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Ohio State counting on Jacy Sheldon’s return as slide continues

Jacy Sheldon returned from a foot injury on Feb. 5 but then was sidelined again. (Erica Denhoff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

After two months of anticipation, Ohio State announced the return of their star guard on Feb. 5 with a simple tweet: “Jacy Sheldon is available for today’s game at Maryland.”

Sheldon played four games to start the season before being sidelined with a lower leg injury. The details of the injury weren’t made public, but Sheldon was seen wearing a walking boot on the sidelines during several of her team’s games.

Prior to the injury, Sheldon was averaging 16.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. In her last appearance before being sidelined, Sheldon dropped 22 points to lead her team to victory over then-No. 18 Louisville.

Sheldon’s absence raised concerns for the Buckeyes, but against all odds they opened their season at 18-0 and crept up to No. 2 in the AP Poll. Ohio State even managed to maintain its unblemished record when Madison Greene suffered a season-ending ACL injury. But eventually, the injuries and fatigue caught up with the Buckeyes, who dropped three games in a row to Iowa, Indiana and Purdue in the final week of January.

Sheldon’s return seemed to come at the perfect time when the Buckeyes took on No. 8 Maryland on the road on Feb. 5. But the senior clearly wasn’t 100 percent, finishing with just five points in a 90-54 loss that Maryland controlled from start to finish.

Worse than the blowout loss was the fact that Sheldon was sidelined once more. After missing 20 games, she went back to street clothes for the Buckeyes’ next two contests — a win over Minnesota on Feb. 8 and a blowout 83-59 loss to Indiana on Monday.

“Nothing has changed,” coach Kevin McGuff told reporters following the win over Minnesota. “She still feels fine there, but just in terms of just getting her whole body back and going, we’re still sort of in management mode. We did have her practice a little bit. We’re still sort of just picking and choosing, making decisions how much to bring back right now.”

Forward Rebeka Mikulasikova sustained an ankle injury during the Minnesota game and was also absent for Ohio State’s loss to Indiana. It’s likely a high ankle sprain, according to McGuff. The Buckeyes haven’t given a timeline for her return, but high ankle sprains typically take twice as long to heal as low ankle sprains since ligaments are involved.

The Buckeyes have three regular-season games remaining against Penn State, No. 12 Michigan and No. 8 Maryland. Then comes the NCAA Tournament. For Ohio State to make a deep run in March, they will need Sheldon and Mikulasikova on the court. McGuff hasn’t specified a target date for their return, but keeping the two out for regular season games in anticipation of March Madness appears to be a smart move for the depleted squad.

Since they’ve lost five of their last seven games, Ohio State’s projected seeding has changed dramatically (from a potential No. 1 seed to a 4 or 5). More losses could mean an even lower seed. But the trade-off to having a healthy team in March might warrant the current drop.

The Buckeyes won’t get Greene back, but with both Sheldon and Mikulasikova on the court, the team looks dramatically different. On offense, Sheldon runs the point and is able to create off the bounce, which opens up both post players and shooters, like Taylor Mikesell, the team’s top scorer at 17.8 points per game.

At 6-4, Mikulasikova is the team’s only player over 6-foot who plays significant minutes. Without her, the Buckeyes are undersized. Offensively, she can also free up the paint by extending defenses with the ability to shoot 3-pointers, hitting from deep at a 35.2 percent clip.

Between the two, Ohio State is missing 26.6 points per game (32.3 percent of their total scoring).

In their absence, The Buckeyes have seen the development of freshman forward Cotie McMahon, a bright spot in the injury-riddled season. McMahon is averaging 14 points, 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.6 blocks per game. Against Minnesota, she scored 25 points — her second-highest mark this season — and she held her own against Indiana on Monday, with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists.

If Ohio State can get both Sheldon and Mikulasikova back, McMahon’s increased confidence will only help the Buckeyes. That’s the best-case scenario for this team heading into the postseason.

“Every season has inevitable highs and lows,” McGuff said earlier this month after the three-game losing streak. “Some are maybe not as extreme as 19-0 and three losses in a row, but they all have their highs and lows. If we can push ourselves to being the team that got us to 19-0 and then infuse Jacy back at the right time, then hopefully, we can be on an upswing down the stretch and peak heading into March.”

Two-time Ballon d’Or winner Alexia Putellas Re-Signs with Barcelona on Two-Year Deal

Alexia Putellas on the field for barcelona
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years. (Alex Caparros/Getty Images)

Alexia Putellas has re-signed with FC Barcelona on a new two-year deal that will run through 2026. The agreement includes an option for a one-year extension. 

The two-time Ballon d’Or winner has been with Barcelona for 12 years, and her previous contract was set to expire next month. However, she’s spent the better part of the last two seasons battling injuries, starting with an ACL tear that kept her out of the 2022 UEFA European Women's Football Championship and limited her participation in Spain’s FIFA Women's World Cup win last summer. 

Putellas returned in March from her latest injury setback, making 25 appearances across all competitions for Barcelona this season and scoring 10 goals. 

In total, the midfielder has made 400 appearances for Barcelona. Among her 20 major trophies with the club include eight Liga F titles and two UEFA Champions League titles — including helping the team to its first European trophy in 2021. 

She then won the Ballon d’Or in back-to-back seasons in 2021 and 2022. 

Putellas could add a third Champions League trophy next weekend, when Barcelona faces familiar foe Lyon, a team they’ve lost to in two previous Champions League finals. Should they secure the UWCL, they would win the quadruple for the first time, having already won Liga F, the Copa de la Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

WNBA on Pace for Record-Breaking Season

onquel Jones #35 of the New York Liberty rebounds during the game against the Indiana Fever on May 18, 2024 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn
Indiana's game against New York on Saturday was the most-watched WNBA game to ever air on ABC. (Stephen Gosling/NBAE via Getty Images)

The WNBA continues its historic trajectory one week into the season, with attendance and viewership skyrocketing across the board. 

Indiana’s Saturday game against the New York Liberty was the most-watched WNBA game ever on ABC, drawing 1.71 million viewers. The Sparks vs. Aces matchup that followed became the third most-watched WNBA game broadcast on ABC with 1.34 million viewers.

On Monday, the tense finish between Indiana and Connecticut drew 1.56 million viewers to ESPN, the second most-watched WNBA game to ever air on cable.

Outside of the league’s viewership, both in-person attendance and merchandise sales have also been on a meteoric rise. On Saturday, the game between New York and Indiana shattered the single-game ticket revenue record in the WNBA, with the Liberty pulling in $2 million in sales. 

New York and Indiana played their home openers in front of more than 17,000 fans, with attendance up 14% year-over-year, according to the league. Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Aces, the Liberty, the Wings, the Dream, and others have already sold out of their 2024 season ticket allotments.

Since April’s WNBA Draft, revenue from the WNBA’s official online store is up 2,260%, already blowing past total sales for the entire 2023 season.

While the numbers may cool somewhat as teams settle into their seasons, the pop in demand has already overwhelmingly delivered for the WNBA in 2024.

Angel Reese Adds USL Team Owner to Growing Résumé

chicago sky rookie angel reese speaking at an event
Star rookie Angel Reese is all in on the USL Super League. (JC Olivera/Variety via Getty Images)

Chicago Sky rookie Angel Reese continues to add to her résumé, becoming the newest member of the DC Power Football Club’s ownership group

The No. 7 pick in the WNBA draft joins an group that includes the MLS team DC United as well as other DC-area community members and business owners. One of the USL Super League’s inaugural clubs, DC Power FC is set to begin play in August. 

"I want to help grow women's sports and elevate female athletes across the board," Reese, who's from Maryland, said in a statement. "We're taking over, and I'm honored to be able to support Power FC and invest in women's soccer in the DMV (District, Maryland, Virginia) community."

The USL is a sanctioned Division I league, meaning that it is on par with the NWSL and MLS in the United States. The league's eight current clubs are Brooklyn FC, Carolina Ascent FC, Dallas Trinity FC, DC Power FC, Fort Lauderdale United FC, Lexington SC, Spokane Zephyr FC, and Tampa Bay Sun FC.

DC Power FC will also be playing their home games in a familiar location: Matches will be hosted at DC’s Audi Field in partnership with MLS side DC United. Audi Field also home to the NWSL’s Washington Spirit.

"Angel's decision to be a founding investor alongside us in Power FC is groundbreaking," Jason Levien, DC United's CEO and co-chair, said in a statement. "As a Maryland native, Angel is so passionate about being a catalyst for positive change in women's sports in the DMV as well as globally while inspiring the next generation of female athletes. We're looking forward to her partnership in the boardroom as an equity partner."

It's been speculated that the Super League ultimately intends to compete outright with the NWSL. But in its first year, the league will focus on featuring the depth of women's soccer talent in the US.

Former NWSL players like Taylor Aylmer (Spokane), Jordyn Listro (Tampa Bay), Erika Tymrak (Tampa Bay), and Domi Richardson (Tampa Bay) have already announced a return to professional soccer via the USL.

The league is aiming to provide counter-programming to summer women's sports in the States, with a season running from fall to spring like the European calendar.

In a social media post, Reese said that she’s "grateful & blessed" to be part of the new ownership group. It’s the latest move in what has been a whirlwind spring for Reese, which included getting drafted, attending the Met Gala, signing a new partnership with Good American, and debuting with the Chicago Sky, among other achievements.

"Looking forward to creating new opportunities for women in professional soccer," she tweeted. "I’ve always had to desire to invest in a local team as a Maryland native!"

Reese is the latest female athlete to buy into a women’s sports team, joining the likes of Naomi Osaka, who owns a stake in the North Carolina Courage, and Serena Williams, who's part-owner of Angel City FC. 

Other pro athletes involved in women's sports team ownership include Patrick Mahomes, who shares ownership responsibilities of the Kansas City Current with his wife Brittany. Kevin Durant and Eli Manning are part-owners of Gotham FC, while NFL superstar Tom Brady is part-owner of the WNBA’s Las Vegas Aces.

Nelly Korda Continues Unprecedented LPGA Run

LPGA golfer Nelly Korda poses with Mizuho Americas Open trophy
Nelly Korda took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open on Sunday. (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Nelly Korda continued her unprecedented LPGA run on Sunday, winning her sixth tournament in the last seven starts. 

The 25-year-old Florida native took home the title at the Mizuho Americas Open, becoming the first LPGA player to record six wins in a single season since 2013 — and that’s with three majors and a little over half the season left to play.

"Oh, my gosh, six," Korda said after the win. "I can't even really gather myself right now with that, the head-to-head that Hannah and I had pretty much all day. Wasn't my best stuff out there today, but fought really hard on the back nine."

Korda is just the fourth player on tour to win six times before June 1st, joining LPGA Hall of Famers Babe Zaharias (1951), Louise Suggs (1953), and Lorena Ochoa (2008).

Should her victory run continue, Korda could break the current record for single-season wins, currently set at 13 by Mickey Wright in 1963.

Korda ended Sunday's tournament one shot ahead of Hannah Green, finishing the 18th with a par putt to win it all.

"I mean, to lose to Nelly kind of like is — it's sad, but then it's also Nelly Korda," Green said of her second-place finish. "You know, like she's obviously so dominant right now. To feel like second behind her is quite nice. Unfortunately the bogey on the last has a little bit of a sour taste."

Next up is the US Women’s Open, a tournament that Korda has yet to win in her career. 

"Obviously it's on the top of my priority list," she said. "I just know there is never any good when you put more pressure on yourself. Just going to stay in my bubble that week and take it a shot at a time."

Earlier this year, Korda became the fastest player to collect $2 million in prize money over a single season. This latest win earned her an additional $450,000, bringing her season total up to $2,943,708.

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