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Chicago Red Stars’ Vanessa Dibernardo on the NWSL’s Return

Midfilder Vanessa DiBernardo on field/ JWS
Midfilder Vanessa DiBernardo on field/ JWS

Vanessa DiBernardo is a midfielder for the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL

What has it been like since you returned home from the Challenge Cup?

It’s starting to feel kind of back to normal. It’s nice not being in a bubble.

I’m sure it must be nice not having to live in a hotel room. I’m curious though, do you have any concerns about playing outside of a bubble for the Fall Series?

Our team has been pretty good with communicating, I think before we went to Utah, we had restrictions on what we can and cannot do outside of practice. Just because what you do outside is going to affect everyone else as well. So I think we’ve definitely put some guidelines in place for everyone to follow, but it’s nice to kind of at least have the freedom to go outside and go for a walk and stuff like that. Just being at home and sleeping in your own bed is something we were taking a bit for granted.

And how do you feel about traveling for games?

I think it’s definitely tough. Here in Chicago, we’re in the middle of the country, so we’re going to have to travel by air regardless of which team we play. I think in an ideal world we would like to charter and that would be our first choice, but I think our team is going to do well and look at flight times and try to do the best they can to keep us as safe as possible. That’s what we’ve asked for as players, and they’ve listened, so I think we’re going to be okay. But there’s still a pandemic going on, so you have to be a little worried.

How has the league communicated with you in terms of addressing concerns that players have about traveling and staying safe?

They’ve sent us guidelines and stuff to follow, so that’s good. And I think just all the stuff that we learned before going into Utah has definitely helped. And if we have big concerns, we go to our player reps and they go to our Players Association and they try to give us answers to our questions. So I think the communication has been good so far, and hopefully as these weeks continue to progress nothing serious happens.

The format of these fall games are obviously very different from the tournament format at the Challenge Cup. How do you feel about that?

It’s definitely different. I didn’t really realize when we were in Utah, we actually played every team there, which I think we’re the only team that did that. So it will be nice to get a home and away game against two great clubs who we played in the tournament. Just playing them again so quickly will be a good adjustment, just to see where we’re at. It’s definitely weird only playing two teams, but it’s better than not playing any game, and I think it definitely helps that we’re staying in as much of a bubble as we can. And then just having the games on TV is huge. There’s one each weekend on the CBS network. I think that’s huge for us as a league, so we’re pretty excited about that.

What are some of your team’s goals for these games? 

We’re looking at these games as a way to try new things. And we’ll have a lot of young players, so just getting them experience. They’ll still be good games and challenging games. And in the NWSL, I think, experience is huge. So for some of our younger players, I think this series will be very helpful for them.

There are a lot of players from around the league that have either been loaned to teams in Europe or signed there. How do you think that will affect the Fall Series? 

I think across every team, there are players who have gone overseas, so teams will be missing some pieces that they had in Utah. But again, it’s just a big opportunity for younger players to come in and fill roles and have a great opportunity. It just allows teams to try new things without maybe some of their players that they rely on a bit more. So it’s definitely a different look and opportunity, and there’s not very many games, so you can kind of try something new each game and see what works best.

Your team has been practicing together now for a few weeks since the Challenge Cup ended. How would you describe the team’s mindset at the moment? 

We’re just trying to get back into things, get sharp and, again, there’s new players around and you’re trying to just get used to how each other plays. We didn’t have a lot of time going into Utah, and we had a lot of new players in our frontline that were new to the team. So I think this time has been good for us to kind of actually train with each other and not necessarily have a game after a game after a game.

What are some of your personal goals?

I think just getting out there, playing games and feeling like myself. I had an injury streak for a little bit, and last year I was coming back from an injury. So this year I feel like I’m actually healthy and using these games to kind of just get back into form and really just focusing on that is what I’m looking forward to.

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

Watch: Iowa star Kate Martin’s draft moment goes viral

Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert after being drafted by the Las Vegas Aces during the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York
2nd-round pick Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert Commissioner of the WNBA at the 2024 draft. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa captain Kate Martin was in the audience during Monday night’s draft when she was selected 18th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. 

The moment quickly went viral, as Martin was in the crowd to support superstar teammate Caitlin Clark going No. 1 overall, and was not one of the 14 players invited to the draft.

"To be honest, I don't think I'd have the type of career if I don't have a teammate like Kate," Clark said about Martin leading up to the 2024 national championship game. "She's been one that has had my back. She holds me accountable. I hold her accountable. But I think at the same time, me and Kate are wired so similarly that we get each other on a different level."

Martin being drafted marks the first time that Iowa has had two players selected in the same WNBA draft since 1998.

“She's one of the best leaders I've been around," Clark said. "She wants the best for her teammates. She's one of the most selfless people."

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Monday that she is “so proud” of her player, “because her dreams came true.”

"She has been such a big part of our program over the last six years,” she said. “Her efforts did not go unnoticed by her peers. I wish Kate all the success with this next step.”

Martin said afterward that she’s “excited for the opportunity” and to showcase her “really good” work ethic. Helping Iowa to back-to-back NCAA title games, Martin finished her college career with 1,299 points, 756 rebounds and 473 assists.

“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Martin said in an interview on ESPN. “I’m really happy to be here. I was here to support Caitlin, but I was hoping to hear my name called. All I wanted was an opportunity and I got it. I’m really excited.”

While Martin was watching from the crowd, her family was watching from back home.

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