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Jasmyne Spencer on Playing Inside the NWSL Bubble, OL Reign’s New Look


Jasmyne Spencer is a forward for OL Reign of the NWSL. Spencer previously played for the Orlando Pride, Western New York Flash, and the Washington Spirit as well as in Australia’s W-League and in the Cyprus and Danish professional leagues. Below, she spoke with Just Women’s Sports about her time in the NWSL bubble and how OL Reign is gelling under new coach Farid Benstiti.

How has life in the NWSL bubble been? What has surprised you about the whole bubble experiment? 

The most surprising thing is how smoothly it’s all been running. And I know that has a lot to do with the league and how well Utah has done as a host. But also our staff has been incredible, particularly our Assistant GM. We’ve been calling her our ‘Tournament MVP’ because she is just crushing it — making sure we have all of the resources possible, anything we need to make this our home away from home. I think we were all hesitant about what life in the bubble was going to look like. We’ve been doing this for two months now, because we were in a bubble in Montana and then relocated. But her and our staff have been so good about making it all as smooth as possible.

Has everyone been following the rules? How has it been with the protocols?

Everyone has been good. When the pandemic first broke out, everyone was concerned so we had pretty strict protocols in the state of Washington. By the time we got into this specific bubble, we had already become accustomed to following the protocols back in our home city. I think it gets a little tricky now because we are obviously in a hotel, and there are regular guests coming in and out. So we have to be conscious of limiting our interactions with them — sometimes we have to jump off elevators because we’re not allowed to ride with them. And then the tournament testing protocol is very, very thorough. I think that has helped ease any extra anxiety that players have because we get tested so frequently.

What about leaving the facilities? 

We’re not allowed to leave our hotel. We’re allowed to walk in the general vicinity if we wear a mask and social distance. But beyond that, we’re not allowed to go anywhere. We’re transported to and from the hotel for lunches and training and anything else that would take place outside of the hotel. We have to be driven in our team-issued vans by our admin. It’s pretty strict. But once the games start, we are so tired and focused on taking care of our bodies that honestly there’s no real downtime when you would want to do much more than just recover and get ready for the next game.

The gameplay has been exceptional so far. A lot of people have been surprised to see just how cohesive teams look with so little preparation. What do you think accounts for that?

This league has always been very competitive, so it’s been fun to get back into it. I do think it’s been a crazier version as far as how competitive everyone’s been. It’s a testament to how dedicated and professional everyone has been in being able to stay fit and focused, training most of the time on their own for those past couple of months. It’s a testament to all of the players and the coaches for doing their homework off the field and making the right tactical decisions.

For us, we have a new coach, a lot of new players, and a lot of players returning from injuries last season. We are for sure still working the kinks out, but the beauty of this tournament is that we all get to go to the quarter finals. So we get these four group stage games to work out the kinks and grow into the tournament. It’s pretty cool.

How has it been playing without fans?

It’s been strange, but also women’s soccer is definitely still in the growing phase. I think all of us can remember a time where you were playing in professional or semi pro games with little to no fans in the stands. We for sure miss them and wish they could be here with us. But at the same time, it’s familiar territory. We’re just trying to put on the best show we can and hope that people are tuning in from home.

Well, they definitely are. I think there were almost 600,000 viewers on CBS for the opening matchups. What do you think it means for the future of the league that people are tuning in to watch?

It’s incredible. I think we really took advantage of being one of the first sports back in this country. The sport has been growing on a national level and on the world stage, and a lot of people have become interested in women’s soccer. The tournament is just another step in showcasing our talents to the world. It’s going to be huge for women’s soccer going forward.

You mentioned playing with a new coach this season and new teammates. How has that been so far, and what are your expectations for the rest of the tournament?

It’s been great. Farid [Benstiti] has done a really good job of trying to build a family-oriented environment, especially in this crazy situation that we’ve all been thrust into. With everything going on outside of soccer, we’ve really been able to come together and be a strong united front. And I think it’s going to help us go far in the tournament. We obviously want to win, but this game is crazy and this league is crazy, so we focus on one game at a time. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a stingy defense and that old saying, “Defense wins championships,” is so real. The goals will come. They always come at some point, especially when you need them the most. If we can really just be stingy in our defense and limit the amount of opportunities that other teams can create, then we know that we’ll give ourselves the best chance of winning in the end.

Is there anything else that you’d like to add? 

The only thing I would add is that it’s been really great to be able to use my platform. This moment in time has given us all, but me especially, a greater reach with the Black Lives Matter movement since there are not too many sports being showcased right now. It’s nice to have you guys giving us another opportunity to use our platforms and share really great messages with the world, so thank you.

On that note, why do you think it’s so important for athletes, specifically, to speak up about social justice issues, especially Black Lives Matter?

As athletes, we have the unique opportunity for our voices to be heard more frequently than say someone who isn’t in the limelight. As female professional athletes, we don’t often have as big of a platform as our male counterparts. But right now, we are one of the only sports that people are going to watch, so it’s given us a chance to elevate and use our voices.

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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