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Alex Morgan, Phallon Tullis-Joyce headline JWS’ NWSL Best XI for May

OL Reign goalkeeper Phallon Tullis-Joyce leads the NWSL in shutouts and is second in saves. (Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

The NWSL’s first full month of regular-season play has come to an end, not without a whole host of surprises since the North Carolina Courage were crowned Challenge Cup champions.

Just Women’s Sports puts a bow on the NWSL in May with the first monthly Best XI of the season. The first-place San Diego Wave FC and second-place OL Reign each earned three roster spots, while Angel City FC, tied for second in the standings, has two. Overall, five of the league’s 12 clubs are represented.

Alex Morgan, F, San Diego Wave FC

The Diamond Bar, Calif. native, in her first season with the Wave, has reached a new peak in her career. Leading the league in scoring with six goals, Morgan became the second player in league history to record six goals in the first six matches of the season, joining Christen Press. She’s recorded 15 shots and nine shots on goal — both the third most in the league this season.

Mallory Pugh, F, Chicago Red Stars

Pugh played only two games in May, but in this case, quality trumps quantity. She returned from a concussion on May 22 to tally three goals and an assist in just two games. Her speed and ball movement are the difference-maker in Chicago’s dangerous attack, with Pugh directly affecting nearly half of their nine goals.

Christen Press, F, Angel City FC

The action shot of Press jumping over a frazzled Trinity Rodman while the Washington forward is lying on the ground basically sums up the Angel City striker’s month. The threat she poses to opposing backlines in one-on-three situations with her speed and shot placement consistently leaves defenders wondering what they can possibly to do to stop her.

Taylor Kornieck, M, San Diego Wave FC

Kornieck has been a key playmaker for the breakout Wave, who are second in the NWSL with eight goals so far this season. A standout on headers and long through-balls, the former Pride player is also a box-to-box midfielder who creates chances of her own in front of the net (she’s currently ranked second in the league with 16 shots).

Sam Coffey, M, Portland Thorns FC

In five starts through five games, the rookie has logged an impressive 86.1 percent passing success rate, and her distribution has been key to the Thorns’ strategy to spread the field. Used to more of an attacking role, Coffey has been a quick learner in the six position.

Rose Lavelle, M, OL Reign

Lavelle has successfully carried out her roles in both distribution and in the attacking third, recording two goals and a 93.3 percent success rate in long passes. She leads the league in shots (21) and shots on goal (12). Her dribbles up the middle continue to set the Reign up for dangerous chances in the box.

Sofia Huerta, D, OL Reign

Huerta was one of the most notable chance creators in the NWSL this past month, assisting on header goals by Lavelle and Bethany Balcer. With five chances created on Wednesday against the Kansas City Current, she is now the top creator in the NWSL since 2016, tied with Lynn Williams at 188. And since Sunday, she is just one assist away from tying Jessica McDonald as the league’s all-time assists leader.

Katie Naughton, D, Houston Dash

The Dash have recorded two shutouts and only three goals against on their current four-game unbeaten streak, and Naughton is a big reason why. A highly underrated defender, the 28-year-old has put up unbelievable numbers since the season started, including a 100-percent tackle success rate, an 88.9 aerial duels winning percentage, an 82.2 percent success rate in passes and a 73.7 success rate in duels.

Naomi Girma, D, San Diego Wave FC

It’s easy to forget that Girma is only a rookie since she has transitioned so seamlessly into San Diego’s starting lineup. The 2022 No. 1 draft pick has played every minute of the Wave’s six matches and recorded an exceptional 85 percent passing success rate. Her calmness and composure are paramount to a backline that has conceded only three goals this season.

Jasmyne Spencer, D, Angel City FC

Having played for five NWSL teams since 2013, Spencer has found consistency with Angel City, starting all five games on a backline that’s allowed just two goals in May. Her hustle stood out in the Challenge Cup and hasn’t slowed down since. The former attacker shuts down the top forwards in the league, while also putting her own attacking skills to use on the flank.

Phallon Tullis-Joyce, GK, OL Reign

With four clean sheets, the Reign’s new starting goalkeeper now leads the NWSL in shutouts. Tullis-Joyce is also second in saves with 24, two behind the Kansas City Current’s Adrianna Franch, helping the Reign move into a tie for second place in the standings with just four goals against.

Jessa Braun is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports covering the NWSL and USWNT. Follow her on Twitter @jessabraun.

Cameron Brink likes Caitlin Clark for 2024 WNBA Rookie of the Year

Cameron Brink poses with Caitlin Clark at 2024 wnba draft in new york
Cameron Brink poses with fellow draftee — and possible WNBA ROY —Caitlin Clark. (Photo by Emily Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images)

Cameron Brink already has her rookie of the year pick for the upcoming WNBA season, and it’s Indiana-bound star Caitlin Clark

In the latest edition of Kelley on the Street, host Kelley O'Hara caught up with Brink in New York hours before the Stanford phenom went No. 2 overall to the Los Angeles Sparks at the 2024 WNBA Draft. When O’Hara asked who would win the WNBA's rookie of the year, she answered without pause.

"Caitlin Clark," she said, while a fan commented that she thought Brink would take home the award. Brink later added that the extra foul granted to WNBA players will be "good for me."

"I hope it’s me," Charisma Osborne, who was later drafted by the Phoenix Mercury, said when asked her ROY prediction. "But, I don’t know — we’ll see."

Watch more of Kelley on the Street:

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

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