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Gabby Williams Discusses Life Under Lockdown in France

UNCASVILLE, CONNECTICUT- August 12: Gabby Williams #15 of the Chicago Sky in action during the Connecticut Sun Vs Chicago Sky, WNBA regular season game at Mohegan Sun Arena on August 12, 2018 in Uncasville, Connecticut. (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

Gabby Williams is an American-French basketball player who plays for both the Chicago Sky of the WNBA and the Basket Lattes Montpellier Agglomération club in France, whose season was recently suspended due to the coronavirus. Williams, who remains in France under a government-mandated lockdown, won two NCAA championships while playing at UConn. She spoke to Just Women’s Sports about life in quarantine, the financial realities of playing overseas, and what makes UConn so damn good. 

What is your situation in France right now? How is it living under quarantine? 

I am living in a town called Palavas-les-Flots, right near the beach. It’s just me and my cat. One of my teammates actually lives in the same neighborhood as me so before the official lockdown, I would run down to her place and throw rocks at the window. They recently closed the beach, which is really tough because that was the only thing keeping me sane. I was going to the beach close to every day to get fresh air and to exercise.

At first the quarantine wasn’t too bad, but everyday it’s getting harder and more strict. We were just doing what the States are doing now, a recommended self-quarantine with restaurants and bars closed. Then, as of March 16th, they mandated a government lockdown where if you leave your house, you’re going to get stopped by the police and they’re going to ask for your ID and you have to have a paper explaining why you’re out. And just today they announced that we can’t go outside for exercise anymore. France’s president announced that this lockdown is going to be for at least 15 days, but I think it’s going to be longer. This is going to get worse before it gets better.

How has the virus impacted your ability to train? 

It sucks. I haven’t touched a basketball in so long, and I’m someone who tries to get up 500 shots a day. But now I can’t even practice. I just love to be in the gym working on my game, so I miss it a lot. And any basketball player will tell you, if you go two weeks without shooting, you’re not going to feel right when you come back.

Before restrictions, I was doing beach workouts and spending some time healing my body. Then the beaches closed, so I was just running. Now we can’t even go outside, so I just do high intensity workouts inside. I’m someone who likes to work out until I feel totally exhausted, and that is just hard to do with limited resources. It’s an adjustment, but ultimately, I know everyone’s going through a tough time and this is beyond just us. Everyone’s making sacrifices.

What went into your decision to play overseas in the first place?

Honestly, it’s the money. I hate to say it, but financially, if I have to choose, it’s a no brainer. I play overseas. I read a recent Breanna Stewart interview where they asked her why she was going to Russia to play, and she said the real question is, “Why would I come back to the WNBA? I get $900,000 from the Russian team I play for.”

Almost every WNBA player has to play in other leagues. We have to or we can’t support ourselves for an entire year.

And what made you choose to play in France specifically? 

I am a French-American dual citizen, so I have some family in Paris, but most of my family is back in the US. I chose to play in Europe because having a European passport makes me more valuable. Each team is allowed two Americans, but with a European passport, a team can have an extra American. I was playing in Italy last year, and it was not a good experience at all. The club I played for there was very unprofessional as far as paying me on time, and the team actually ended up folding in the middle of the season, so I lost a lot of money. France is probably the only country in Europe where we get paid by the government, so our money is guaranteed and protected. That was a huge reason for me to come to France. I didn’t want to go through another situation like in Italy.

How would you describe your WNBA career so far? What has been the biggest challenge? 

I’ve definitely learned a lot, but it is really tough. I was spoiled coming from UConn, where our team had our own plane and everything. You go to the WNBA and you’re right back in economy class, and the competition is at a whole other level. There is a very big learning curve. It’s the pace, the physicality, the intelligence of the players. Everyone is good. Everyone was one of the best college players in the country their year. There’s only 12 teams, so it’s hard to earn a spot and even harder to keep it. I mean, Megan Gustafson was the 2019 AP College Player of the Year, and she got cut from the WNBA before her rookie season. That’s how competitive it is.

What are your thoughts on the WNBA’s recent collective-bargaining agreement? How has it impacted you as a player?

I was actually a part of the process as a rep for my team. Each team had two who attended meetings and discussion with the union. It was crazy to see it all unfold. All of us representatives met to discuss amongst ourselves what things were most important to us. And then we just had to hope that the league was going to meet us at least halfway. Raising the max was the most important part of the entire agreement, because ultimately that will keep a lot of players from going overseas to play. It’s finally comparable to the kind of money that players make overseas.

For me, individually, I am still on a rookie contract for the WNBA, so the CBA doesn’t impact me too much right now, but hopefully it will in the future. It’s ultimately going to make the league more competitive and a lot more interesting. I mean, even what happened with all the trades and free agency — a lot of that was because of the CBA. Teams just have more money now.

What’s the biggest difference between playing for UConn and playing professionally? 

At UConn, I had to buy into a program. And now I’m playing for a different professional team every six months. You have to constantly re-learn how your team plays together. And I hate to say it, but things are also a bit more individually focused in the professional basketball world versus at UConn. At UConn, you breathe, eat and sleep UConn basketball. And now it’s like some of the time I am with Chicago, and at other times I am in another league. The best thing I can do is just make sure that I’m at the top of my game individually and then just try to be the missing piece that each team needs.

What makes UConn so good, and what made you a successful player while you were there?

You just have to buy in. I mean, that’s why UConn has been so good for so long. Our coaches know how to recruit the right kids, and they’re going to test and push each of us. And if you can’t handle it then you leave or you just never get the playing time. But if you buy in, then they’re going to give you the tools for success. Everyone always says, UConn wins because they get the best players. But if there’s 24 All-Americans that come out of high school and three go to UConn, what happens to the other 21? It’s not the players, it’s the coaches and the system. You just have to buy into what they tell you. And it’s not easy. It’s mentally and physically the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. But that’s why they push you to pass your limit and that’s why they get the best out of all these players.

You won two national championships as a Freshman and Sophomore and were part of a historic UConn team in 2016. What was that like?

It’s crazy because it’s something you dream about, especially my sophomore year, when we went undefeated. That felt like something out of a movie. You never think something like that is going to happen to you. And I was also so happy for our seniors that year. It was so cool to witness Brianna Stewart in her prime and be a part of it all. We made history, and that’s always special, especially when you really love the team and the girls you’re with.

What happened during your junior and senior seasons?

We fell short in the semifinals. It was crazy, though, because when we lost a lot of our significant players, the media and fans expected nothing from us. I think they ranked us fifth or something, which is a huge deal for UConn basketball. No one expected us to be good. And then we just kept winning. Even though we didn’t win the title those years, it still felt really special because it was me, Naphessa Collier, Katie Lou Samuelson, and Kia Nurse. We were the core four of the team who all stepped up to prove UConn was still great.

Costa Rica Holds USWNT to 0-0 Draw in Frustrating Olympic Send-Off

USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan dribbles the ball by Costa Rica forward Melissa Herrera and midfielder Gloriana Villalobos
The USWNT had 12 shots on goal on Tuesday despite failing to find the back of the net. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The USWNT didn't quite get the going away party they were hoping for, settling for a 0-0 draw with Costa Rica on Tuesday in their final tune-up match before the 2024 Olympics kick off next week.

The US produced 26 shots — 12 on target — alongside 67 touches in the box, the most in any match where they failed to convert a single goal since at least 2015, per Opta. Yet they also faced a heroic performance from Costa Rica goalkeeper Noelia Bermúdez, who tallied 12 saves on the night.

USWNT starters remained mostly intact

After Saturday's win over Mexico, USWNT manager Emma Hayes opted for a very similar starting XI, only swapping Crystal Dunn in for Jenna Nighswonger due to load management.

Named starter Rose Lavelle was a late scratch from the lineup after team warmups, with US Soccer attributing her last-minute absence to "leg tightness." Lavelle was replaced by midfielder Korbin Albert, giving the US a slightly less aggressive attacking edge throughout the match.

Casey Krueger, Lynn Williams, Jaedyn Shaw, Emily Sonnett, and rookie Croix Bethune all got minutes in the second half, coming off the bench to contend with Washington, DC's brutally hot conditions.

USWNT forward Sophia Smith and Costa Rica midfielder Gloriana Villalobos battle for the ball
Costa Rica managed to fend off the USWNT with a strong defensive low-block. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY)

Costa Rica's low-block spelled trouble

"Listen, if you play a game of percentages or law of averages, we're creating more and more high-quality chances, and we're getting numbers into key areas — we're getting touches in the key areas," Hayes told reporters after the match, calling attention to Costa Rica's strong defensive low-block.

"The last part's the hardest part. And I'm really patient, because I've coached teams that have to break blocks down, and it's the hardest thing to do in coaching," she continued.

Hayes also noted the team's lack of training time under her management: The decorated coach officially joined the US in early June after finishing the WSL season with her previous club, league champs Chelsea FC.

USWNT pose for a picture after their send-off friendly against costa rica at Audi Field
The USWNT's Olympic group stage run kicks off on July 25th. (Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports)

Where to watch the USWNT's Olympic games

Tuesday's draw is just the second time the USWNT has entered a major tournament off a non-win. Back in 2015, the US embarked on their legendary World Cup campaign after a 0-0 send-off draw with South Korea.

The next time the USWNT takes the pitch will be at the Paris Olympics, where they'll play Zambia on Thursday, July 25th at 3 PM ET. The match will be broadcast live on USA, with streaming options available on Peacock.

The Late Sub Podcast: This Is Sophia Smith’s USWNT Attack Now

Sophia Smith dribbles during the USWNT's 1-0 win over Mexico on Saturday.
Sophia Smith scored the lone goal in the USWNT's 1-0 win over Mexico last Saturday. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

This week, JWS podcast host Claire Watkins breaks down the days leading up to the first USWNT Olympic send-off friendly, discussing player performances, things that worked well on the pitch, and what still needs developing as coach Emma Hayes's team moves towards a crucial Olympic competition set to will dictate the future of the team.

She then sets her sights on the WNBA, previewing WNBA All-Star Weekend and chatting with Gatorade Women’s Basketball Player of the Year Joyce Edwards alongside Dallas Wings forward Satou Sabally.

Subscribe to The Late Sub to never miss an episode.

USWNT Looks to Extend Winning Streak in Final Olympic Send-Off

USWNT striker Sophia Smith dribbles through Costa Rican defenders during a 2022 Concacaf W Championship game.
The USWNT last took on Costa Rica at the 2022 Concacaf Championship semifinal. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The USWNT’s last tune-up match before the Olympics has arrived, with the FIFA world No. 5 US looking for an 18th-straight all-time win over No. 44 Costa Rica tonight at Washington, DC's Audi Field.

Just three days after a redemptive 1-0 victory over No. 29 Mexico, head coach Emma Hayes’s Paris-bound roster appears to be finding its stride. Calling Saturday’s win "a step in the right direction," Hayes went on to say, "I think we’re only scratching the surface. I think there’s a lot of layers to go from everyone."

HARRISON, NJ - JULY 13: USWNT coach Emma Hayes stands on the field before a game between Mexico and USWNT
The new-look USWNT is looking to hit its stride after several matches under Hayes. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Hayes's USWNT is still finding its footing

With their first Olympic group stage game against No. 64 Zambia slated for July 25th, the new-look USWNT — which features the youngest roster in 16 years — is working to define its style of play.

While the USWNT’s signature ability to score in transition remains a strong point, the team also acknowledged their shaky first half on Saturday, with midfielder Rose Lavelle commenting that they're "working on being a little more tactically flexible... We’re trying to, as a group, learn how to adjust on the fly and be a little smarter with our adjustments during the games."

The patience required to choose their moments, along with the team’s ability to read and anticipate each other's movements, is clutch to increasing effectiveness in the areas where the USWNT appeared most disjointed against Mexico.

At stake is an Olympic podium finish, where the US hopes to improve on their bronze medal performance in Tokyo — but the team also aims to make a splash amidst their increasingly sophisticated opponents.

Costa Rica captain Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez chases the ball during a match against Panama in 2020.
Raquel "Rocky" Rodriguez, Costa Rica's captain, is the only NWSL on their Olympic roster. (Omar Vega/Getty Images)

Rodriguez leads a rising Costa Rica team

If improving offensive unity and production is tonight’s goal, Las Ticas could provide the ideal matchup: In their 17 previous meetings, the USWNT has outscored Costa Rica 90-2 overall.

That said, Costa Rica has switched things up since the sides last met in July 2022, with the US defeating the Central American squad 3-0 in the Concacaf Championship semifinal. Las Ticas competed in the 2023 World Cup and reached the Gold Cup quarterfinals earlier this year, where they narrowly fell to No. 8 Canada in extra time.

Costa Rica is captained by 30-year-old Angel City midfielder Rocky Rodriguez, the lone NWSL player on their roster and, in 2015, the first Costa Rica national to ever score in a Women's World Cup.

In addition to maintaining a perfect record against Costa Rica, the USWNT will look to extend their current unbeaten streak to nine, which includes three shutouts in Hayes’s first three matches at the helm.

Lindsay Horan drinks water before the USWNT's match against Ireland in April 2023.
An excessive heat warning is in effect for Washington, DC today. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images)

Where to watch the USWNT vs. Costa Rica friendly

Expect some hydration breaks due to DC's scorching temperatures during tonight’s 7:30 PM ET match, airing live on TNT and streaming on Peacock.

TruTV and Max will simultaneously air the first-ever USWNT altcast, hosted by retired USWNT star Sam Mewis, former USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn, and Men in Blazers founder Roger Bennett.

Sizing Up USWNT’s 2024 Olympic Competition

Germany's Giulia Gwinn steps to the ball while Iceland's Sandra Jessen slides in during Friday's UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match.
Germany lost their Euros qualifier against Iceland 3-0 on Friday, less than two weeks before Olympic football begins. (Hulda Margret/Getty Images)

With Olympic soccer kicking off in just over a week, the USWNT isn't the only national squad prepping for the podium with a series of pre-Paris matchups. Both international friendlies and important qualifiers are on the docket, with several European teams competing for a spot in the UEFA Women's EURO 2025.

Regardless of the stakes, these performances might provide some insight into what the USWNT can expect once the Summer Games begin.

Czechia national soccer team celebrates as Spain women's national soccer team defender Laia Aleixandri leaves the pitch
FIFA World No. 1 Spain fell to Czechia on Friday in a 2025 Euros qualifier. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Pre-Olympic matches expose problems for top teams

Of the 12 Olympic teams, recent outings from FIFA world No. 1 Spain and No. 4 Germany featured the most shocking outcomes.

Despite dominating possession behind an opening goal from 2023 Ballon d’Or winner Aitana Bonmatí, the 2023 World Cup winners fell 2-1 to No. 30 Czechia in Friday's Euros qualifier — their first loss of 2024. They managed to bounce back on Tuesday, however, beating Belgium 2-0 to finish out the league stage on top with 15 points.

Spain heads into the Summer Games aiming to become the first women’s team to win a World Cup and Olympic gold back-to-back, though they’ll need to reclaim their composure to achieve that feat in the face of an Olympic group that includes Japan, Nigeria, and Brazil.

France defender Sakina Karchaoui celebrates her opening goal during Friday's 2-1 win over Sweden.
Defender Sakina Karchaoui scored the opening goal in France's 2-1 win over Sweden on Friday. (ARNAUD FINISTRE/AFP via Getty Images)

No. 2 France took down No. 6 Sweden 2-1 in Friday's Euro qualifier, but flipped the script on Tuesday with a 3-1 loss to last-place No. 25 Republic of Ireland, who notched their first win. However, thanks to England's 0-0 draw with Sweden — also on Tuesday — France still topped their qualifying group with 12 points. Les Bleus will look for more consistent results going into the Olympics, where they're set to face Colombia, New Zealand, and Guinea in the group stage.

But it was Germany who stumbled the hardest, losing out 3-0 to No. 14 Iceland in their own Friday qualifier. After the match, Germany's head coach Horst Hrubesch didn’t mince words.

"We have to assert ourselves from the start in the individual battles. The way we played just wasn’t good," Hrubesch told reporters. "We deserved to lose. We handed them all three goals on a plate."

Tuesday also saw improvement for Germany, as they routed Austria 4-0 to claim first place in the group standings with 15 points.

But the earlier loss was still foreboding for this German squad. The two-time world champions fell to 3-2 to Zambia just weeks before the 2023 World Cup, before failing to advance past the World Cup group stage for the first time in the tournament’s history. Germany also faces some tough Olympic group stage competition, battling Australia and the USWNT before crossing paths with Zambia once again.  

Team Canada celebrate their victory in the 2020 Olympic Gold Medal Match with Sweden
Team Canada has their work cut out for them if they want to repeat their Tokyo gold medal run. (Naomi Baker/Getty Images)

Friendlies rally Olympic teams outside Europe

Defending Olympic champs FIFA World No. 8 Canada defeated No. 12 Australia 2-1 on Saturday, with KC Current forward Nichelle Prince and ex-Gotham striker Evelyne Viens both scoring in the friendly. Canada will play world No. 36 Nigeria in a closed-door friendly on Wednesday before kicking off their Olympic campaign against New Zealand on July 25th. 

For their part, No. 28 New Zealand drew 1-1 in a friendly with No. 64 Zambia on Saturday, while non-Olympic-bound Ecuador handed No. 22 Colombia a 2-1 send-off loss.

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