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Courtney Vandersloot shows off complete game: WNBA Film Room

Courtney Vandersloot has raised her game offensively for the Chicago Sky in the past week. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

As we approach the midway point of the WNBA regular season, the Chicago Sky have risen to the top spot in our power rankings. Sitting one game back of the Las Vegas Aces in the standings, the Sky made up ground last week while the Aces lost two consecutive games for the first time this season, including to Chicago.

Also this week, all eyes were on the Valley as Tina Charles and the Phoenix Mercury mutually agreed to part ways in an unusual midseason contract divorce. The Mercury responded to the adversity of losing a key starter halfway through the season with an 83-72 win over the Dallas Wings the same day and an 83-71 win over the Indiana Fever on Monday night.

While the Washington Mystics remain inconsistent, their 87-86 road victory over the Aces was their best win of the season. At 12-9 and No. 5 in the standings, they’ve positioned themselves to remain in striking distance despite missing their top scorer for eight games so far. When Elena Delle Donne is on the floor, leading their offense at 15.6 points per game, the Mystics have as good a shot of contending for and in the playoffs as any team.

CP3 and the Chicago Sky roll

After a tough loss to the last-place Indiana Fever, the Sky bounced back last week, finding a rhythm and confidence with their production on the floor and setting some new records in the process. Chicago has now won three in a row, most notably a comeback 104-95 win over the top-seeded Aces and a 82-59 win over the Los Angeles Sparks.

In that game in Los Angeles last Thursday, Candace Parker finished with 10 points, 10 assists and 14 rebounds. The two-time WNBA champion became the first player in league history to record three triple-doubles, the first to record multiple triple-doubles in the same season and the second to record a triple-double in just three quarters.

Alongside Parker, Courtney Vandersloot has elevated her play and production in the last three games, averaging 19.3 points compared to just 11.2 points through the first 15 games of the season. Vandersloot continues to be one of the league’s best facilitators, but recently she has become more aggressive with her own shot selection and at hunting opportunities to take two additional shots per game. Her percentages have increased significantly as a result, with the guard shooting an impressive 65.7 percent from the field and 57 percent from 3-point range.

The increased production earned her Eastern Conference Player of the Week on Monday for the seventh time of her career. Take a look at Vandersloot’s numbers from the last three games compared to the first part of the season:

First 15 games vs. last three games

PPG: 11.2 — 19.3
APG: 7 — 5
RPG: 4.2 — 3.6
FG %: 43.3 — 65.7
3-point %: 34.2 — 57.1
Shot attempts: 9.5 — 11.6
3-point attempts: 2.3 — 4.6

On Sunday night, Vandersloot played the hero when she hit a buzzer-beating 3 to lift the Sky over the Minnesota Lynx 88-85. The sideline out-of-bounds play the Sky ran to win the game epitomizes the creativity and confidence Vandersloot is playing with right now.

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In the play outlined above, we see Vandersloot and Emma Meesseman come together to set an elevator screen for Rebekah Gardner to run through (think of it like the two closing doors of an elevator). Allie Quigley inbounds the ball to Gardner, and at the same time, Messeeman screens for Vandersloot, who rolls off the action and quickly gets the ball back.

On the backside of this action, Quigley baits the defense and causes Kayla McBride to hesitate, while Parker sets an effective back screen to open up Quigley, who’s cutting to the corner. While the ball never finds that side of the floor, the backside action is important because it helps occupy the Lynx’s defense. The play did not directly result in the open shot Vandersloot took to win the game, but the complexities of the action combined with the Sky’s constant movement and screening positioning kept the Lynx scrambling and allowed Chicago to create an open look.

Nneka Ogwumike takes over in LA

While the Sparks haven’t exactly overwhelmed anyone with their 7-11 record and 10th place in the standings, Nneka Ogwumike has been a bright spot for a team that still has a lot to figure out.

Ogwumike is putting up some of the best numbers of her career, leading the Sparks in scoring at 18.2 points per game and rebounding at 7.4 per game. Her scoring average is the third-best mark of her 11-year career, and her 57.8 shooting percentage from the field is the second-best.

The Sparks have found ways to get Ogwumike 15-20 touches in the paint per game, and from there, the former MVP has done what she does best — run the floor, take advantage of positioning and get to her sweet spots in the paint to be a highly efficient and productive scorer. In the Sparks’ biggest win of the season over the Seattle Storm last week, Ogwumike also had arguably her best game, finishing with 24 points on 12-for-18 from the floor.

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Aces lose two in a row

A two-game skid shouldn’t set off any alarm bells, especially when the losses come against two other potential contenders. Before last week, the Aces had an 8-1 record at home. Then, they dropped two in a row in Las Vegas — a 104-95 overtime loss to the Sky and a 87-86 loss to the Mystics.

In the Sky game, the Aces rode a 24-4 run to a 62-51 halftime lead, scoring 41 points in the first quarter alone. The Sky clawed back by erasing a 28-point deficit, setting a new record for the largest comeback in league history. The Aces’ shooters turned cold and the team scored just 11 points in the third quarter, while Chicago seized the opportunity to go on an 18-0 run.

The Mystics have been the most potent defensive team in the WNBA this season, allowing a league-low 76 points per game. While Las Vegas has led the league in scoring all season, offensive production was not necessarily the issue in the overtime loss. The Aces struggled to stop Washington’s duo of Delle Donne and Alysha Clark, who combined for 39 points. The Aces have relied on their offense all season, but when they go cold for long stretches, they have to find a way to get consistent defensive stops and tip the scales back in their favor.

Las Vegas got back into the win column with a 79-73 victory over the Sparks on Monday night. While they tapped into their depth with the return of Riquna Williams and more minutes for Iliana Rupert, consistent contributors A’ja Wilson and Kelsey Plum combined for 54 of their points.

They’ll have have an opportunity to prove themselves even further in a tough swing of road games, one against the Storm and a back-to-back series against the Lynx.

Week 8 Power Rankings

  1. Chicago Sky (13-5) +1
  2. Las Vegas Aces (14-4) -1
  3. Connecticut Sun (13-6) —
  4. Seattle Storm (11-7) —
  5. Washington Mystics (12-9) —
  6. New York Liberty (8-10) +3
  7. Atlanta Dream (8-10) -1
  8. Dallas Wings (9-10) —
  9. Los Angeles Sparks (7-11) +1
  10. Minnesota Lynx (5-14) +2
  11. Phoenix Mercury (8-12) -4
  12. Indiana Fever (5-15) -1

Rachel Galligan is a basketball analyst at Just Women’s Sports. A former professional basketball player and collegiate coach, she also contributes to Winsidr. Follow Rachel on Twitter @RachGall.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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