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Mallory Pugh Has Always Had a Big Picture Mindset

REIMS, FRANCE – JUNE 11: Mallory Pugh of the USA celebrates after scoring her team’s eleventh goal during the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France group F match between USA and Thailand at Stade Auguste Delaune on June 11, 2019 in Reims, France. (Photo by Alex Caparros – FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Mallory Pugh’s rise through the U.S. Soccer ranks was fast and furious. In just 7th grade, she began playing on the U.S. national youth teams, but always for the age-group a level up from hers. In the middle of her senior year of high school, at 17 years old, she was called up to the senior USWNT. By the time she graduated, she had made the Olympic qualifying roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics and was in the starting line-up for the first match of the She Believes Cup that spring.

In Rio that summer she cemented her prodigious role as the “next big thing,” becoming the youngest player to ever score an Olympic goal for the USWNT and earning a starting spot in the quarterfinals versus Sweden (where the U.S.’s run in Rio prematurely ended).

One might expect that someone who had such a meteoric ascent and is still just 22 years old would be challenged to use a wide lens when facing big career decisions or responding to career setbacks, but that’s not the case with Pugh. In a recent conversation with her mentor and teammate, Kelley O’Hara, on the Just Women’s Sports podcast, Pugh proves she is routinely looking at things from the 30,000-foot view.

Immediately after the 2016 Olympics, Pugh had a serious decision to make: go pro or go to college. Attending UCLA had been her plan since she was a young teenager, but she now had very enticing sponsorship and professional opportunities knocking on her door. At just 18 years old, she couldn’t quite picture entering the professional league yet, so she signed with UCLA and became a Bruin. However, after just three months on campus she realized she was in fact ready to pursue soccer full-time and left UCLA to sign with the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

Though it was a personal decision that had been weighing heavily on her, she also recognized the wider significance her choice was going to have on women’s sports overall.

“I’ve always told myself I want to be able to inspire younger generations,” she tells O’Hara, “I do feel like me stepping out and kind of having to be bold and courageous with that, it did maybe send that signal or send that message that females and people in women’s sports… can leave school early and go professional.”

A Nike contract, Gatorade contract, and a couple pro seasons later Pugh was in France with the USWNT on the road to the 2019 World Cup Championship. Unfortunately, it became clear early in the tournament that she was not going to get the level of playing time she had enjoyed in Rio and would be a supporting cast member this go-round. Though it wasn’t as easy as flipping a switch, Pugh was able to adjust her mindset and take advantage of the opportunity to be practicing with and against the best in the world.

“That’s such a cool opportunity to take in and learn from them,” she recalls to O’Hara, “Obviously I wanted to play more, but it wasn’t my time to.”

By keeping the big picture in mind, Pugh was able to rise to the occasion and give her team what they needed.

Even more than just recognizing what the moment meant for her personally, she could see what it meant for the world at large.

“I think the beauty of it all, especially last World Cup, is I got to be a part of a group that I think changed women’s sports,” she explains to O’Hara, “We started a whole other narrative about women’s football around the world.”

Though she was still in diapers when the 1999ers inspired an entire generation, it seems evident Pugh has absorbed that legacy into her bloodstream and has the selfless viewpoint necessary to usher it forward for many years to come.

Listen to Mallory Pugh’s full conversation with Kelley O’Hara on the Just Women’s Sports podcast here.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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