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Fueled by depth, Byron Nelson volleyball earns No. 4 spot in JWS rankings

The Byron Nelson volleyball team poses with its trophy after winning the Texas Showdown Tournament last month. (Photo courtesy of @BnvbClub on Twitter)

The key for Byron Nelson is simple: depth. The Bobcats have it everywhere.

Their top three attackers all have 246 kills or more, and on the defensive side, they have three players with more than 200 digs. Some high schools rely on just one setter, but Byron Nelson rolls out two with 373 assists or more.

The numbers are eye-popping, right down to the 26-1 record, and this type of excellence is nothing new for the Bobcats — three years ago, they went 50-2, beating teams from Hawaii and California on their way to winning a state championship.

After a 19-20 campaign last season, the addition of freshman Kylie Kleckner and her team-leading 263 kills has given Bryon Nelson another option in the attack, with senior Samantha Hoppes and sophomore Sydnee Peterson contributing 250 and 246 kills, respectively.

Kleckner and Peterson, both outside hitters, chip in defensively with 215 and 207 digs, respectively. Senior Campbell Love leads the way with 286 digs.

Setters Anna Koster and Keatyn Rodgers key the attack with 443 and 373 assists, respectively.

Thanks to those varied contributions, Byron Nelson has risen two spots to No. 4 in this week’s Just Women’s Sports volleyball team rankings, and the team hopes to keep clicking on all cylinders with district play beginning Friday.

Check out the complete rankings below, and click here to see last week’s rankings.

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 11-0

The Dons haven’t dropped a set this season, winning the Kamehameha Volleyball Tournament this past weekend in Hawaii.

2. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 16-0

The Mustangs have won 69 of their last 70 matches and are seeking a third consecutive state championship.

3. Wayzata (Minn.), 4-0

The Trojans continue to dominate their opposition and are approaching 60 consecutive wins.

4. Byron Nelson (Texas), 26-1

The Bobcats have a chance to avenge their sole loss of the season Friday when they face Southlake Carroll.

5. Blue Valley North (Kan.), 6-0

Down 21-16 in the decisive third set, Blue Valley North rallied to win 18-25, 25-22, 25-23 on Tuesday to maintain an unbeaten start to its season.

6. Westminster Christian (Fla.), 9-0

The Warriors have advanced to three consecutive Class 3A state championship matches, losing each time. They hope this year will be different and received a major confidence boost this past weekend, beating No. 10 Cornerstone Christian to win a national tournament.

7. Dike-New Hartford (Iowa), 16-1

It’s tough to stop the Wolverines’ 1-2 punch of twins Payton and Jaydn Peterson, who have 254 kills between them. They also have Madelyn Norton, whose 319 assists is second in the state.

8. Prestonwood Christian (Texas), 23-1

The youthful Lions have sophomores leading the team in kills (Macaria Spears, 230) and digs (Gillian Pitts, 265) and a junior leading in assists (Camille Edwards, 309).

9. McCutcheon (Ind.), 11-1

Senior Chloe Chicoine, the No. 2 recruit in the JWS volleyball high school player rankings, is averaging 6.2 kills per set on a .394 hitting percentage. Her 155 kills have helped the Mavericks bounce back from an early-season loss.

10. Cornerstone Christian (Texas), 37-2

The Warriors knocked off No. 16 Santa Fe to advance to the championship of a national tournament in Florida but were unable to take first, falling to Westminster Christian out of Miami.

11. Cleveland (Tenn.), 23-1

Sisters Addison Hurst and Lauren Hurst are first and second, respectively, in kills and digs for the Blue Raiders. Addison, a senior, has 288 kills and 169 digs, while Lauren, a sophomore, has 241 kills and 145 digs.

12. Assumption (Ky.), 11-0

The Rockets have put together a demanding schedule against top in-state and national competition, and it only gets tougher with a matchup against perennial California power Mater Dei next week.

13. Highland Park (Texas), 25-2

The Scots have bounced back from a loss to Prestonwood Christian with three consecutive sweeps.

14. Tompkins (Texas), 23-3

Cindy Tchouangwa is nearing 300 kills on the season with more than a month of regular-season play remaining.

15. Mira Costa (Calif.), 10-2

The Mustangs picked up a big win over reigning state champions Marymount.

16. Santa Fe (Fla.), 9-1

The Raiders fell to Cornerstone Christian but otherwise acquitted themselves nicely, winning six of seven matches in a highly competitive tournament atmosphere.

17. Fayetteville (Ark.), 4-0

Brooke Rockwell is averaging over 4.5 kills per set as the Bulldogs remain unblemished. They haven’t dropped a single set through their first four matches.

18. St. James Academy (Kan.), 6-0

At one point last decade, St. James had won nine state titles in the last 11 seasons. Now, the Thunder are looking to win their first championship since 2018.

19. North Allegheny (Pa.), 3-0

The five-time defending state champions have picked up right where they left off, defeating last year’s state semifinalists Shaler in straight sets Tuesday to improve to 3-0.

20. Alpharetta (Ga.), 20-3

The Raiders are fueled by a balanced attack of three players with more than 100 kills.

21. Conroe (Texas), 33-1

The Tigers bounced back from a straight-set loss to The Woodlands with a sweep on Tuesday.

22. Mother McAuley (Ill.), 8-0

The Mighty Macs enjoyed a week of rest before tournament play this weekend.

23. Skutt Catholic (Neb.), 9-3

The Skyhawks tested themselves against top competition this past weekend and came out looking rosy, beating previously-ranked Buford and Bishop Gorman.

24. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), 14-2

The Trailblazers suffered a four-set loss Saturday but bounced back by sweeping Marymount.

25. Marymount (Calif.), 4-2

The Sailors have hit a rough patch, losing consecutive matches for the first time in nearly three years.

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.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

Smith and Swanson shine in action-packed NWSL weekend

sophia smith celebrates after a goal for the portland thorns
Sophia Smith's 27th-minute goal paved the way for Portland's first win of the season. (Soobum Im/USA TODAY Sports)

USWNT regulars Sophia Smith and Mallory Swanson furthered their cases for Olympic inclusion with their respective club victories on Saturday and Sunday.

After a roller coaster of a week that saw former Thorns head coach Mike Norris reassigned and a flurry of last-minute roster reshufflings as Friday's trade window closure loomed, the NWSL sprung to life over the weekend with standout performances from ninth-place Portland and third-place Chicago, among others.

After her blocked attempt at goal set up a volleying sixth-minute opener from veteran Christine Sinclair — now the only player in history to record a goal in all 11 NWSL seasons — Smith swiftly netted her own in the 27th minute off a breakaway run that eluded Houston's backline. The goal represented Smith's third of the season as well as her 35th for the Thorns, ultimately leading to the home side's first win of the season in a 4-1 routing of the Dash.

But that wasn't Smith's only stat of the evening. The star forward also lapped former Chicago Red Star Sam Kerr to become the youngest player to reach 50 NWSL goal contributions across all games, chalking up 40 goals and 10 assists at the age of 23 years and 254 days.

"Obviously it feels good to get a win," said Smith in a post-match press conference. "But this is the standard the Thorns have always had. So a win is great, but a win is the expectation — we're hungrier than ever after the way we started."

170 miles up the road, Lumen Field similarly showcased some promising Olympic prospect footwork on Sunday. In Chicago's 2-1 victory over the lagging 13th-place Seattle Reign, striker Mallory Swanson racked up an impressive counterattack assist on fellow forward Ally Schlegel's fourth-minute goal. Swanson went on to find the back of the net herself before halftime, lacing an explosive ball into the top corner in the 31st minute, her second of the season after returning from a lengthy sidelining injury.

Speaking of injuries, fellow USWNT favorites Alex Morgan and Tierna Davidson were not as fortunate as their national squad teammates this weekend. Each exited their club matches early, Morgan with an ankle knock in San Diego's loss to Orlando and Davidson with an apparent hamstring incident early on in Washington's win over Gotham.

LSU takes first-ever NCAA gymnastics title

Kiya Johnson of the LSU Tigers reacts after winning the national championship during the Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships
Gymnast Kiya Johnson celebrates LSU's win at the NCAA Division I Women's Gymnastics Championships. (Photo by C. Morgan Engel/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

LSU came out on top at the 2024 NCAA women's gymnastics championship in Fort Worth on Saturday, besting Cal, Utah, and Florida to capture their first-ever title.

The Tigers' win was far from a landslide. LSU took the first rotation handily thanks to 2024 All-Around winner Haleigh Bryant's team-leading 9.9375 backed by four additional 9.9+ scores from her teammates. But Utah then responded with three strong beam performances of their own, causing the Red Rocks to slide confidently into second place by the end of the second rotation.

By the halfway point, all four teams fell within .288 points of one another before Utah overtook the pack with a dominant floor showing after three rotations. LSU then went on to ace the beam event with Konnor McClain's meet-leading 9.9625 score, coming away with the highest collective score ever awarded to the event in NCAA championship history. The achievement propelled the Tigers to victory, ensuring them the title after the final rotation.

"This team is full of individuals that have incredible character and integrity and love for each other and all the things you hear from coaches when they sit at a podium like this in a moment of victory, but I promise you it's a real thing," said LSU coach Jay Clark in a post-meet press conference. "I'm just so happy for them."

Contributing to Saturday's atmosphere of excitement was the absence of last year's champion and this year's heavily favored Oklahoma Sooners. Hot off earning the highest team score in NCAA history just last month, the top-ranked Norman squad suffered a shocking loss in the semifinals, where five major mistakes contributed to a third-place finish and a season-low team score of 196.6625.

With Oklahoma out, it was truly anyone's game.

"Every team was out there fighting for their lives — all four teams, it could have gone any of four ways out there," Clark told reporters. "As much as I feel for what happened to Oklahoma in the semifinals, I think it made for a championship that became so packed with emotion because every team out there believed they could do it. It was just tremendous."

LSU is now the eighth program in the sport's history to earn an NCAA women's gymnastic championship.
They share the honor with Georgia, Utah, UCLA, Oklahoma, Alabama, Florida, and Michigan.

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