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Five historic first-round upsets in the NCAA Women’s Tournament

Belmont defeated Oregon in overtime on Saturday night in the second 12-over-5 upset of the first round. (Donald Page/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

With eight lower seeds prevailing in the first round, the chaotic first two days of the 2022 NCAA Tournament will be etched into the pages of tournament lore.

Most notable in that group are 12 seeds Florida Gulf Coast and Belmont defeating power-five programs Virginia Tech and Oregon. Also over the weekend, No. 11 seeds Princeton and Villanova took down six-seeds Kentucky and BYU, and No. 10 seeds South Dakota and Creighton prevailed over seven-seeds Ole Miss and Colorado.

Everyone loves a good upset — except, of course, if your team is on the losing end. So, let’s revisit five historic first-round upsets from the NCAA Women’s Tournament that are worth remembering.

No. 16 Harvard 71, Stanford 67 (1998)

Before there was UMBC on the men’s side, there was Harvard on the women’s side. Granted, in terms of being a mid-major program, the two aren’t really comparable, but Harvard still has the distinction of being the first 16-seed to top a 1-seed.

This matchup was interesting for a variety of reasons. For starters, seeding aside, there were reasons to view Harvard as the favorite going in. Allison Feaster led the country in scoring that year with 28.5 points per game, and went on to play 10 years in the WNBA. Sure enough, the senior was dominant against the Cardinal, scoring 35 points and grabbing 13 rebounds in the win.

Meanwhile, Stanford was coming off a Final Four appearance the season prior. But the Cardinal team that was awarded a No. 1 seed wasn’t the same team that took the court against Harvard. Vanessa Nygaard and Kristin Folkl both sustained season-ending injuries the week before the tournament opener. Folkl led the team with 18.9 points and 9.2 rebounds per game, while Nygaard contributed 14.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per game. It was the perfect combination for an upset, and Harvard took advantage.

No. 13 Marist 76, No. 4 Georgia 70 (2012)
No. 13 Marist 67, No. 4 Ohio State 63 (2007)

There has yet to be an upset of a 15–seed over a 2-seed or a 14 over a 3 — though No. 14 Jackson State nearly made history in its wire-to-wire loss to No. 3 LSU on Saturday. Marist, though, has the distinction of being atop the list of 13-seed upsets. That’s because there have been seven such upsets, and Marist is the only team to have done it more than once.

In 2007, Julianne Viani scored 24 points on 7-for-11 shooting from the field (including six 3-pointers), and clinched the win by knocking down two free throws with 18.1 seconds left. These days Viani still takes part in basketball upsets, just from the sideline where she serves as a TV analyst.

Then in 2012, Marist did it again, this time over Georgia. The Red Foxes held Jasmin Haskell, Georgia’s leading scorer, to six points and six rebounds en route to the win. The Bulldogs had made it to the Sweet 16 two years in a row prior to the upset.

No. 12 Notre Dame 73, No. 5 Purdue 60 (1996)

A year before appearing in their first Sweet 16, which turned into their first Elite Eight and then Final Four, the Fighting Irish showed the basketball world what was coming in a first-round upset of Purdue.

Notre Dame was five years away from its first title, and Purdue was coming off a Final Four appearance in 1994 and an Elite Eight in 1995. Plus, the Boilermakers took the tournament crown three years later when they defeated Duke 62-45 in the championship game.

With their win over Purdue in 1996, the Fighting Irish advanced past the first round for the first time. Since then, they’ve made it to the second week of the tournament 21 more times.

No. 11 UAB 80, No. 6 Oregon 79, OT (2000)

On Sunday, Oregon fell to No. 12 Belmont in double overtime. Twenty-two years ago, the Ducks were ousted from the first round by No. 11 UAB.

The Blazers were coming off a Conference USA tournament win, earning them the NCAA Tournament bid. UAB went into that conference tournament as an eight-seed, so they’d already compiled multiple upsets before meeting Oregon on the big stage.

Shaquette Rhodes secured the overtime victory for the Blazers by grabbing a rebound and finishing a putback with three seconds left on the clock. Deanna Jackson led UAB with a career-high 32 points in the thrilling victory.

Eden Laase is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. She previously ran her own high school sports website in Michigan after covering college hockey and interning at Sports Illustrated. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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