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Megan Rapinoe’s final bow: JWS Newsletter 9.25.23

Megan Rapinoe strikes a pose during the second half of her retirement match Sunday against South Africa. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Sometimes it feels like the celebration of a career might take just a little bit longer than 90 minutes.

Saying goodbye — Claire Watkins


Megan Rapinoe’s final bow

Megan Rapinoe took her final bow on the international stage on Sunday, playing her last match for the USWNT in a 2-0 win over South Africa.

  • “It has been such an honor to be able to wear this shirt, to play with all these amazing players and to live out my childhood dream,” she said after the game.

End of an era: Rapinoe leaves the U.S. as a two-time World Cup champion and an Olympic gold and bronze medalist.

  • She also led the charge in the USWNT’s fight for equal pay and stood up for a number of social causes throughout her career.

“We have fought so hard off the field to continue to create more space for ourselves to be who we are, but hopefully I’m turning it into more space for you guys to be who you are,” she said on Sunday.

(Candice Ward/Getty Images)


A’ja Wilson leads Vegas to semifinal win

The No. 1 seed Aces are off to a strong start, taking down No. 4 Dallas 97-83 in Game 1 of their WNBA semifinal series on Sunday.

  • Reigning MVP A’ja Wilson scored 34 points to lead all scorers, followed by 25 points by teammate Kelsey Plum.

Controlling the game: “I like offense. I like to get on offense, so the only way I can do that is getting the basketball on defense,” Wilson said after the third quarter.

  • Wilson had four total blocks and outscored the Wings by herself in the third quarter, with 14 of the Aces’ 26 points to extend the lead.

The Wings’ chances hinged on points in the paint, an area the Aces focused on limiting in the second half.

(David Dow/NBAE via Getty Images)


Liberty play ‘worst game of season’ in loss

The WNBA’s other semifinal matchup resulted in an upset, as No. 3 Connecticut took Game 1 off the No. 2 Liberty in New York 78-63.

  • DeWanna Bonner led all scorers in the low-scoring affair with 20 points.

Battling through: Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello called it the “worst game of the season” for her team, which shot just 34% from the field.

  • WNBA MVP candidate Breanna Stewart was 7-for-25 from the field and 0-for-8 from the 3-point line.

The Sun have now guaranteed themselves two semifinal games at home in Games 3 and 4.

  • On the other side, Sun head coach Stephanie White called the performance “probably the most consistent 40 minutes that we’ve played all year.”
  • Next up on Tuesday: CON vs. NYL, 8 pm ET / DAL vs. LVA, 10 pm ET (ESPN)

(Jane Gershovich/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)


Mia Fishel’s long-awaited USWNT debut

The USWNT both closed a chapter and had an exciting debut this weekend.

  • New Chelsea signing Mia Fishel made her first appearance with the senior team, subbing into the 2-0 win in the 65th minute.

Long time coming: Fishel was a standout with Tigres in Liga MX Femenil, but was not called into pre-World Cup camps by then-USWNT coach Vlatko Andonovski.

  • “It was all positive vibes,” Fishel said. “Twila [Kilgore] was amazing. I feel like this new group has new energy after the World Cup and we’re ready to go.”

The 22-year-old forward replaced Alex Morgan against South Africa on Sunday, slotting into a central attacking role.


Europe’s furious Solheim Cup comeback

Team Europe retained their Solheim Cup crown on Sunday, roaring back from a deficit to tie Team USA 14-14 and earn enough points to hold onto their title.

  • The tie was the first in the history of the biennial event, held 18 times.

The event came to an awkward ending after Team Europe reached the 14-point threshold before the final pairing finished, prompting early celebrations.


U.S. Soccer ‘happy’ with USWNT coach search

U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker gave an update on the USWNT’s coaching search this weekend.

  • “I am really happy with where we are with search,” he told select media in Chicago before Megan Rapinoe’s final USWNT match.

They plan to have the new coach in place by the team’s December friendlies.

  • “There was definitely a sense of — this is no disrespect to the history — but the players want, going forward, a coach that can build, develop, and source outstanding relationships,” he said of player feedback.


WNBA players push back on awards voting

The release of the 2023 WNBA All-Defensive Teams selection set off a chain reaction of comments from players and coaches this week.

  • “Yeah they should let players and coaches vote on these awards,” Courtney Williams wrote on social media. “It’s just different having to scout and play against it night in and night out.”

“Stats are how people largely vote on/explain these awards, and that means steals, blocks, and rebounds. Two of those three immediately skew towards bigs,” wrote Mystics coach Eric Thibault.

  • “Voting for this league is a joke,” Natasha Cloud wrote in a now-deleted post.


Debinha joins the Golden Boot race

The Kansas City Current are still in the hunt for a playoff spot, and Debinha is quietly making an NWSL Golden Boot case.

  • The Brazilian midfielder has seven goals on the season, tied with Morgan Weaver and Lynn Williams for third.

When NWSL games resume next week, time will tell if anyone can catch Sophia Smith’s tally of 11 goals.

  • The fewest goals needed to win the Golden Boot in NWSL history is 10, by Ashley Hatch in 2021.


Number of the Day

8 — A’ja Wilson is the eighth player in history to win WNBA Defensive Player of the Year more than once, after earning the honor for the second straight year this week.


Quote of the Day

“That’s why I have such peace about moving on, is I look at players like Soph Smith, Naomi, Trin. The squad is in very, very good hands if those are the ones that are holding it moving forward.”

— Megan Rapinoe on the future of the USWNT

Follow Claire Watkins on Twitter and read more of her work for Just Women’s Sports.