who have a house together in North Carolina — quickly had to pack up and move to a new city. The only problem was that Racing Louisville’s preseason had already started.

“I was still in New Zealand when I found out,” Erceg said. “And then we learned that the team here is starting the Monday before I get back. So it’s just, you want to get with the team and you don’t want to be that player that turns up late and you’re just trying to get everything done.”

“I think as professional athletes, you have to understand that you can be traded at any point,” Pickett also told the media. “And so it was a shock, but I think that it was the timing, mainly because we wanted to be here, we wanted to be in Louisville with our new team, but because we kind of found out a little later, they had already started training for a couple days.”

For Pickett, getting traded wasn’t unfamiliar territory. Louisville will be the outside back’s fourth NWSL club after she spent two years in North Carolina. But Erceg had been with the Western New York Flash and then the rebranded Courage since the 2016 season, winning three Championships, three NWSL Shields and the 2022 Challenge Cup as captain of the squad. She and Pickett had anticipated being in North Carolina for a long time.

Erceg expressed her shock and disappointment on social media soon after the trade, which sent U.S. women’s national team defender Emily Fox to North Carolina in exchange for the players. A week earlier, the 33-year-old Erceg had criticized the club for its decision to trade 2021 Rookie of the Year candidate Diana Ordoónez to Houston on NWSL draft night.

“I think when you spend that long at a club, and you don’t get a chance to have the conversation about what your future looks like, it’s tough when you find out that kind of news,” Erceg said. “So there were definitely a lot of emotions initially.”

“I think I immediately felt the hurt that Abby felt, just for her because she had been there for so much longer. She was a captain and things like that,” Pickett echoed.

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Carson Pickett was named to the NWSL Best XI First Team while playing for the Courage in 2022. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Without much time to waste, Erceg and Pickett turned their attention to Louisville. Erceg said they relied on resources from the NWSL Players’ Association and new protections written into the league’s first collective bargaining agreement to help with the move.

Louisville also stepped right in to make the pair comfortable. Soon after the trade, the club put together a presentation for Erceg and Pickett to help them get acclimated to the area.

“It had everything you can possibly need,” Pickett said. “It had coffee shops, it had restaurants … housing, it had everything we needed to move. They made us feel so comfortable right away. And I think that honestly, when I got off that call, I was like, I’m ready to go. I don’t even need my couch, my bed. I’m just ready to be there.”

As they get settled into their new surroundings, both players are ready for a new chapter.

“I think soccer is kind of the place where you can just let go of those emotions,” Erceg said, emphasizing that the time to work through emotional upheaval is during the preseason process so that she can be ready to go when the season starts.

While Erceg still has many friends on the Courage, she already has her eye on Louisville’s first match against North Carolina, a club they have never beaten.

“I’ll be nervous, there’s no doubt about it,” she said. “It’ll be a tough game, but at the same time, do I want to beat them? 100 percent.”

Claire Watkins is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @ScoutRipley.

US Olympic Skateboarding Team Hits the Street

Team USA's Mariah Duran competing at the 2024 Olympic street skateboarding qualifiers
19-year-old Mariah Duran is the only returning Olympian on USA Skateboarding's street squad. (David Balogh/Getty Images)

In just its second Olympics as an official sport, skateboarding will touch down in Paris for the single-day street event on Sunday, July 28th.

Twenty-two skaters representing 11 countries are gearing up to show off their best tricks to five judges, who will assess their performances on a scale of 0-100 points.

Brazilian skateboarder Rayssa Leal skates at a Paris Olympics practice session
Brazil's Rayssa Leal looks to level up from her silver medal performance in Tokyo. (ODD ANDERSEN/AFP via Getty Images)

How the street competition works

Street competitions replicate an urban environment, with obstacles like ledges, handrails, and stairs integrated throughout the course.

Athletes attempt five tricks in each of two 45-second runs. However, only their best run and top two tricks will count toward their overall score. The top eight skaters after the preliminary round will advance to the final, which follows the same format.

US street skateboarder Poe Pinson at 2024 Olympic qualifiers
19-year-old Poe Pinson will rep the US at Sunday's Olympic street skateboarding competition. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

Team USA's medal-hunting skateboarding trio

Countries are held to a maximum of three skaters for each competition (street and park). In the 2024 Olympic street contest, five nations qualified a full trio — including the US.

Under USA Skateboarding coach Alexis Sablone — who placed fourth in the Tokyo Olympics' street competition — the lone competing Olympic veteran is 27-year-old Mariah Duran, who hopes to add an Olympic medal to the six X Games honors already in her trophy case.

Joining Duran — and repping Olympic skateboarding’s sizable youth contingent — are 19-year-old Poe Pinson and 16-year-old Paige Heyn, who snagged bronze at the 2023 Pan Am Games.

Japan's Coco Yoshizawa kick-flips her skateboard at the 2024 Olympic street qualifier
World No. 1 Coco Yoshizawa of Japan is a favorite entering Sunday's competition. (Attila Volgyi/Xinhua via Getty Images)

Top contenders look to improve upon Tokyo Olympics

The US will undoubtedly face steep competition in Paris, led by perennial top contenders Japan.

With six of the world's top 10 street skateboarders hailing from Japan, the three-skater rule forced them to leave behind some big names. That includes Momiji Nishiya, who won the sport’s first-ever Olympic gold medal in Tokyo at 13 years old. With Nishiya failing to qualify, Japan’s 19-year-old reigning bronze medalist Funa Nakayama and 14-year-old world No. 1 Coco Yoshizawa are primed to take her place on the podium.

Another major threat is Brazilian phenom Rayssa Leal. The 16-year-old was impressing Tony Hawk at age eight, and looks poised to one-up her silver medal performance in Tokyo on Sunday.

Where to watch USA Skateboarding's Olympic street team

Both the 6 AM ET prelims and 11 AM ET final will go down on Sunday, July 28th, with live coverage on NBC platforms.

1v1 With Kelley O’Hara: Rose Lavelle is Ready for the Next Step in Paris

uswnt player rose lavelle with retired uswnt star kelley o'hara
Rose Lavelle has a been a USWNT staple since making her debut in 2017. (Just Women's Sports)

In the latest episode of Just Women's Sports' 1v1 With Kelley O'Hara, Gotham FC and USWNT star Rose Lavelle joins Olympic gold medalist and retired USWNT star Kelley O'Hara for a one-on-one conversation about the upcoming Paris Olympics.

We hear from Lavelle about her first impressions of new USWNT coach Emma Hayes, her international competition journey so far, and what it's like being one of the veterans on this roster.

Subscribe to Just Women's Sports on YouTube to never miss an episode.

Team USA Goes for Gold in Rugby Sevens Tournament

Team USA rugby player Alev Kelter on the pitch
Alev Kelter starts her third Olympic rugby sevens run with Team USA on Sunday. (Yong Teck Lim/Getty Images)

Team USA's rugby squad will begin the hunt for their first-ever Olympic medal when the Paris Games’ rugby sevens tournament takes the pitch on Sunday.

This marks just the third time the Olympics have featured rugby sevens after its debut at the 2016 Rio Games.

USA rugby's Kristi Kirshe, Nicole Heavirland, Ilona Maher, Sarah Levy, Alena Olsen, Lauren Doyle, Kayla Canett and Alev Kelter at the paris olympics
Team USA takes aim at their first Olympic medal on Sunday. (Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for USOPC)

How the Olympic rugby sevens tournament works

Unlike traditional rugby’s 15-player teams and 40-minute halves, rugby sevens consists of squads of seven battling it out through two seven-minute halves. Reflecting the sport’s sped-up nature, the Olympic rugby sevens tournament is played over just three consecutive days.

Twelve teams divided into three groups of four will compete in round-robin pool play to earn points — three for a win, two for a draw, and one for a loss — from Sunday, July 28th through the first half of Monday, July 29th.

The two teams with the most points in each group plus the next two overall best teams then advance to Monday afternoon's quarterfinals.

On Tuesday, July 30th, teams knocked out of the playoffs will face off in "placing" matches to achieve an official Olympic rating. These games are played concurrently with the semifinals before the bronze and gold medal contests close out the tournament.

USA rugby's Ilona Maher breaks a tackle in a 2023 game.
Ilona Maher and her US teammates are vying for their first-ever Olympic medal. (MICHAEL BRADLEY/AFP via Getty Images)

Veterans lead Team USA's Olympic charge

The US is looking to improve on their fifth- and sixth-place finishes at Rio and Tokyo, respectively, and they’re banking on having the experience to do it.

Seven of Team USA's 12 players are Olympic veterans, with two — 33-year-olds Lauren Doyle and Alev Kelter — having competed in both of the sport’s previous Olympic showcases. Doyle and fellow Tokyo vet Naya Tapper co-captain the squad, which also features US rugby standout and TikTok star Ilona Maher.

However, to ascend their first-ever Olympic podium, the US will have to contend with the sport’s top teams — including Rio gold medalists Australia and Tokyo champs New Zealand. Plus, an especially hungry Team GB will be particularly tough to beat, as the current world No. 1 lookscto avenge their fourth-place finishes in 2016 and 2021.

How to watch the US rugby sevens squad

The US opens pool play against Japan at 10:30 AM ET before facing No. 40 Brazil at 2 PM ET on Sunday, July 28th, with live coverage on NBC platforms.

USWNT Kicks Off 2024 Olympic Tournament Against Zambia

uswnt vs. zambia olympics graphic
The USWNT kicks off their group stage run against Zambia today at 3 PM ET. (Just Women's Sports)

The USWNT begins their 2024 Olympic campaign today, taking on Zambia in their first group stage match.

The team will be looking for a positive first result, before taking on Germany and then Australia in a fast and furious schedule kicking off in Nice before traveling west down the coast to Marseille.

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 13: USWNT coach Emma Hayes stands on the field before a game between Mexico and USWNT
The USWNT is entering a new era under head coach Emma Hayes. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The road to Olympic gold starts now

While eight of the 12 teams competing in the group stage will move on to the August 3rd quarterfinals — including two countries advancing on a third-place tiebreak — first week successes can dictate a path to the medal rounds.

"There's top footballing nations in this tournament. I don't think shocks in the women's game exist anymore — I think we have to reframe our focus a little bit and have respect for the rest of the world," US head coach Emma Hayes told the media this week.

"We've learned a lot and we've grown a lot," added USWNT forward Sophia Smith. "We're just looking at this tournament and not backwards because there's really no point in doing that."

Barbra Banda of Zambia's Olympic soccer team celebrates after scoring at the 2023 World Cup
Zambia star Barbra Banda has extensive experience facing USWNT players. (Hannah Peters - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Sizing up the USWNT's Olympic challengers

Hayes’s words could prove true from the jump. While FIFA world No. 92 Zambia weighs in as Group B's lowest-ranked team, they're definitely capable of setting the USWNT on their heels. This will be the first-ever meeting between the two nations, though Zambia has both Tokyo Olympics and 2023 World Cup experience under their belt.

Case and point? Starting striker Barbra Banda currently leads the NWSL's Golden Boot race, firmly placing herself in the MVP conversation while routinely going head-to-head with USWNT players.

"I know what a threat she can be," US defender Emily Fox said this week. "Their entire team is a threat, especially with their transition. But we're ready for it."

Hayes has emphasized cohesion from her starting group, indicating fans could see this afternoon's starting XI mirror the lineups utilized in the last two tune-up friendlies. The US defeated Mexico 1-0 before drawing Costa Rica 0-0 in their final two games before traveling to training camp in France.

Where to watch USWNT vs. Zambia

Today’s Olympic group stage match between the USWNT and Zambia kicks off at 3 PM ET with live coverage on NBC platforms.

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