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McCutcheon volleyball rides 10-match win streak into top five

McCutcheon (Ind.) celebrates after scoring during a match against Western Boone on Sept. 13 in Lafayette, Ind. (Alex Martin/Journal & Courier via USA TODAY NETWORK)

McCutcheon volleyball made history last year when it won the program’s first state championship. Coming off that monumental achievement with a roster full of returning talent, including the second-ranked recruit in the nation, the Mavericks entered the 2022 season in an unusual position as state title favorites.

The Mavs suffered a temporary setback in the opening month of the season, falling to 2020 state champion Yorktown, but McCutcheon has reeled off 10 consecutive wins since that defeat, including four this past week.

Purdue commit Chloe Chicoine, the aforementioned second-ranked recruit who was recently named JWS Player of the Week, leads the Mavericks with 289 kills (6.1 kills per set) and is second on the team with 148 digs. She classmate and Kansas commit Reagan Burns, the Mavs’ star libero who has 166 digs. Another Purdue commit, junior Allie Shondell, quarterbacks the Mavs’ offense, averaging more than 10 assists per set for a total of 448 this season.

The Mavs can rely on their postseason experience as they look to repeat as state champions, and thanks to that 10-match winning streak, they’ve risen to No. 5 in this week’s Just Women’s Sports volleyball team rankings.

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

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 25-0

The Dons passed another test with flying colors, winning the prestigious Durango Fall Classic tournament this weekend without dropping a set. They have yet to lose a set this season.

2. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 23-0

The Mustangs aren’t quite at Cathedral Catholic’s level, but they have dropped just three sets all season and last lost a match over a year ago.

3. Cornerstone Christian (Texas), 44-2

The Warriors are full of senior talent, with Iowa State commit Nayeli Gonzalez notching a team-high 422 kills, Purdue commit Taylor Anderson compiling 653 assists and Notre Dame commit Alyssa Manitzas leading the team with 329 digs.

4. Dike-New Hartford (Iowa), 23-1

Since an early season loss, the Wolverines have dropped just two sets.

5. McCutcheon (Ind.), 16-1

McCutcheon is 3-0 in conference play as they prepare for another tournament this weekend.

6. Westminster Christian (Fla.), 12-0

The Warriors continue to dominate the opposition, notching a victory Wednesday in straight sets.

7. Prestonwood Christian (Texas), 27-1

Sophomore Macaria Spears leads a trio of attackers with more than 200 kills, with Camille Edwards (463 assists) and Taylor Cook (295 assists) playing providers and Gillian Pitts leading the defense with 387 digs.

8. Fayetteville (Ark.), 20-1

The Bulldogs tested themselves against top-tier competition at the Durango Fall Classic and finished third. Their sole blemish is a loss to reigning California state champion Marymount.

9. Mira Costa (Calif.), 14-2

The Mustangs continue to roll, having dropped just two sets in the last six matches, all wins.

10. Mother McAuley (Ill.), 17-0

The Mighty Macs begin conference play next week, and their remaining schedule includes a rematch with Kentucky powerhouse Assumption.

11. St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.), 16-1

The Saints won the Missouri-Kansas Volleyball Invitational and then followed it up with two wins Tuesday over a pair of Kansas powerhouses, previously unbeaten St. James and reigning Class 6A state champion Blue Valley North.

12. Highland Park (Texas), 29-2

The Scots have opened district play with four consecutive sweeps.

13. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), 23-3

Olivia Babcock, a Pittsburgh commit, led the Trailblazers to fifth place at the Durango Fall Classic, nabbing a spot on the all-tournament team.

14. Tompkins (Texas), 26-3

The Falcons have not lost a set in the month of September.

15. Marymount (Calif.), 18-5

The Sailors appear to be rounding into form. After consecutive losses dropped them to 10-4, Marymount has won eight of its last nine matches. The sole loss was to Cathedral Catholic in the Durango Fall Classic championship, as the Sailors nabbed a second-place finish.

16. Santa Fe (Fla.), 12-1

The Raiders have dropped just three sets all season, two of them in a loss to Cornerstone Christian.

17. Mater Dei (Calif.), 17-4

The Monarchs bounced back from a qualifying loss in the Durango Fall Classic to claim the silver bracket title.

18. St. James Academy (Kan.), 12-1

The Thunder suffered their first defeat of the season, falling to St. Thomas Aquinas.

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

Washburn packed its early-season schedule with tough matchups, beating St. Thomas Aquinas before losing to St. James Academy. The hope is that those regular-season tests will lead to a deep postseason run.

20. Assumption (Ky.), 20-4

The Rockets’ four losses have all come against top-25 teams: Mother McAuley, Mater Dei, Marymount and Sierra Canyon.

21. Cypress Ranch (Texas), 31-2

The Mustangs’ two losses are to Tompkins and Cornerstone Christian.

22. Wayzata (Minn.), 10-1

The Trojans’ 61-match winning streak may have ended earlier this month, but the Trojans’ state championship dreams remain intact.

23. North Allegheny (Pa). 15-1

The Tigers notched three sweeps this past week.

24. Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.), 16-1

Since a season-opening loss to McCutcheon, the Royals are on a 16-match winning streak, dropping just four sets during that run.

25. Byron Nelson (Texas), 28-3

The Bobcats’ 18-match winning streak ended with back-to-back losses.

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.

Alyssa Naeher’s goalkeeper jersey sells out in less than three hours

uwnt goalie alyssa naeher wears jersey on the field with club team chicago red stars
USWNT star keeper Alyssa Naeher's new replica NWSL jersey was an instant success. (Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

For the first time in the NWSL's 12-year history, fans can now buy their own goalkeeper jerseys. And while replica goalkeeper jerseys representing all 14 NWSL teams hit the market on Wednesday, some didn't stick around for long. 

Fans across women's soccer have long vocalized their discontent over the position's lack of availability on social media, often comparing the shortcoming to the widespread availability of men’s goalkeeper jerseys. And as the NWSL has grown, so has demand — and not just from those in the stands. 

"To have goalkeeper kits available for fans in the women’s game as they have been for so long in the men’s game is not only a long-awaited move in the right direction, it’s just good business," said Washington Spirit goalie Aubrey Kingsbury in an team press release. "I can’t wait to see fans representing me, Barnie [Barnhart], and Lyza in the stands at Audi!"

Business does, in fact, appear to be booming. Alyssa Naeher’s Chicago Red Stars kit sold out less than three hours after the league's announcement. Jerseys for other keepers like DiDi Haračić, Abby Smith, Michelle Betos, Katelyn Rowland, and Bella Bixby aren’t currently available via the Official NWSL Shop, though blank goalkeeper jerseys can be customized through some individual team sites. Jerseys start at $110 each.

"This should be the benchmark," said Spirit Chief Operations Officer Theresa McDonnell. "The expectation is that all players’ jerseys are available to fans. Keepers are inspiring leaders and mentors with their own unique fan base who want to represent them... I can’t wait to see them all over the city."

Simone Biles talks Tokyo Olympics fallout in new interview

gymnast simone biles on a balance beam
Biles' candid interview shed light on the gymnast's internal struggle. (Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)

Decorated gymnast Simone Biles took to the popular Call Her Daddy podcast this week to open up about her experience at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, revealing she thought she was going to be "banned from America" for her performance.

After Biles botched her vault routine due to a bout of the "twisties," she withdrew from the team final as well as the all-around final in order to focus on her mental health. She later reentered the competition to win bronze in the individual balance beam final.

In her interview with podcast host Alex Cooper, Biles admitted to feeling like she let the entire country down by failing her vault attempt.

"As soon as I landed I was like 'Oh, America hates me. The world is going to hate me. I can only see what they’re saying on Twitter right now,'" she recalled thinking. "I was like, ‘Holy s---, what are they gonna say about me?'"

"I thought I was going to be banned from America," she continued. "That’s what they tell you: Don’t come back if not gold. Gold or bust. Don’t come back."

Widely regarded as the greatest gymnast of all time, Biles has hinted at a desire to join her third Olympic team in Paris, though her participation won't be confirmed until after the gymnastics trials in late June. She holds over 30 medals from the Olympic Games and World Artistic Gymnastics Championships combined, and if qualified, would be a sure favorite heading into this summer’s games.

Caitlin Clark reportedly nearing $20 million+ Nike deal

Caitlin Clark #22 of the Indiana Fever poses for a portrait at Gainbridge Fieldhouse during her introductory press conference
WNBA-bound Caitlin Clark is said to be closing in on a monumental NIke deal. (Photo by Matt Kryger/NBAE via Getty Images)

Caitlin Clark is reportedly close to cementing a hefty endorsement deal with Nike.

The Athletic was the first to break the news Wednesday evening, commenting that the deal would be worth "eight figures" and include her own signature shoe. On Thursday afternoon, the publication tweeted that the deal would top $20 million, according to lead NBA Insider Shams Charania. Both Under Armour and Adidas are said to have also made sizable offers to the college phenom and expected future WNBA star.

The new agreement comes after Clark's previous Nike partnership ended with the conclusion of the college basketball season. She was one of five NCAA athletes to sign an NIL deal with the brand back in October, 2022. 

Considering Clark's overwhelming popularity and Nike's deep pockets, the signing's purported value doesn't exactly come as a shock. New York Liberty guard Sabrina Ionescu’s deal with the brand is reportedly worth $24 million, while NBA rookie and No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s deal is rumored to weigh in at $100 million. And in 2003, LeBron James famously earned $90 million off his own Nike deal. 

Clark’s star power continues to skyrocket, with the NCAA championship averaging 18.9 million viewers and the 2024 WNBA Draft more than doubling its previous viewership record. Following the draft, Fanatics stated that Clark's Indiana Fever jersey — which sold out within an hour — was the top seller for any draft night pick in the company’s history, with droves of unlucky fans now being forced to wait until August to get their hands on some official No. 22 gear.

In Wednesday's Indiana Fever introductory press conference, the unfailingly cool, calm, and collected Clark said that turning pro hasn’t made a huge impact on how she’s conducting her deals.

"If I’m being completely honest, I feel like it doesn’t change a ton from how I lived my life over the course of the last year," she said. "Sponsorships stay the same. The people around me, agents and whatnot, have been able to help me and guide me through the course of the last year. I don’t know if I would be in this moment if it wasn’t for a lot of them."

Star slugger Jocelyn Alo joins Athletes Unlimited AUX league

softball star jocelyn alo rounds the bases at an oklahoma sooners game
Former Oklahoma star Jocelyn Alo has signed with Athletes Unlimited. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Former Oklahoma slugger Jocelyn Alo has signed on with Athletes Unlimited and will compete in the AU Pro Softball AUX this June.

The NCAA record holder in career home runs (122), total bases (761), and slugging percentage (.987), Alo was originally drafted by the league in 2022 but opted instead to join the newly debuted Women’s Professional Fastpitch

Alo currently plays for independent pro softball team Oklahoma City Spark, with team owner Tina Floyd reportedly on board with her recent AUX signing. AUX games are scheduled for June 10-25, while the Spark's season will kick off June 19th. Alo will play for both. 

Among those joining Alo on the AUX roster are former James Madison ace pitcher Odicci Alexander and former Wichita State standout middle infielder Sydney McKinney.

According to Alo, the decision to play in the Athletes Unlimited league was fueled by her desire to propel women's sports forward as well as provide more exposure to a sport that's given her "so many opportunities."

"Not only to challenge myself more, but just for the growth of the game," Alo said, explaining her reasoning to The Oklahoman. "I genuinely believe that professional softball can be a career for girls."

Joining AUX is also one more step in her plan toward representing Team USA at the 2028 Los Angeles Olympics.

"I’m constantly thinking about how can I do these little things right in these four years to prepare me for the biggest stage of softball," she told The Oklahoman. "I definitely want to play in the Olympics, for sure."

Alo further expressed enthusiasm in the hope that the rise of other women’s sports, like women’s basketball and the NWSL, will push softball’s professional viability even higher.

"We’re seeing the NWSL (National Women’s Soccer League) get their stuff going, I see the WNBA starting to get hot," she continued. "I feel like the softball community is like, 'All right, it’s our turn and it’s our turn to just demand more.'"

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