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Top 5 NCAA transfers: Hailey Van Lith a perfect fit for LSU

(Alika Jenner/Getty Images)

The transfer portal is changing the landscape of college basketball, and not just from a big-picture standpoint. Less than a month after the end of the 2022-23 season, the portal has seen talented players move from one team to another.

Several top players, like Aneesah Morrow, have yet to announce their destinations. But among those who have, here are the top five transfers based on overall talent and fit with their new squads.

1. Hailey Van Lith, G, LSU

The defending champions lost point guard Alexis Morris to the WNBA with the understanding the super senior would be difficult to replace. But Kim Mulkey once again showed her portal prowess by snagging another elite guard, with the commitment of Hailey Van Lith on Thursday. Van Lith and Morris don’t have many similarities in the way they play, but Van Lith excels in the midrange just like Morris did, adding another dimension to the LSU offense. The experienced, competitive guard makes the perfect addition to the Tigers’ roster.

Van Lith leaving Louisville surprised a lot of people, but her decision to play her final season at LSU shouldn’t. In high school, Van Lith narrowed her recruiting decision down to Louisville and Baylor, where Mulkey was the coach at the time. The two clearly have a connection. Plus, Van Lith’s intense competitiveness lends itself well to a program coming off a national championship. The guard wants to win her own title, and LSU is the place to do it.

(John Hefti/USA TODAY Sports)

2. Lauren Betts, C, UCLA

Much of UCLA’s success this past season came from a talented freshman class that included No. 2 recruit Kiki Rice, No. 19 Gabriela Jaquez and No. 22 Londynn Jones. Point guard Charisma Osborne led the team in scoring, and 6-foot-4 forward Emily Bessoir provided height. The one thing the Bruins were missing was a true post, and now they get that at an elite level in Lauren Betts. The No. 1 player in the Class of 2022 played just 9.6 minutes per game as a freshman at Stanford but averaged 5.9 points, 3.9 rebounds and 0.9 blocks per game. Per 40 minutes, those stats look like this: 24.4 points, 14.7 rebounds and 3.7 blocks.

With UCLA’s talented guard core, Betts will have room to operate in the paint and help create lanes and shots for players like Rice and Osborne. The addition of Betts makes the Bruins a title contender as early as next season.

(Chris Pietsch/USA TODAY Sports)

3. Te-Hina Paopao, G, South Carolina

The Gamecocks lost a lot of talent from their 2023 Final Four team, with five players getting drafted into the WNBA earlier this month. Still, the roster that remains is full of talent, including 6-7 center Kamilla Cardoso, forward Ashlyn Watkins and guard Raven Johnson. Dawn Staley was already in good shape with the roster she had, but Te-Hina Paopao fills an important role. Perhaps the lone weakness for South Carolina last season was the team’s lack of 3-point shooting, which contributed to their Final Four loss to Iowa.

Paopao brings long-range shooting and more with her to Columbia. The senior guard shot 42.4 percent from beyond the arc at Oregon last season, averaging 2.3 made 3s per game. She’s also a skilled playmaker who can run an offense. Paopao could be the piece that gets South Carolina back to the national title game.

(Matt Cashore/USA TODAY Sports)

4. Celeste Taylor, G, Ohio State

Celeste Taylor, a defensive-minded guard, and Ohio State, a defensive-minded team, are a match made in heaven. Taylor was a finalist for Defensive Player of the Year last season after averaging 2.2 steals per contest. Between her and Jacy Sheldon, the Buckeyes’ backcourt will feature two of the country’s best on-ball defenders.

Offensively, Ohio State’s attack will revolve around Cotie McMahon, who averaged 15.1 points per game as a freshman while showing off her strength and ability to get to the rim. But Taylor provides another scoring option that will help replace the point production Ohio State lost with the graduation of Taylor Mikesell. In addition to their defensive abilities, Taylor and Sheldon can both score and facilitate, making the Buckeyes’ attack even harder to defend.

(Joseph Cress/USA TODAY Sports)

5. Jakia Brown-Turner, G/F, Maryland

The Terrapins started the offseason by losing their top two scorers, Diamond Miller and Abby Meyers, to the WNBA as first-round draft picks. But it’s not a total rebuild for coach Brenda Frese, especially with the addition of Jakia Brown-Turner. The 6-foot wing is a player Maryland recruited out of high school, so the Terrapins already know she will fit into their system. Plus, the Maryland native gets to return home for her final college season.

Brown-Turner averaged 9.1 points, 3.9 rebounds and 1.8 assists per game last season at NC State, and she will be a viable scoring option for the Terrapins alongside returners Shyanne Sellars, Brinae Alexander, Lavender Briggs and Faith Masonius. Brown-Turner, a four-year starter for the Wolfpack, also brings experience and poise, which should allow her to make a seamless transition to her new team.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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