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Interview: Stanford Gk Katie Meyer

AL CHANG/STANFORD ATHLETICS/ISI PHOTOS

In a penalty shootout against North Carolina, Katie Meyer made two critical saves to help Stanford win its third NCAA women’s soccer championship. Her celebration after the final save immediately went viral. Two days earlier, Meyer had sent the internet into a frenzy after trash-talking a UCLA player whose penalty shot she saved in their semifinal match. Just Women’s Sports caught up with Meyer to talk about that play, the national championship, and the politics of sportsmanship.

Can we set the record straight on that semifinal game against UCLA? The talk online was that you cussed at the player. I heard from others that’s not what happened. 

No, that’s not what happened. There wasn’t a lot of context around that moment, which is why I wish it had stayed on the field. But here’s the deal: my defense has been insane all year, which means there have been a lot of questions about what I can actually do as a keeper. And in the seventh minute of the UCLA game, I let in a shot that I think I should have saved. As we’re huddling to regroup, Mia [Fishel, UCLA player] runs by shouting, “We scored because of the keeper. It’s the keeper,” basically telling her team I was the weak link, which, when you’ve just let in a soft goal, isn’t super exciting to hear.

So then right before the half, Mia takes a PK, and I save it. Had any other player taken the PK, I wouldn’t have said anything. But she’d been talking, so I talked back. I asked her, “Is it the keeper? Is it the keeper?” I wish it had stayed on the field, but it didn’t. Mia’s a great player. I’ve known her for a while, and we’re competitive. We get heated in the moment, just like guys do. And we’ll play each other again.

Did you look at any of the things people were saying online afterwards? 

I had to delete Instagram and Twitter from my phone after the game. We were playing for a championship in two days, I didn’t have time to mope around and be like, “Oh no, people on Twitter don’t like me.” When I finally re-downloaded the apps, some of it was definitely hard to read, because I do want to be a role model for little girls. I want to show them that hard work and dedication can empower them to do whatever they put their mind to. So I do actually care about what a mom in Wyoming has to say. To be fair, there were a lot of people who were super positive. There’s a community of women’s soccer fans on Twitter, and they were all supportive. And the reaction after the championship shootout was basically all positivity and excitement, which turned things around.

People were still debating whether your celebration crossed the line during the championship game. There was a lot of talk about how female athletes are expected to act. What are your thoughts? 

It’s almost disappointing that a display like that is considered so extreme. Men in sports celebrate all the time, and I get that guys also get bad reactions from fans and people online. But going forward, I hope that if girls react that way again, which they will, because women are fierce, and everyone likes to play and be competitive — I hope the reaction stays positive. In the end, I’m happy a conversation was started about women being competitive because that’s what we are. We get heated in the moment. You can find that competitiveness anywhere, from lawyers, to moms, to someday, the future female president. People just need to take a step back and ask themselves, why do I think this? Why am I so shocked by a woman showing her passion?

There are girls everywhere who have been forced to say, “Oh, I’m a tomboy.” No, you’re a strong girl. You’re a passionate girl, and that’s totally fine. And you’re going to stay that way, because we need it.

Especially in sports. I mean, if you’re not allowed to get fired up then, I don’t know when you can. 

Exactly. I don’t know what people wanted me to do. A lot of people were saying, act like you’ve been there before. Well, I’m 19, I haven’t. The most competitive soccer game I’d ever played in before that was an international friendly, years ago. And this was for all the marbles.

I also just think there should be more joy in the game. You see all these scorers celebrating their goals, let a goalkeeper celebrate their save. On the practice field every day, we talk to each other, we make jokes, we get competitive, it’s loud. That’s where the fun comes from. And if it makes it more entertaining to watch, great. And if you hate it, turn off the TV. But if there’s a day where I don’t feel that amount of joy after saving a PK in the championship game, I’ll stop playing. I’ll go to law school.

For people who haven’t been in those kinds of moments, can you explain what it’s like? 

That moment meant so much to me because of my journey leading up to it. My reaction came from all the work that went into that championship and all the joy I have for the sport. You’re looking at a girl who was cut from her first club team, who didn’t make the U17s World Cup roster a few years ago, redshirted last year. You have all these ups and downs in your soccer career and then you get the big yes, and you know this is exactly what you are supposed to be doing. There’s no purer joy.

Even though Stanford looked like the better team in regulation, the game still went into PKs, which are always a bit of a toss up. What was your mindset going into that? 

I had the utmost confidence going into that shootout. I told my teammates we we’re going to come out on top. Hit your PK like you know it’s going in, because it is. Claudia Dickey [UNC’s goalkeeper] did phenomenal. But it went our way, and I don’t think it was luck. I think that it was everything that this team put on the line to get to where we were. We knew before the game that the outcome had already been decided. We just had to go out there and do it. And when you have a team that truly believes that, I don’t think you can fail.

For you personally, where does that kind of positive energy come from? 

It comes from my parents, first and foremost. I can still remember my dad taking me to the parking garage in the mall so we could run up the incline with parachutes on. Him and my mom just dumped everything into my sisters and I. So it’s them. It’s my teammates. It’s watching Sophia Smith come back from an injury that, with anyone else, I don’t know if they keep playing or not, but she came back with grace. It’s people like Civana Kuhlmann. She tore her ACL in an exhibition game and didn’t get to play a minute this season, but she stayed one of the most positive people on the team. It’s everyone. When people around you pour that belief into you, you give it back to them. And it comes out in the purest joy, in that childish love for the game that I think is deep inside every soccer player.

Looking back, what stands out about Championship weekend?

It was the best weekend of my life. It was all a whirlwind. It’s been a few weeks and I’m still waking up thinking, did it really happen that way? But that’s how the season ended, and no one can take that from this incredible team and coaching staff, ever. It’s crazy, and it’s rewarding. The fact that I could contribute to us winning the championship — there’s no greater feeling.

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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