All Scores

Lindsey Horan: USWNT rediscovering ‘joy’ at the World Cup

USWNT captain Lindsey Horan warms up during World Cup training session on July 31. (Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The U.S. women’s national team is finding its joy again at the 2023 World Cup.

While the tournament has seen several top teams exit early – i.e., Brazil and Germany – the USWNT has advanced to the Round of 16, albeit by mere inches. And the team is celebrating its achievement and remaining focused under pressure.

It’s a whole new tournament. And according to Lynn Williams, she and her teammates are “not panicking.”

“I think that we haven’t played our best soccer yet, which is the most exciting part for us,” she said Thursday.

USWNT captain Lindsey Horan agreed,

“We’re gonna move forward, this is a new tournament starting now,” Horan said. “It’s the knockout stages, but it’s just that confidence, that belief in ourself to, one, do what we are most special at — each of us individually, but also as a team. And also just find the joy in it a little bit more.

“We love this game so much. We’re so passionate about this game, we want to win as much as possible and we want to play better. We all know that you guys know that our team knows that we want to play better and to find those little pieces of joy in the game as well. Once we get a little bit more of that joy back and that feeling, things are gonna move a little bit better on the field. We’re gonna have more rhythm, we’re gonna have more confidence and things will come, more and more chances will come.”

While players themselves have voiced concerns about the team’s ability to finish its chances, Williams still believes the team has what it takes.

“I don’t think (that ability) is gone. I think that we had opportunities, we had moments and it’s just capitalizing on them,” Williams said. “That’s the game of soccer. Sometimes it goes away, and sometimes it doesn’t. Of course we want to play better, but at the end of day, we’re still getting results.”

This USWNT team is younger than the last two World Cup teams. Of the 23 players on the roster, 14 are newcomers to the World Cup. Savannah DeMelo only made her first international appearance in July.

But that’s not an excuse – and the players still want to win the World Cup “so badly,” Williams said. So badly that at times, the desire can be detrimental to the team’s mentality. So retaining their joy is paramount to their success.

“Sometimes I think we lose track of why we started to play and why we’re here,” Williams said. “It’s because we love the game. We love absolutely playing and we love these moments on the world stage. That’s why we put our bodies through so much and sacrifice so much. It’s a lot of people’s first tournament, mine included, so you just want to go out there and perform so badly that sometimes you forget about all the joy and the reason why you started.”

Pressure “is a privilege,” according to Horan, and the team is facing a whole lot of it heading into their game against Sweden. After the USWNT’s 3-0 loss to Sweden at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and both teams’ relative group-stage performances, the USWNT could be considered an underdog.

So how can the USWNT players find their joy as they head into the next match?

“First of all, being joyful that we made it to the Round of 16 and not diminishing that accomplishment,” Williams said. “That was the name of the game the whole time, is (to) get out of the group stage. And that’s exactly what we did. Of course, like we said, we want to be playing better, but it doesn’t matter. Tournaments are about results, and we’re getting the results…

“It’s a lot of pressure, it feels like sometimes, but there’s a human side to that as well. And knowing that we can look at each other and say, I got your back. If you mess up, I’ll have your back. If you’re doing something great, I’m gonna cheer for you as if I’m doing something great. And we have come together as a team and have done that after being able to look at the last three games that we’ve just gone through.

“So I think it’s already been found.”

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.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.