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With special core, Chicago Sky make repeat WNBA title possible

Courtney Vandersloot dished out a game-high 10 assists in Chicago’s win. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

Allie Quigley likes what she sees.

When the Sky guard locks eyes with fellow veterans Courtney Vanderlsoot and Candace Parker, she feels comfortable, confident. Ready for anything.

“When I see them on the court, I have so much trust in them,” she said. “I want to live and die with them.”

Together, the trio have 41 seasons of WNBA experience. They’ve won a championship, and now, with all three hitting free agency in the offseason, they want to win one more.

No WNBA team has won back-to-back titles since the Los Angeles Sparks in 2001 and 2002, and only two franchises have done it period, with the Houston Comets winning the first four WNBA championships from 1997 to 2000.

The repeat is elusive, and on Tuesday, with nine minutes left in regulation of the Sky’s win-or-go-home Game 3 against the New York Liberty, it was in danger of slipping away.

A minute earlier, Chicago held a 10-point advantage over the Liberty. But as Betnijah Laney sank a two-point shot — the latest in a 7-0 Liberty run — the lead was suddenly down to three.

In Barclays for an elimination game, the New York crowd was emboldened.

“I just saw all the towels flying,” Quigley said. “And I’m like, ‘All right, we’ve got to pick it up. We can’t let this crowd get into it.”

For the Sky, that “live or die” mode kicked in.

As for the Liberty, they didn’t score again for over six minutes.

Chicago secured a 90-72 victory, closing the game on a 22-7 run to advance to the semifinals against the winner of the Connecticut Sun-Dallas Wings first-round series and move one step closer to a second-straight championship.

“I think we all just kind of looked at each other and knew that we could do it,” Quigley said. “It’s going to come from all of us. That’s kind of how we’ve had our season this year is everyone stepping up in their moment. And I think that is what happened in the fourth quarter.

When Quigley says “all of us,” she means “all of us.” The Sky couldn’t have had a more balanced effort on Tuesday night.

Quigley and Kahleah Copper finished with 15 points each, Parker and Vandersloot had 14 apiece, and Emma Meesseman and Azurá Stevens each had 12. The Sky also assisted on 27 of their 75 field goals, an increase from their league-leading season average of 24.3 per game.

It was one of the most complete efforts the Sky have had this season. After a disappointing loss in Game 1, Chicago came back and dominated Game 2 in a record-breaking 38-point victory. As they demolished the Liberty, the Sky saw moments of near-perfection. They saw what they’ve been building toward all season, and they made it their mission to execute the same way in Game 3.

“Building on the last game, we saw a flash of a team that we really want to be consistently,” Copper said. “I think with the experience that we have, and what we felt in those moments, that is the team that we want to be, and that is the team that we want to continue to grow.”

The foundation of that team is Vandersloot and Parker, who each finished with double-doubles in the contest.

In addition to her 14 points, Parker grabbed 13 rebounds and dished out eight assists, coming close to the fourth triple-double of her career. Vandersloot had 10 assists to lead the Sky attack, while also grabbing five rebounds to go with her 14 points.

Then, there’s James Wade.

The fourth-year head coach was named WNBA Executive of the Year on Monday, and the proof of his qualification played a key role in knocking out the Liberty.

Beyond retaining Copper, Vandersloot and Quigley in the offseason, Wade made a number of franchise-defining moves. He signed Meesseman, who earned an All-Star bid in her first season with the Sky, helping to replace Stefanie Dolson and Diamond DeShields after they left in free agency.

Meesseman is no stranger to high-pressure situations like the one the Sky found themselves in on Tuesday. In 2019, the Belgian forward helped the Mystics to a championship, averaging 17.8 points off the bench and earning the Finals MVP award.

Wade also signed 32-year-old Rebekah Gardner, who spent a decade playing overseas before making her WNBA debut with the Sky this season. She made her presence Tuesday felt on the defensive end, disrupting Sabrina Ionescu and helping force the Liberty into 16 turnovers.

When you look up and down the Sky roster from starters Parker, Vandersloot, Quigley, Copper and Meesseman to bench players Gardner and Stevens, you see a complete unit that knows how to win.

“They are a great team,” Liberty coach Sandy Brondello said. “The chemistry that they have, they had poise. They just made plays.”

Allie Quigley hit a couple of big 3-pointers down the stretch to help Chicago close out the victory. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Sky’s maturity was obvious in their response to the Liberty run, and during a timeout with 9:34 left, Copper saw the same thing that Quigley did: a team that had it all figured out.

Copper watched as Wade drew up a play and Vandersloot and Parker dissected it, relaying to their teammates exactly how it was going to go down.

“I’m sitting there, and I’m watching this all develop,” Copper said. “And then we go out there and execute. Just to see them really connect, it’s just like, wow.

“That’s the experience, that’s the leadership we need. And it really just carried us down the stretch.”

Now, with one foe down, the Sky are hoping their experience can carry them through the semifinals, and then the Finals, all the way to a feat a WNBA team hasn’t accomplished in 20 years. Another WNBA title.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

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.

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