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Janiah Barker, Montverde win GEICO Nationals for injured Jordana Codio

(Courtesy of SEQL [Sports Equality])

When it was over, when the final buzzer had sounded on the Montverde girls’ basketball team’s GEICO Nationals victory, Janiah Barker wrapped her arms around her best friend. Together, they cried.

“We did this,” Barker said to Jordana Codio, “for you.”

Just over a year ago, the stars from opposite Florida coasts decided to team up for their senior seasons. Barker, a 5-star forward per ESPN, and Codio, a 4-star guard, had long been AAU teammates, and both were in search of a change of scenery — and a national championship.

They landed on Montverde, a boarding school about 25 miles outside Orlando long known as a powerhouse for men’s basketball. Second-year coach Special Jennings was intent on building that same reputation for the girls’ team, and Barker and Codio fit right into her vision.

Seventeen games into the season, everything was going according to plan. The Eagles had won 14 games, and Barker and Codio were the team’s two leading scorers. Then, near the end of the third quarter of Montverde’s game against Cardinal Mooney (Sarasota, Fla.) on Jan. 21, Codio — whose junior season had been cut short by a torn ACL — rose for a layup.

“As I planted to go up, a girl bumped me. She was a little late to help,” Codio said. “My knee buckled on the way up, and I fell down. In that instant, I already knew I had done it again.”

Splayed out on the floor, Codio “made a scene” as her teammates surrounded her. “Oh my god! Oh my god!” she shouted, more from the emotional weight of the moment than physical pain.

An MRI revealed Codio had, in fact, suffered a torn ACL and meniscus in her right knee for the second year in a row. Codio’s dreams of winning GEICO Nationals with her best friend had been dashed, but some words of encouragement from Barker helped brighten her outlook:

“Everything happens for a reason.”

Codio had good reason to believe Barker.

Her junior season at American Heritage (Plantation, Fla.) had been sullied even before the first ACL tear. In response to a racial slur being used in a virtual classroom, Codio and a teammate wore “Black Lives Matter” T-shirts during pregame warm-ups. After American Heritage administration asked the players not to wear the shirts moving forward, citing a violation of uniform policy, Codio and her teammate said they would do so anyway. The following two games were then canceled. The administration said the cancellations were due to COVID-19 concerns, but others took the act as retaliation, and the story gained national attention.

It was a turbulent time, Codio said, but it brought her to a better place. She knew it was time to transfer, and she wondered if Barker might be looking to team up.

The two first met in the ninth grade on a recruiting visit to Florida, and their relationship blossomed when they discovered their on-court chemistry playing for Essence, their AAU team.

“We played really good together,” Codio said. “We were each other’s hype man.”

After three seasons at Tampa Bay Tech, where she developed into the No. 3 player in the class of 2022, Barker was also looking for a new home. She wanted to compete on the national level.

“Before I even got to Montverde, I knew GEICO was the end goal,” Barker said on an episode of WSlAM’s “All Eyes on Us.” Codio, sitting beside Barker, nodded her head silently.

For 17 games, the duo got to share the court, leading Montervde to wins over some of the nation’s best, including a 56-51 victory over Duncanville (Texas) on Nov. 26.

When Codio went down, Barker — and the rest of her Eagles teammates — found a renewed purpose.

“Everyone wanted to win for her, because she’s a fighter,” Jennings said. “We wanted to send her off the right way.”

Codio embraced her role as unofficial team mascot. Held upright by crutches, she cheered her teammates on during practice, and even helped operate the clock. By the start of GEICO Nationals last weekend, Codio had shed her crutches and was ready to watch her team from the bench.

She watched as Montverde, led by Barker’s 13 points and seven rebounds, beat DME 67-54 in the national semifinal, and then New Hope 61-57 in the final. The Eagles overcame a seven-point deficit with five minutes remaining after Jennings posed the team a question during a timeout: “How do you want to be remembered?”

As the rest of the Eagles stormed Jennings, Barker hung back and hugged Codio, who will look to mount another comeback next season as a freshman at Texas. Barker’s future is more uncertain: After Georgia coach Joni Taylor left to take the job at Texas A&M, Barker reopened her commitment.

Wherever she ends up, Barker will no doubt take inspiration from Codio’s journey. She likely won’t be the only one.

“Her story should be heard by other young girls,” Jennings said of Codio. “It takes a strong individual to go through what she’s gone through. I think that should be spoken about and celebrated.”

Josh Needelman is the High School Sports Editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow him on Twitter @JoshNeedelman.

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" by Expert Adjacent

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