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Marymount volleyball ascends to No. 10 in bounce-back campaign

The Marymount volleyball team poses with the trophy after finishing second at the Dave Mohs Tournament last weekend. (Photo courtesy of Amanda Zamani)

Marymount volleyball’s season has been anything but predictable.

Coming off an undefeated season, the Sailors checked in at No. 2 in the first Just Women’s Sports team rankings of the 2022 season. Then they lost four of their first 14 matches, including their first Mission League defeat in five years.

Suddenly, the Sailors were unranked heading into the prestigious Durango Fall Classic tournament, and that’s when the turnaround began.

Behind the all-tournament play of outside hitters Torrey Stafford and Kate Martin and libero Lexi Trapani, the Sailors finished second — their sole blemish was a loss to top-ranked Cathedral Catholic.

The Sailors nabbed another top-three tournament finish this past weekend at the Tournament of Champions Southwest, losing to No. 3 Cornerstone Christian in the semifinals. Since that 10-4 start, Marymount has won 17 of its last 19 matches, and this Tuesday, it avenged that Mission League defeat to Sierra Canyon with a four-set victory over the Trailblazers.

Marymount has the talent to make a postseason run with Pittsburgh-bound Stafford and Trapani, a Santa Clara commit, but just to get back to this point has been an accomplishment after the Sailors lost five Division I players from last year’s roster.

Thanks to their hot play and strenuous schedule, which includes four wins over ranked opponents, Marymount checks in at No. 10 in the latest JWS rankings, rising three spots.

Check out the complete rankings below, and click here to view last week’s rankings.

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 28-0

The Dons notched a three-set sweep Tuesday and still haven’t dropped a set, with the GEICO Girls Volleyball Invitational looming this weekend.

2. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 28-0

The Mustangs celebrated Senior Night with a three-set sweep Wednesday.

3. Cornerstone Christian (Texas), 53-2

After finishing second at Tournament of Champions Southeast earlier this season, Cornerstone Christian got its TOC title, beating Marymount and Mira Costa en route to the Southwest crown.

4. McCutcheon (Ind.), 26-1

The Mavericks won on back-to-back nights as Chloe Chicoine accumulated 30 combined kills between the two matches.

5. Westminster Christian (Fla.), 14-0

The Warriors have dropped just three sets all season and continued to roll with two more sweeps this past week.

6. Prestonwood Christian (Texas), 30-1

The Lions have more than a week off to prepare for the final month of regular-season play.

7. Mira Costa (Calif.), 25-3

The Mustangs tested themselves against top-tier competition at TOC Southwest, beating some of the top teams from Arizona and Nevada. They defeated Mater Dei in the semifinals and won a set off Cornerstone Christian before falling in the championship.

8. Washburn Rural (Kan.), 20-1

The Junior Blues won the Centennial League Championship this past weekend, with coach Kevin Bordewick picking up his 1,000th win in the process. They followed it up with a win over a solid Olathe Northwest team on Wednesday.

9. Highland Park (Texas), 33-2

Since falling to Prestonwood Christian on Aug. 27, the Scots have not dropped a set.

10. Marymount (Calif.), 27-6

Two-thirds of the Sailors’ losses have come against teams ranked in the top 10.

11. Fayetteville (Ark.), 28-2

The Bulldogs suffered their second defeat of the season this past weekend, falling to Liberty North at the Blue Springs South Invitational, but they finished 4-1 on the day.

12. Tompkins (Texas), 30-2

The Falcons picked up two more district wins, with Cindy Tchouangwa notching 21 kills and Tendai Titley adding 15 in a four-set victory Friday.

13. Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.), 26-1

After their regular-season finale, the Royals will turn their attention to the postseason.

14. St. James Academy (Kan.), 23-1

The Thunder won the Janice Van Gorp Volleyball Classic and then added two more wins Tuesday.

15. Mother McAuley (Ill.), 24-2

The Mighty Macs lost a rematch against Assumption but bounced back to win the prestigious ASICS Challenge tournament for the first time since 2016.

16. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), 26-4

After beating reigning state champion Marymount earlier this season, Sierra Canyon lost the rematch Tuesday.

17. Oconomowoc (Wis.), 32-1

Lilly Wagner racked up 32 assists as the Raccoons cruised to a three-set sweep Tuesday and stretched their winning streak to 26 matches.

18. Cypress Ranch (Texas), 35-2

Bianna Muoneke is one of the nation’s leaders in kills with nearly 600, and the Mustangs haven’t lost since August.

19. Santa Fe (Fla.), 14-1

Following an extended break due to Hurricane Ian, Santa Fe returned to action Tuesday with a victory in straight sets.

20. Assumption (Ky.), 26-6

The Rockets avenged a loss to Mother McAuley but couldn’t keep the momentum going in tournament play, losing twice in the ASICS Challenge.

21. Benet Academy (Ill.), 20-1

The Redwings dropped the first set but bounced back to defeat reigning Nebraska state champion Skutt Catholic in a tight three-set match.

22. ‘Iolani (Hawaii), 19-5

The Raiders end the regular season one win shy of 20, but with victories over California powerhouses Sierra Canyon and Redondo Union.

23. Dike-New Hartford (Iowa), 28-2

Payton Petersen leads the Wolverines with 258 kills and is second with 174 digs, while her twin, Jadyn Petersen, has a team-high 189 digs and ranks second on the team with 175 kills.

24. Mater Dei (Calif.), 24-7

The Monarchs snagged fourth place at the TOC Southwest tournament and now look to finish the regular season on a high note.

25. Liberty North (Mo.), 26-1

The Blue Jays are new entrants into the top 25, with sisters Ashley and Abigail Mullen leading the way. Ashley, a senior, has 762 assists and is averaging nearly 10 per set, and Abigail, a sophomore, has a team-high 294 kills.

Phillip Suitts is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. He has worked at a variety of outlets, including The Palm Beach Post and Southeast Missourian, and done a little bit of everything from reporting to editing to running social media accounts. He was born in Atlanta but currently lives in wintry Philadelphia. Follow Phillip on Twitter @PhillipSuitts.

2023 MVP Breanna Stewart Drops 31 Points in Liberty’s Huge Win Over Fever

breanna stewart and jonquel jones of the new york liberty celebrate win over indiana fever
Stewie and the Liberty dominated the court throughout Thursday's Fever home opener. (Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty dominated Indiana on Thursday night, winning by a whopping 36 points in the Fever's home opener. 

A sold-out crowd of 17,274 was in attendance to watch as star rookie Caitlin Clark finished the 102-66 defeat with nine points, seven rebounds, and six assists. It’s the first time since January 2021 — her freshman season at Iowa — that Clark's been held to single-digit scoring. 

"The physicality is definitely up there... I'm easily pushed off screens," she told reporters after the loss. "The game seems a little fast for me right now. The more I play and the more comfortable I get, it's going to slow down a little bit. It will be easier for me to make reads, see things develop."

The Fever were outscored by a combined margin of 57 points in their first two games — the largest two-game point deficit in WNBA season-opening history, according to @ESPNStatsInfo.

"We've got to get to a level of toughness," Fever coach Christie Sides in her own postgame remarks. "When things are going south on us, we're not stopping the bleeding."

"I have great perspective on everything that happens," Clark added. "It was the same in my college career. There were some moments that were absolutely amazing. And there were some moments I was not happy with how I played and how my team performed. That's just life, that's just basketball."

Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu, who herself experienced a rocky rookie season following a much-hyped college career, offered up some insight on the matter.

"In this league, there are tough defenses all centered around not letting you get the ball, trapping, not letting you score," Ionescu said. "There were many factors that played into what was a tough first season for me in the league, but it helps you be able to figure it out. You have to have those experiences."

But it was reigning league MVP Breanna Stewart that truly stole the show, racking up 31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists, three steals, and two blocks on the night.

"In general, I just wanted to come out more aggressive coming off of last game," Stewart said after putting up the 24th 30-point game in her career.

Stewart she also commended the fans inside Indianapolis's packed Gainbridge Fieldhouse, noting that she hopes that level of support to continue across the WNBA.

"This is how you want every game to be and when it's a sell-out crowd, it gives you a similar playoff atmosphere feel," she said. "People want to be a part of this and the thing now is to continue to sustain it, continue to take the momentum that we have and turn it into something more."

WNBA Commissioner Admits to ‘Faulty’ Charter Rollout

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert at 2024 wnba draft
Cathy Engelbert at the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York. (Cora Veltman/Sportico via Getty Images)

WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert admitted to a "faulty rollout" of the new charter travel initiative on Thursday, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.

Ahead of Tuesday's season opener, it was announced that the only teams flying private this week would be Indiana and Minnesota. The announcement came mere days after the league made a new charter flight program for all WNBA teams public. At the time, they said it would be implemented "as soon as we have the planes."

But as two teams out of 12 chartered to their first games of the season, others like the Atlanta Dream and Chicago Sky were forced to fly commercial.

A town hall meeting between Engelbert and the players was held in response to the confusion. Everything from the league's new media rights deal to private travel was covered in the meeting, with players submitting their questions ahead of time. Sky center Elizabeth Williams told Sun-Times reporter Annie Costabile afterwards that cross-country flights were prioritized.

"Flights that are across the country like [the Lynx] going to Seattle, crossing multiple time zones, or flights that usually require a connection, those were the priorities," Williams said. "That’s why New York didn’t go to DC with a charter, but Minny goes to Seattle."

What’s unclear under that metric is that the Atlanta Dream played the Los Angeles Sparks on Wednesday, which could technically be classified as a cross-country flight. 

On Tuesday, rookie forward Angel Reese shared a photo on her Instagram story lamenting the league's use of commercial flights.

"Just praying that this is one of the last commercial flights the Sky has to fly," Reese posted. The team still has at least three commercial flights awaiting them in the near future.

"Obviously, I think all teams should be able to get chartered," Reese told the Sun-Times. "But I know moving forward... going in the right direction, being able to have some teams [chartering] is cool. Within the next weeks, everybody will be flying charter, which will be really good."

On Thursday, Lindsay Schnell of USAToday Sports confirmed that the league intends to have all teams on charter flights by May 21st.

Brazil Wins Bid for 2027 Women’s World Cup Host

fifa womens world cup trophy on display
The FIFA Women's World Cup trophy on display in Bangkok after Brazil was announced as the 2027 host country. (Thananuwat Srirasant - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Brazil has been named the host for the 2027 Women’s World Cup, with FIFA announced early Friday. 

The decision came after a vote at the 74th FIFA Congress in Bangkok, with Brazil earning 119 votes to the joint European bid’s 78. 

This will be Brazil’s first time hosting the Women’s World Cup, with the country having hosted the men’s World Cup twice before in 1950 and 2014. It will also be the first Women’s World Cup held in South America. The tournament will follow the same 32-team format as the 2023 WWC in Australia and New Zealand.

Brazil winning the bid was not entirely surprising after FIFA issued a report just last week, stating that the Brazilian bid had pulled ahead as host following technical inspection. After evaluation, Brazil was given a score of 4.0 out of 5, compared to the 3.7 awarded to the Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands.

Brazil ranked higher in a number of key areas, including stadiums, accommodations, fan zones, and transport infrastructure. Though considered to be a frontrunner, the US and Mexico withdrew their joint bid prior to the technical inspection period, saying they would instead focus their efforts on 2031.

On Friday, Brazilian Football Confederation (CBF) president Ednaldo Rodrigues called it a "victory." 

"We knew we would be celebrating a victory for South American women's soccer and for women," he told reporters. "You can be sure, with no vanity, we will accomplish the best World Cup for women."

"We are working on a transformation, not only for the country but for the continent," added bid team operational manager Valesca Araujo.

Brazil intends to use 10 of the venues utilized at the 2014 men’s World Cup, including holding the final in Rio de Janeiro on July 25th. The CBF's proposal outlines that the 2027 tournament run from June 24th through the end of July. Last summer’s World Cup began at the end of July and concluded on August 19th.

Another notable element of Brazil's newly unveiled plan to grow of the women’s game is that "all [men’s] clubs wishing to take part in high-level national and continental competitions must now provide a structure for a women’s team." While the definition of "structure" was not specifically identified, the country has set targets with CONMEBOL to help increase the number of women’s club teams in the country.

In last week's inspection findings, FIFA noted that selecting Brazil as the next WWC host could "have a tremendous impact on women's football in the region."

Chelsea Eyes Weekend Finale With WSL Title in Sight

chelsea players celebrate win against tottenham in the wsl
Chelsea beat Tottenham on Wednesday, moving to the top of the table in an effort to win departing coach Emma Hayes some silverware. (John Walton/PA Images via Getty Images)

Chelsea did what they needed to do on Wednesday in order to make Saturday's slate of season-ending WSL fixtures interesting: Beat Tottenham.

The Blues are now number one in the league, with an edge over Manchester City on goal differential thanks to an eight-goal outing against Bristol City last week. 

Yesterday's result tees up a league finale for the books as Chelsea looks to send coach Emma Hayes off with another trophy to add to her cabinet. The Blues will play FA Cup winner Manchester City at Old Trafford on Saturday, while City is away at Aston Villa.

"We will be leaving nothing on the pitch, we will be giving everything and no matter what the result is," Chelsea midfielder Erin Cuthbert said after Wednesday's win. "At least we can look each other in the eye and say we gave everything."

It makes for a thrilling end to Chelsea's Emma Hayes era, as the decorated WSL coach will take over the USWNT in June. And it comes after Hayes all but conceded the title race early this month after Chelsea fell to Liverpool 4-3.

"I think the title is done," Hayes said at the time. "Of course, mathematically, it's not, but I think the title is done. Our job between now and the end of the season is to keep pushing until the end, but I think it will be very difficult.

"We will never give up. But the title is far from us; it's not in our hands. I think City are deserving, their consistency has put them in that position. Of course, we will go to the end, but I don't think the title will be going to us this year."

Be it mind games or Hayes truly thinking her team was that far off, her words lit something in Chelsea. Their following two performances showed the team’s determination to have a shot at some silverware.

As for Saturday's schedule, Hayes believes her team is facing the "tougher of the two games."

"It's a fitting finale for me, being my final game," she told BBC Sport. "As I said to the players if someone gives you a second chance in life, make sure you don't need a third one. We're in the position we want to be in, and we'll give it everything on Saturday no matter what."

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