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Meet the Neushuls: 3 Sisters Going For Gold With USA Waterpolo

MACIEK GUDRYMOWICZ/ISI PHOTOS

Kiley, Jamie and Ryann Neushul are all members of the U.S. Women’s National Water Polo program currently competing for spots on the team’s Olympic roster. All three sisters played for Stanford University, where Kiley and Jamie each won three national championships. Ryann, who won a national championship at Stanford as a freshman, is currently taking the year off from school to train with Team USA. The final Olympic roster is expected to be announced in May. Below, the three sisters discuss what it’s like to all be teammates for the first time, the impact of coronavirus on the upcoming Olympics, and how they balance competing with and supporting one another. 

The Olympics are only a few months away. Where are you all mentally at the moment?

Ryann: I’m just trying to enjoy the ride, be present for it, be committed, work hard. And what happens happens. My main goal coming into this was to be true to who I am as a player and as a person. I want to look back and be proud of the effort I put forth.

Jamie: I’m getting super excited. It was nice to break into 2020 in January, and now each month just feels closer and closer. The process is grueling, but the closer you get, the more motivated you are. It’s definitely stressful, because we have a really good team with a lot of talent and a lot of returners from Rio. It definitely helps to have family on the team. Right now I’m focused on putting in the time and proving my commitment. I’m in it, and I feel like I’m earning respect from the group.

Kiley: Of course there’s pressure just to make the team, but it’s all business, everyday. And it’s going to be all business throughout the Olympics. This is an extremely competitive group, and no matter what combination of players is taken, it’s going to be a very competitive team. Right now, we’re just looking forward to the next couple of months, to just try and make this team, honestly.

The coronavirus has caused major cancellations across sports and beyond. At this moment, the Olympics are still on, but how are you coping with the idea that they might be cancelled? 

Jamie: From what we’ve heard from our coach, and what we’ve heard from the Olympic committee, it sounds like the games are going to go on, so we’re just going business as usual until it’s really, really an issue. Until we’re told that we’re not competing, we’re going to train like we are. It’s not worth spending time thinking about the Olympics not happening unless we’re 100% sure they’re not happening.

Kiley: The thought of them not happening is pretty heartbreaking. I can’t even think about that until someone in a position of power looks me in the eyes and tells me we’re not going.

How did all three of you end up at Stanford? Did you know when you were younger that was where you all wanted to be? 

Kiley: My parents really emphasized academics as well as athletics, and Stanford offered the best combination of both. It was always my dream school. There was some talk of Jamie and Ryann maybe going back east when they started looking at schools, but ultimately I think we each realized that Stanford provided the most reliable path toward a future Olympic career.

Jamie: I wanted to be like Kiley when I was younger. She was always really athletic, and that gave me someone I could look up to and model myself after. But Stanford was honestly its own thing for all three of us. Each of us separately had that goal, and Kiley and I just happened to overlap while we were there. It was special to do that together, but we were also able to forge our own path, as we were in totally different social circles and also did a lot of different things outside of the pool.

Ryann, you’re taking the year off of Stanford. What was that like to step away from school? 

Ryann: Honestly, it’s been an emotional roller-coaster ride. I was added pretty late to this training group, so I didn’t know until later than most that I was taking the year off. Which isn’t a problem, I just wasn’t thinking about it. I was really focused on my college season and getting better and taking care of my classes, and then suddenly I had to make this big decision about my future. You have to make sacrifices to play at this level. For me, that means not having that shared college experience with the grade I came in with. I still have my friends and my teammates at Stanford, and they’re not going away. And I know the decision I made was the right decision, but there’s definitely days when I think, man, I miss my school. I miss my friends. But I know this is making me a better water polo player, a better teammate, and a better sister.

Kiley and Jamie played together at Stanford, but this is the first time all three of you are on the same team. What’s that like? 

Kiley: It’s a little different because on this team there’s first just the pressure of having to make the team, and all three of us basically play the same position. We’re all attackers. There’s not a lot of competition between the three of us, though, because we are very different players, and each e of us brings something different to the table. But there’s still pressure. This is a very competitive squad, and everyday you have to show up.

Jamie: It’s definitely interesting. We technically play the same position, but we all play it in a really different way. At the same time, we view the game similarly, so it can be really fun to make those connections in the water. Kiley and I have been on a lot of teams together, so there’s familiarity there. Ryann has this really strong personality from being the youngest and wanting to carry on that legacy, so it’s fun to see her come in with the confidence she has and bring it into this group that’s super seasoned. She kind of has to scale it back some times and be more of a role player [laughs], but it’s cool to see her learning a ton and to get to make those connections in the water. It feels very natural.

Ryann: When I was growing up I went to every single game of theirs that I could. Kiley first joined the national team when she was 17, and I was 10, so I didn’t quite understand the gravity of what she was doing, but I definitely looked up to her as a kid. I definitely looked up Jamie. So now to get to play with not only my sisters, but players I looked up to, is amazing. It’s also difficult, because these are people you don’t want to let down. As a younger player, you always want to prove to your idols what you can do. You want to measure yourself against the great players in your sports. And that dynamic is just a little more interesting when two of those players are your sisters.

Do you ever take a step back and think about just how crazy it is that all of you played water polo at Stanford and now are all competing for a spot on the US team? 

Ryann: When you’re in it the way we’re in it right now, it doesn’t cross your mind because you’re just so busy getting through the day. But when you take a step back, I think it’s really cool. To all have competed at Stanford is one thing, but to also be a part of the national program together — it’s surreal to be competing at this high of a level with your family.

Kiley: A lot of sisters have gone through the national program, but I don’t think there’s ever been three at one time, which is really cool for us. We get to hang out every day together and train together. We unfortunately don’t all live together, though that’s probably for the best. It lets us have our separate time and hang out with our other teammates.

Do you think it’s changed your relationship out of the pool? 

Kiley: I think we have to hold back parts of our relationship that we never had to before. The grind is real. It’s train, recover, sleep, prepare, which means we don’t get to enjoy the same freedom we had at home. We’re a super active family, and we like doing stuff together on the weekends or in the evenings, and we just can’t do that here. It’s bittersweet, because you know that everyday you’re preparing for something bigger than yourself. But at the same time, it’d be nice to just hang out with my sisters, get a coffee, go for a run, like we used to do in Santa Barbara or at Stanford. But there’s just too many hours of training.

Ryann: The three of us are pretty tight knit, and we’re very comfortable as a family. But it’s hard sometimes because even though on paper we all did the same thing, we each have different experiences. We each have our own process. I don’t have a clear cut answer because I’m still learning how to deal with that. It’s never something I think you just have down. Every day it’s a little different, and it’s both fun and frustrating and everything that you can imagine all in one. As a family, we try to leave it in the pool. If I compete against my sisters and lose that day, no matter how I feel, I leave it in the pool. And then I come home and enjoy my time with my sisters. It’s hard, but you learn how to handle it as you go.

Jamie: It helps that we’re all in very different positions. Kylie’s obviously been around a lot longer than Ryann and I.

Kiley: Yeah, I’m old.

Jamie: So she’s a big leader on this team. And then Ryann and I are just trying to earn our stripe. If anything, we’re just supporting each other through our separate journeys. I feel the competition, and I want to beat my sisters when they’re not on my team in practice or when they’re guarding me, but in terms of the ending, the roster, competing for playing time — I feel like that’s all support. We all just hope the best for each other. We’re building each other up. The process is grueling, and there are definitely times where that’s all you can focus on, but seeing both your sisters on the pool deck definitely makes it worth it.

Ryann: I think we’re all just trying to soak it in, because we know it’s not always going to be like this. It’s become so familiar now, but next year everything will change. I’ll be back at school, and who knows where my sisters will be, or what the future will hold. This is a bond we’re going to have for the rest of our lives, so we just want to enjoy the experience because we know it won’t last.

What’s the biggest misconception people have about you as a family? 

Kiley: It’s a small sport, and when you have three kids on the national team, people obviously know who you are. We’re definitely viewed as a water polo family, and the sport is in some ways a language that we all share. But it’s not how we define ourselves. I think people assume it’s all we do, but all three of us and our parents are interested in so many different things outside the pool. We didn’t chase water polo to the highest level solely to reach the highest level. It was always about being the best people that we can be, being the strongest women that we can be. Our parents did a good job just instilling those values in us, and all of us hope that our legacy in water polo goes well beyond the X’s and O’s. That’s very important to us.

Ryann: We know it’s a great story and that it gives exposure to our sport. We play this sport because we love it, not for the media. But we also want more little girls to come out for water polo, so we’re happy to bring whatever exposure we can. It’s a hard sport. It’s widely respected, even if it’s not as well known, so we’d love for it to become more popular.

Jamie: We’re dedicated to our sport, and we’re locked in for the Olympics, but I think we’re also all excited to see how this experience helps us whenever we leave water polo and do something else. The values our parents instilled in us have helped us be successful in our sport, but they also go way beyond that. Right now, this is just a really special experience for the three of us to go through together. There’s positives and negatives to everything, but we’ll just have to wait to see what we want to carry with us, and we want to leave behind.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

One former player contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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