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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.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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