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Kristie Mewis Is Back: How a Torn ACL Paved the Way for Her USWNT Return


You may hear the name ‘Kristie Mewis’ circulating headlines over the next few days, following the midfielder’s instantaneous impact upon returning to the pitch for the U.S. women’s national team in a friendly against the Netherlands last Friday. 10 minutes after coming off of the bench, Mewis received a pass from teammate Lynn Williams, took a few touches, and buried a shot past Dutch goalkeeper Sari van Veenendaal, sealing a comfortable 2-0 win for the United States.

Mewis made scoring a goal against an international opponent look easy, as if it’s a part of her regular routine. But here’s the catch. Ahead of Friday’s game, Mewis had not made an appearance for her country since 2014.

To start, let’s revisit Mewis’s career. In 2013 and 2014, Mewis received call-ups to the U.S. women’s national team, earning 15 caps for her country before abruptly falling off of the national team radar. In terms of the National Women’s Soccer League, Mewis was traded a total of five times from 2013-2017 (with two of those trades happening only a week apart), bouncing from FC Kansas City to the Boston Breakers, then to the Washington Spirit, then to the Chicago Red Stars, before finally landing on the Houston Dash roster.

Needless to say, it was a tumultuous time for the young player — and just when she had begun to find her footing with the Dash, Mewis tore her ACL in a match against the Washington Spirit in May 2018.

Mewis’s injury was certainly a tough pill to swallow, as she was just beginning to return to the level of play that earned her two national call-ups four and five years prior. Now, she would be restricted to the sidelines for the remainder of the year. As teammate Rachel Daly would put it, “[The loss of Mewis] is obviously so difficult because I think she has been our best player this year.”

And indeed, she had — Mewis started all 11 of her appearances with the Dash that season, recording 919 minutes of playing time and scoring two goals. But unbeknownst to Mewis and her teammates, her injury would quickly prove to be a turning point in her playing career.

Given that an ACL injury takes anywhere from eight to twelve months to recover from, Mewis suddenly found herself coming to grips with the harsh reality that she had been okay with being ‘average’.

As reported by Seth Vertelney in October of this year, Mewis said of her injury: “Me tearing my ACL was kind of a blessing in disguise because I feel like it just woke me up a little bit. It just made me ask myself, ‘Kristie, what are you doing? You need to come back from this. You’re being OK with being 70 or 80 percent,’” she continued, “It was just hard to admit to myself that I wasn’t happy with where I was. But I think I just woke up one day and was like, ‘Let’s do this.’”

It was with that mindset that Mewis would return to the Dash in 2019, even better than before. She appeared in 22 matches for Houston, 20 in which she was a member of the starting line-up, logging 1,818 minutes of playing time, 4 goals, and an assist. But Mewis refused to stop there — she was on the cusp of greatness, which was further affirmed upon the receipt of her third national team call-up in November of 2019.

For Mewis, she could only go up from there—that is, until COVID-19 brought the 2020 NWSL season to a sudden halt. Amidst great uncertainty surrounding how the NWSL (and sports in general) would proceed, the NWSL Challenge Cup was announced. The first-time event would bring eight NWSL teams into a ‘bubble’ in late June, with each team playing a total of four matches in a preliminary round before a subsequent knockout tournament.

The Dash, who finished the 2019 season with a 7-5-12 record and in seventh place in league standings, were given +2,000 odds to win the Cup by the William Hill Sports Book — superior only to Sky Blue FC and the Orlando Pride, who were forced to opt out of the tournament due to a slew of positive COVID-19 tests within their organization.

Despite the unfavorable circumstances, Mewis and her team were determined to prove themselves, cruising through the preliminaries of the tournament and eventually defeating the Utah Royals in penalty kicks to advance past the quarterfinals. Now, the chance to punch their ticket to the Challenge Cup final was well within reach with a win over the Portland Thorns. A late goal by Rachel Daly would send Houston to the final, where they went on to secure a comfortable 2-0 win over the Chicago Red Stars, defying the odds to earn their first hardware in club history.

An integral part of the Challenge Cup victory, Mewis started 7 matches and played 558 minutes, notching a goal and an assist in the process.

In the subsequent NWSL Fall Series, the Dash boasted a 3-1-0 record, finishing the short-lived 2020 season at second place in the table. Likewise dominant were Mewis’ stats through the four matches — she notched two goals and five assists, continuing to reach new heights. The cherry on top? Being called into the USWNT team training camp for the fast-approaching friendly against the Netherlands.

Back in December, Mewis discussed her initial return to the USWNT in an interview with American Soccer Now.

“Putting the U.S. crest on again was pretty cool. I always hoped I would be able to do it again. It was definitely a special moment for me since it has been a really long time,” she said. “I have made huge strides to get back. But I obviously don’t want to just get back to where I was, I want to get back to an even better place. So that’s what I’m striving for. I want to be better than I was before I tore my ACL. I don’t just want to be the same.”

Mewis certainly isn’t the same player she was before her injury — in fact, she is exponentially better — and others are starting to take notice. In only 30 minutes of play during Friday’s friendly, she made a lasting impression on the national team, inscribing her name on the scoresheet with the added bonus of getting to celebrate the achievement alongside her sister, Sam.

Inclusion for the Olympics may still be a long shot, but at just 29 years of age, Mewis still has time to work her way into the national team rotation. Friday’s goal may have been a remarkable milestone in her six-year comeback, but if Mewis has proved anything over the past year and a half, it’s that she’s no longer settling for just being good enough. She wants to be great, and it’s time we take notice.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

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