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Run the tape: Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles has the tools to shine

Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles will miss the NCAA Tournament with a knee injury. (Alonzo Adams/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

The only thing more difficult than listing all the superlatives for Notre Dame’s Olivia Miles might be guarding her. The rising sophomore is coming off of a freshman season in which she led the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2019 and within a minute of the Elite Eight.

Big things are undoubtedly in store for Miles after she finished second in the country in assists per game with 7.4 and recorded a triple-double in her first NCAA Tournament game. She also received votes for the AP’s preseason All-America team. With the 5-foot-10 guard orchestrating the offense, Notre Dame enters the season ranked No. 9 in the AP Poll.

Just Women’s Sports’ Calvin Wetzel sat down with Miles to break down film from 2021-22 and talk about what she learned as she heads into a new season with high expectations.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

CW: Your team runs this play a lot of times late in the clock, where you make this little hand signal. It’s basically a ghost screen pick-and-pop … What can you tell me about this play?

OM: This is one of our late shot-clock plays. It’s a very quick hitter. It’s actually pretty hard to guard when you get two shooters or a dynamic guard and a shooter that come off the brush screen because it just confuses the defense since it’s not exactly a screen. They’re usually wide open or I take it to the basket, so it really depends. It’s just a good quick hitter play. The Warriors run it a lot actually, where they’ll have two guards coming off. It’s just very hard to guard the drive and the three at the same time.

CW: Here, I like this play because you have Maddy [Westbeld] setting the screen and it looks like the opponent is jamming her. The defender can’t stay too far off of Maddy because she’s a shooter, so that lets you get downhill. When you have those shooters setting screens for you, how much does that help you?

OM: It’s so hard to guard when you have so many things to worry about. Having Sonia [Citron], having Dara [Mabrey], having Maddy, and obviously we had Sam [Brunelle] in our offense and those kind of weapons around me — I can see where the defense is rotating, like I did there, and I knew they were gonna come on Maya because she was having a good game I remember. So it’s easy to read when you have so many great shooters around you and they can’t really guard it.

CW: On this one, Miami gets switched and tries to scram switch out of it at the end, but it’s too late. Maddy has a smaller player on her, and it looks like you’re aware of that from the start. You don’t even have the ball yet, but it looks to me like you want to get the ball into Maddy and exploit that mismatch. When you see a switch like that, is that your mindset, where you’re hunting to get the ball into the mismatch, and if it’s not there, to come off some other action to find it open?

OM: We practice mismatches all the time — I feel like that’s one of our points of emphasis that we work on all the time in practice because we have bigger guards like Maddy who do get switched onto guards a lot. It all just stems from the way we screen and the way people have to guard us. Oftentimes people will switch onto Maddy on the pop or on the rolls, so our coach really emphasizes trying to get the ball inside. In that play, they switched a little late so it was kind of easy to see, but also Maddy’s just such a big target that I can see her out of my peripheral vision and whatnot. She’s just always there and in a great position to get the ball.

I feel like those kinds of plays I make up on the fly. I’m not really thinking about it too heavily, but usually I can identify the mismatch right away and we look to hit that and exploit that immediately.

CW: I have a few clips of you attacking hedges. Are you reading something when they hedge on whether to get downhill around it, hit the roller, split it, whatever? Or is it more like, you’ve been playing basketball so long you have that feel where you don’t even really need to think about it?

OM: l think most of what I try to do kind of happens on the fly, but a lot of it comes from watching film and watching the other team and their tendencies around the way they hedge. Usually I know with bigger posts, I can make my way around. What I’ve noticed with the more athletic posts is they like to try and come out a bit too high, so that’s when I like to split. So it’s all personnel, and it’s all knowing who can do what and who’s guarding you in that moment. I would say it’s, like, 70 percent me watching film and then 30 percent me making it up and just taking what the defense gives me in the game.

CW: So, you watch film beforehand and know some of their tendencies so you’re mentally prepared for a lot of that heading into the game?

OM: Yeah. Me and my position coach, we do film sessions just the two of us to break down what I’m gonna get and the areas that I can score in and work on that in practice. We drill out a lot of different personnel and playing to that with our advantages. What big can do what? Who’s good at this and that? So I feel like I’m prepared when it comes to the actual game.

CW: This one in particular I love. So, you have Mabrey cutting. It looks like she sees her defender here not recognizing her. Her defender’s focused on you mostly. And then she cuts and you see that. Obviously you’re a great ball handler and passer — you draw a lot of attention. Do you feel like you and your teammates have that chemistry where, when one of their defenders gets caught ball watching, you can make eye contact or they can make that back cut and know you’ll find them?

OM: Yeah, that play was complete luck. I honestly did not know what I was gonna do with the ball, and then I saw her and I was like, “Thank the lord.” But I feel like a lot of our team, we have such great chemistry with each other. And another point of emphasis for our coach is to just keep moving. Keep moving regardless of how much time is left on the clock. Sonia does a really, really good job of that. Her and I connect on so many backdoors and so many sneak plays like that. And Dara did a good job here.

But I feel like, to answer your question, our team — they’ve kind of gotten used to the way I play and the things that I see, and those cuts in particular are passes that I like to throw a lot, so they’re getting used to cutting like that.

CW: This one is an absolute dime. You hit Maya on the fast break, and I don’t know how that pass gets through. Watching this back, I paused it right here when you first start making the pass, and I’m counting up one, two, three, four, five red jerseys. And then there’s Maya. It doesn’t seem open, but you sneak in the pass an inch above the defender’s fingertips. What gives you the confidence to be able to make a pass like that?

OM: I mean, a lot of times it goes wrong, so I definitely kind of question myself at points. But at the end of the day, I feel like I know … and at this point in the season, I learned who I could trust and count on to catch those passes. And I feel like Maya, I knew her body, I knew her athleticism, I knew her speed, I knew she was gonna be able to rise up and get that one. And she was also looking at me like she wanted it, so I was like, “Why the heck not? Let me just heave it downcourt.”

But I feel like knowing personnel is super important, and if it were a different one of my teammates, I probably wouldn’t have thrown it. But I was like, “You know what, I’m just gonna give it a go. Why not?” It could either be a really, really good layup, or a turnover. It’s high risk, high reward.

CW: People talk about your offense all the time, but I feel like something you don’t get as much credit for is that you have good hands on defense. So on this one, you wait a little bit for the player to turn and then you time it up perfectly so you get your hands in there on the dribble without fouling. Is that another thing where you know their tendencies from film? Or do you work on timing those up and swooping in at the right moment? Or is all of that natural?

OM: Part of it is definitely tendencies — I like learning what other people are gonna do. I don’t study bigs that much; I more so study guard tendencies. But I know that, especially when we’re in zone, a lot of the bigs like to turn their back so it’s easy to get those pluck steals really quick or catch them off guard when they turn around. I feel like I’ve always had good reflexes and good hand speed, and that’s helped me get quite a few steals. I definitely could be a little better — I’m aiming for more steals this year — but I feel like that’s just something that I’ve always had. I know the timing and I’ve been playing basketball long enough to know what people like to do, so it’s easy for me to predict in certain situations where I can get the ball. Just scanning the floor, similarly to offense.

CW: I had one more question for you, unrelated to the clips. Did the extra spring semester you got for COVID-19 eligibility help you prepare for the game at the Division I level?

OM: It definitely helped me prepare more. I obviously didn’t really get that many minutes on the floor like I did this past season, but I feel like just knowing the ins and outs, starting to get that knowledge of the game, knowledge of our playbook, of our teammates a little earlier helped me and my teammates adjust to each other better. That year definitely helped me mature mentally, physically, emotionally in aspects of the game. I came in the first game [last season] more confident than another freshman who might have been a little nervous for their first game. So, while I do still get nervous and I do still get worked up for games, I feel like having that intro with no pressure on me, and just using that as a learning experience, helped me to settle my nerves and be more familiar with our playbook, our coach, and just play the game better, honestly.

CW: Are you able to manage those nerves better now? Have you learned some strategies on that?

OM: Yeah, I mean I’m still working on it, but it’s definitely something that has progressed. I’ve found that when I’m nervous, I’ve just told myself that it’s a good thing because I care and I wanna do well. And I turn those feelings into more of an excited feeling so I can just convince my brain that we’re on the biggest stage, I’m having fun, it’s just a sport. At the end of the day, I’m still the person that I am and still have the people around me that I love, so whatever happens on the court happens on the court. I’ve just been working on my mindset a lot, and I feel like that’s helped me prepare before games. And even more so this year, I hope it helps me play on a higher level than I did last year.

Calvin Wetzel is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering basketball and betting. He also contributes to Her Hoop Stats, CBS SportsLine and FiveThirtyEight. Follow him on Twitter at @cwetzel31.

Liberty, Aces Surge Ahead of WNBA All-Star Weekend

NY Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu dribbles up the Chicago Sky court on Saturday.
NY Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu is scoring a career-high 19.4 points per game on the season. (Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The New York Liberty head into the last week of regular play prior to WNBA All-Star Weekend — and the subsequent Olympic break — firmly ahead of the pack with the WNBA's best regular season record, becoming the first team this season to reach 20 wins on Saturday.

With Breanna Stewart briefly sidelined, Sabrina Ionescu led the Liberty to a two-game sweep of the Chicago Sky, topping the score sheet in both games. Ionescu is currently averaging 19.4 points per game, the highest in her career (not including her three-game rookie year).

Las Vegas center A'ja Wilson shoots over Atlanta center Tina Charles on July 12th, 2024.
A'ja Wilson posted her third-straight 25-point, 15-rebound performance last weekend. (Rich von Biberstein/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Aces excel behind WNBA MVP favorite A'ja Wilson

The Aces continued climbing the table behind A'ja Wilson's record-breaking run, finishing the weekend in third with a record of 16-7. On Sunday, Wilson became the first player in WNBA history to register three consecutive 25-point, 15-rebound performances.

With Sunday's 89-77 victory over the Mystics, Las Vegas has won 10 of their last 11 games following the return of starting point guard Chelsea Gray. The third-place Aces are now nipping at the heels of the Liberty and second-place Connecticut Sun (18-5), with the Minnesota Lynx and Seattle Storm tied for fourth at 16-8.

The push for playoff positioning grows fierce

Amidst the looming Olympic break, further down in the WNBA standings, sixth-place Phoenix dropped to 12-12 on a two-game skid, while Indiana won eight of their last 10 games to capture seventh.

Eighth-place Chicago currently holds onto the final playoff spot, with double-double machine Angel Reese boosting the Sky's stats despite back-to-back losses.

Speaking of double-doubles, Reese's record-breaking double-double streak came to an end after Saturday's loss to the Liberty.

A frontrunner for WNBA Rookie of the Year, Reese finished with eight points and 16 rebounds against New York, falling just a couple points short of what would have been her 16th-straight double-double. The LSU grad's record stands as the longest double-double streak in WNBA history, surpassing previous record-holder Candace Parker by three games.

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Next up: WNBA All-Star Weekend

Regular season WNBA play extends through Wednesday, with all eyes turning to the 2024 WNBA All-Star Game this upcoming weekend. The highly anticipated matchup between the US Olympic squad and WNBA All-Stars tips off on Saturday, July 20th in Phoenix.

Barbora Krejcikova, Taylor Townsend Take Home 1st-Ever Wimbledon Titles

Barbora Krejcikova of Czechia celebrates winning the Wimbledon Championship against Jasmine Paolini of Italy
Saturday's Wimbledon win marks Krejcikova's second Grand Slam title. (Julian Finney/Getty Images)

Czech tennis player Barbora Krejcikova defeated Jasmine Paolini in three sets on Saturday to capture her first Wimbledon championship.

Krejcikova outlasted Italy's Jasmine Paolini 6-2, 2-6, 6-4 to take the championship. The 28-year-old previously won the singles title at the 2021 French Open, as well as doubles titles at all four Grand Slams at least once.

Wimbledon finals players break into WTA top 10

After Saturday's results, Krejcikova moved from No. 32 in the WTA rankings to No. 10, returning to the top 10 for the first time in six months. Wimbledon runner-up Paolini jumped from No. 7 to No. 5, a new career-high ranking.

Paolini also made waves by becoming the first woman since Serena Williams to reach both the Wimbledon and French Open finals in the same year. She lost out to 2024 French Open-winner Iga Swiatek at Roland Garros this past June.

Doubles champ Taylor Townsend won her first Wimbledon honors on Saturday alongside partner Kateřina Siniaková. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

Taylor Townsend wins doubles at Wimbledon

Former ITF Junior World Champion Taylor Townsend won her first Grand Slam in doubles at Wimbledon this weekend alongside Czechia's Kateřina Siniaková.

The No. 4 seeds beat No. 2-ranked Gabriela Dabrowski and Erin Routliffe 7-6(5), 7-6(1) in a heated final on Wimbledon's Centre Court. The pair came back from two down in the first set before turning the tables on the 2023 US Open champs to secure the win.

This is the 28-year-old American's first win in three Grand Slam doubles finals, having fallen just short of the title at both the 2022 US Open and 2023 French Open. For Siniaková, however, the victory marks her ninth-career Grand Slam doubles championship and her third time taking the doubles title at Wimbledon.

"This is my first one, my first Grand Slam title — I've been close two other times," Townsend told reporters after the match. "To get over the finish line the way that we did, I think we played so well. We were just locked in, in control. We played our way. It felt good the way we did it."

USWNT Tops Mexico in 1st Olympic Send-Off Game

USWNT striker Sophia Smith celebrates her match-winning goal during the Americans' pre-Olympic friendly against Mexico.
Sophia Smith scored the lone goal against Mexico on Saturday. (Lev Radin/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The USWNT's Olympic send-off series began with a bang this weekend, as the team avenged February's Gold Cup loss to Mexico with Saturday's 1-0 victory in New Jersey.

Sophia Smith registered the contest's lone goal, firing off a strike in the 64th minute that made good on the team's six shots on target.

The 1999 USWNT poses with their World Cup trophy before last weekend's Mexico vs. USWNT friendly.
The match paid tribute to the World Cup champion 1999 USWNT. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

USWNT '99ers take the field before kick-off

While the friendly served a critical purpose in the USWNT's Olympic prep, it also provided the chance to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the 1999 World Cup-winning USWNT. The entire '99ers roster was in attendance, reuniting 25 years after they changed the future of women's soccer with their penalty kick World Cup win against China at the Rose Bowl.

"I have this really cool picture I use with the team, which is the [1999] team on the podium and that ridiculous crowd, unbelievable. Across it I put, 'People don’t remember time, they remember moments,'" USWNT manager Emma Hayes said in response to the commemoration.

USWNT boss Emma Hayes looks on prior to kickoff against Mexico on Saturday
USWNT boss Emma Hayes has her work cut out for her approaching the Olympics. (Brad Smith/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Hayes's Olympic lineup still a work in progress

The match itself was an end-to-end, occasionally sloppy affair, with an eye into Hayes's Olympic roster strategy.

Rose Lavelle started at attacking midfielder alongside defensive midfielder Sam Coffey and connecting midfielder Lindsey Horan. Defenders Tierna Davidson and Naomi Girma continued to develop their established center-back pairing, while Jenna Nighswonger earned the start at left back in just her 10th international appearance.

Headlining the USWNT's new-look offense was Mallory Swanson, Trinity Rodman, and Smith, who are continuing to find their flow as the team moves on from the Alex Morgan era.

"There's no denying when the game opens up, we thrive. My goal is to thrive in all moments. So we still have a lot of learning to do with that as a team, as a collective," Hayes said of the team's attacking opportunities in transition.

"When we attack it can be done really quickly, but it can't be just that. There's going to be moments we can't [play quickly], and we have to be a little more indirect, switch the pitch a little more, and recognize the moments when we get locked into one side."

USWNT forward Sophia Smith celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against Mexico
With Olympic football starting on July 25th, USWNT prep time is at a premium. (Stephen Nadler/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

The Olympic group stage nears for the USWNT

With the Paris-bound USWNT facing their first group stage match against red-hot Barbra Banda's Zambia on July 25th, Hayes has just one more game to work out any offensive kinks.

The US will square off against Costa Rica in their final pre-Olympic friendly on Tuesday in Washington, DC, with live coverage on TNT starting at 7:30 PM ET.

Women’s Sports Win Big at 2024 ESPY Awards

Host Serena Williams speaks on stage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
Tennis icon Serena Williams hosted the 32nd annual ESPY Awards on Thursday night. (Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for W+P)

Thursday's 2024 ESPYs doubled as a celebration of the rising popularity of women's sports, as retired tennis superstar Serena Williams hosted the proceedings with ease.

"Get up, get off the TikTok, work hard, find out how capable you are. Be great. Be so great they don't want to believe in you and then be even greater," she told the next generation at the end of her opening monologue.

South Carolina Gamecocks accept the Best Team Award onstage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
The 2023-24 South Carolina Gamecocks took home the ESPY for Best Team. (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Women's sports take center stage at ESPYs

Athletes in women's sports were big winners throughout last night's ceremony, reflecting a watershed year across the entire sporting landscape.

Indiana Fever rookie Caitlin Clark took home both the Best College Athlete and Best Record Breaking Performance Awards for her historic NCAA career at Iowa.

USC star JuJu Watkins won Best Breakthrough Athlete after an exceptional freshman season with the Trojans.

Gymnast Simone Biles won Best Comeback Athlete, as the two-time Olympian prepares for her third Summer Games later this month.

Las Vegas Aces' all-time leading scorer A'ja Wilson came up big in both the Best Women's Sports Athlete and Best WNBA Player categories.

The undefeated 2023-24 South Carolina Gamecocks won the award for Best Team.

Dawn Staley accepts the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance onstage during the 2024 ESPY Awards
The Jimmy V Award recognizes "a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination." (Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

Dawn Staley honored with individual award

SC coach Staley picked up her own honor, receiving the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance for her continued contributions in the field of cancer research advocacy.

Named after NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvando, the Jimmy V Award recognizes "a deserving member of the sporting world who has overcome great obstacles through perseverance and determination."

"I must confess, I feel a little undeserving of this recognition," Staley said in her acceptance speech. "Past recipients of the Jimmy V Perseverance Award have faced incredible challenges and proven themselves as true warriors. I have merely been a spectator to such immense courage and resilience."

After opening up about her family's personal connection to the cause, Staley spoke about her greater journey as an advocate, both on and off the court.

"I try my best to do things in the right way, knowing that some little girl is out there watching me... maybe, she's one of the 13 pairs of eyes that see every little thing I do everyday and make sure to comment on it, that's my team," she said, motioning to her undefeated Gamecocks squad seated in the audience.

"How do I not fight pay disparity, when I do the same job and get paid less but win more?" she continued. "I can't ask them to stand up for themselves if I'm sitting down. Nor can I ask them to use their voice for change if I'm only willing to whisper."

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