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NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament preview: UNC looks to finish perfect season

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The NCAA Women’s Lacrosse Tournament bracket has officially dropped.

The ACC holds four of the top five spots with No. 1 UNC, No. 3 Syracuse, No. 4 Boston College and No. 5 Notre Dame. Meanwhile, the Big Ten has four qualifiers in No. 2 Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, Maryland and Rutgers.

James Madison, the 2018 champions, is set to face off against Johns Hopkins in the first round for a shot to play against No. 1 UNC. The full bracket can be found here

With the first round starting May 14, Just Women’s Sports is here with some of the storylines to watch in this year’s tournament. 

Three teams went unbeaten in the regular season; two of them could face off in the second round

UNC (18-0), Northwestern (13-0) and Stanford (11-0) all remain perfect heading into NCAA tournament play.

Northwestern boasts the nation’s highest scoring offense (20.62 GPG) behind Tewaaraton finalists Izzy Scane and Lauren Gilbert. Scane, who was recently named Big Ten Attacker of the Year and the Big Ten Tournament MVP, has been unreal offensively for the Wildcats, scoring 81 goals in 13 games. Gilbert has held some firepower of her own, scoring 56 goals in as many games. Meanwhile, UNC holds the nation’s highest scoring defense (5.94 GPG) led by senior and Tewaaraton finalist Emma Trenchard. Stanford is also high-powered offensively, ranking fifth in the country with an average of 16.73 goals per game. 

Both UNC and Northwestern received first-round byes and home-field advantage after receiving the No. 1 and No. 2 rankings respectively. Stanford, meanwhile, is set to face off against Denver in the first round of the tournament in the Evanston “pod.” The winner of that matchup will then meet Northwestern in the second round, meaning that if Stanford beats the Pioneers it will be a showdown between two of the three remaining unbeaten teams. The last time Stanford and Northwestern met, during the COVID shortened season in 2020, the Wildcats beat the Cardinal 25-18. 

However, the Cardinals might not get past the Pioneers so easily as Denver enters the tournament having lost only one game this season (early on against Colorado) and are the Big East Tournament Champions. Regardless, the winning team will advance to face Northwestern, who is seeking their eighth national championship and first since 2012.

Maryland enters the NCAA tournament unranked

Defending national champion Maryland is no stranger to the NCAA women’s lacrosse tournament. This year will mark their 31st consecutive appearance, making it the longest streak in the nation. Head coach Cathy Reese has led the Terrapins to five national titles since she took over in 2007 with the last coming in 2019. No matter what, the Terrapins are always in the national title conversation having won 15 titles, the most of any women’s lacrosse program. 

This season has not been an easy one, as they enter the tournament with a 7-5 conference record. But the Terrapins have been showing power in spurts, led by Tewaaraton finalist and Big Ten Defender of the Year Lizzie Colson. Following a loss in their season opener to Johns Hopkins, they went on a five-game win streak that was snuffed by Northwestern. They went 2-2 in their final regular season matches before making it all the way to the Big Ten Championship final, where they were defeated once again by the second-ranked Wildcats. While Maryland enters this year’s NCAA Tournament in unfamiliar territory, they could very well make some noise in the early rounds. 

UNC Lacrosse, not to be outdone by field hockey, is looking for their third title

North Carolina’s women’s teams have been having an unreal year. While UNC Field Hockey was busy taking care of business and winning their third-straight title, their soccer team has a shot at advancing to the College Cup Final. 

Meanwhile, their lacrosse team has been dominant all season while riding a 21-game win streak. The Tar Heels are led by a nation-high four Tewaaraton Award finalists in Katie Hoeg, Taylor Moreno, Emma Trenchard and Jamie Ortega. Ortega has led the Tar Heels’ offense, having scored 73 goals in 17 games, winning her ACC Attacker of the Year, while Hoeg has made an impact with her assists, having 61 in 18 games for the Heels. 

The Tar Heels enter the tournament having won their fifth straight ACC tournament, defeating No. 3 Syracuse 9-4. They’ve dominated all season, outscoring their opponents 290-90, and are now seeking their third national title (and first since 2016). Goalkeeper and ACC Defender of the Year Taylor Moreno has only allowed double-digit goals against twice, versus No. 5 Notre Dame and No. 7 Duke. Having earned a first-round bye, they’ll take on the winner of James Madison vs. Johns Hopkins in the second round in Chapel Hill.

Other teams to watch out for:

  • Boston College (13-3) has been the runner-up in the past three tournaments. They enter this year’s tournament at No. 4, just missing out on the first-round bye. The Eagles are the 7th highest scoring offense in the country led by senior attacker and Tewaaraton finalist Charlotte North. Their three losses have come at the hands of North Carolina in a lopsided 21-9 defeat and twice against Syracuse, most recently in the ACC Semifinal. They’ve also had notable wins against No. 7 Duke and No. 5 Notre Dame. 
  • No. 3 Syracuse (14-3) is led by three Tewaaraton Award finalists in Megan Carney, Sarah Cooper and Meaghan Tyrrell. The Orange earned an at-large bid to the tournament following a loss to UNC in the ACC Championship game. Other notable losses include a regular-season loss to UNC and a close one against No. 4 Boston College. 

Full list of qualifiers:

Automatic Qualifiers (Conference Winners)

  • No. 6 Florida (16-2) – American Athletic Conference
  • No. 8 Stony Brook (14-2) – America East
  • Massachusetts (15-2) – Atlantic 10
  • No. 1 North Carolina (18-0) – ACC
  • Jacksonville (11-1) – ASUN
  • Denver (15-1) – Big East
  • High Point (10-7) – Big South
  • No. 2 Northwestern (13-0) – Big Ten
  • James Madison (11-4) – Colonial
  • Fairfield (13-1) – MAAC
  • Robert Morris* (14-2) – MAC
  • Mount St. Mary’s (14-2) – Northeast
  • Stanford (11-0) – Pac-12
  • Loyola Maryland (11-2) – Patriot
  • Mercer (7-7) – SoCon

Teams Selected At-Large

  • No. 4 Boston College (13-3)
  • Drexel (13-2)*
  • No. 7 Duke (9-7)
  • Hofstra (6-6)
  • Johns Hopkins (8-6)
  • Maryland (9-6)
  • No. 5 Notre Dame (9-6)
  • Rutgers (6-8)
  • No. 3 Syracuse (14-3)
  • Temple (12-5)
  • Towson (9-8)
  • UConn (12-6)
  • Vanderbilt (12-6)
  • Virginia (8-8)

*Marks first tournament appearance

Notable: The NCAA Division II Women’s Lacrosse Tournament has been in the headlines lately as the LeMoyne women, who were ranked in the top three all year, were left out of the tournament. Even worse? The bracket was leaked early.

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

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

Arsenal Women Confirm US Tour, Preseason Friendlies

Arsenal's Lotte Wubben-Moy battles with Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea at the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal faced off, the Gunners took home the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Monday that it will join Chelsea for a series of preseason friendlies in the US in August. 

Arsenal will be based in Washington, DC from August 15th through August 26th. The Gunners are scheduled to play the Washington Spirit on August 18th, followed by a match with fellow WSL team Chelsea on August 25th. It’s the first time that the two London clubs will meet each other on this side of the Atlantic. 

Chelsea had previously announced their game against Gotham FC, confirming reports from ESPN that surfaced last month.

"We always want to create the best conditions for our teams to prepare and perform at their best in pre-season," said Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar in a statement. "This gives our players an opportunity to play and train in a new environment, in front of our supporters around the world."

Both Arsenal and Chelsea tout rosters full of international talent — formidable opponents for two equally stacked NWSL teams gearing up for postseason action. Arsenal is home to accomplished England nationals Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and backheel goal-scorer Alessia Russo alongside Ireland captain Katie McCabe and USWNT defender Emily Fox.

The games are set to be streamed live for free on DAZN.

Arsenal's US tour builds off of a trip to Melbourne, Australia at the tail end of the 2023/24 season, where they beat A-League All Stars women 1-0 in front of 42,120 fans.

US Women Defeat NC Courage to Claim $1 Million TST Prize

TST team US Women celebrate a semifinal win
USWNT legend Heather O’Reilly led the 7-on-7 side to victory at Monday's TST championship. (The Soccer Tournament)

The US Women 7-on-7 team won the first-ever edition of The Soccer Tournament’s women’s bracket, taking home the $1 million prize.

The TST concluded on Monday, with Ali Krieger and Heather O’Reilly leading the US Women past the North Carolina Courage’s 7-on-7 team to a 6-3 victory.

"I mean, at that moment, you're not thinking right? Like, I just saw the ball come to me and i was able to put it in the back of the net," said game-winning goal-scorer Talia DellaPeruta. "And it was just... everything kind of stopped for a second. When it went in, I just could not believe it. Like, that was the winning goal, everything that we had worked for this whole weekend.

"I'm just so grateful that I can contribute in that way and to be surrounded by such legends on the field. I mean, to be able to get us over that line, it's the best feeling I've ever felt. This is the best day ever."

Each team member will take home $40,000, with the winnings split equally amongst the 25-person group. First launched in 2023, TST is now the world’s highest-stakes women’s soccer tournament, offering equal $1 million prizes for both the men’s and women’s champions.

"Every single person, staff, players — we deserve it. One million dollars!" O'Reilly said in a team huddle after the victory.

USA Basketball Reportedly Finalizes 2024 Olympic Roster

Jewell Loyd #4 of the United States and Breanna Stewart #10 of the United States celebrate the teams victory during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Japan V USA basketball final
This will be the first year since 1976 that USA Women's Basketball travels to the Summer Games without a single player under 26 years old. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The women’s basketball roster for the Paris Olympics has reportedly been decided, with star WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark left off the 12-player roster.

Three first-time Olympians are slated to join the team: the Sun's Alyssa Thomas, the Mercury's Kahleah Copper, and the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu. Meanwhile Clark, Brionna Jones, and Aliyah Boston are reportedly on the short-list for an injury replacement should any of the rostered players not make it to Paris, according to The Athletic.

Chelsea Gray and Brittney Griner, who were both named to the team, are currently in the process of returning from injury.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team," Clark told reporters Sunday. "I know it's the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team or me not being on the team. I'm going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.

"Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for — it's a dream... Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

The reported Olympic lineup leans heavily on its veterans, with Diana Taurasi preparing for her sixth Olympic Games — a new all-time international basketball record. In fact, not a single player under the age of 26 was listed, a noteworthy departure from previous years.

In every Olympic roster dating back to 1976, at least two players under the age of 25 made it onto the US women's basketball team. Nancy Lieberman, the youngest player to ever compete for the US Olympic basketball team, was just 18 when she joined the 1976 Summer Games. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, WNBA stars Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson were both rostered at 24 years old.

Clark said USA Basketball officials called to tell her the news before it reached the press, the same approach they used for all other Olympic hopefuls. But according to Fever head coach Christie Sides, what some might see as a snub could also act as the catalyst for improved performance in the future.

"The thing she said was, 'Hey coach, they woke a monster,' which I thought was awesome," Sides said.

Clark also expressed excitement about the potential to get some much-needed rest during the Olympic break.

"Absolutely, it's going to be really nice," Clark said. "I've loved competing every single second. But it's going to be a great month for my body to get rest, get healthy and just get a little time away from basketball and the craziness of everything that's been going on. And just find some peace and quiet for myself.

"But then additionally, it's a great opportunity for us to work and get better. A great opportunity for myself to get in the weight room. To work on the court, at things that I want to get better at that I maybe didn't have time [to] going from college to the pro season."

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