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Orlando’s Marisa Viggiano: ‘Just Be Ready For Us.’

Player on the field/ JWS
Player on the field/ JWS

Marisa Viggiano is a midfielder for the Orlando Pride of the NWSL. Ahead of her club’s first match in nearly a year (Saturday, 9/19, against North Carolina), she spoke with JWS about expectations and goals for this NWSL Fall Series.

Can you talk a bit about this long, extended offseason and what it’s been like for you mentally and physically?

I think when we play this week it’ll be almost a year since we’ve stepped on the field, which is kind of crazy to think about. It’s felt like a prolonged offseason with a couple of different preseasons mixed into it. But yeah, mentally, it has definitely been tough because as athletes, we like to perform and be out on the field, in live game settings.

There’s a lot going on in the world right now, so just having my teammates, my family, and friends all there as great support systems through this time has been so amazing. I’m so grateful for all of them and our staff, who have been wonderful throughout this all. I think we’re all just so eager and excited to get back out there this weekend.

As you finish up your third ‘preseason,’ what is the team’s mindset going into this Fall Series? Do you approach this week any differently than, say, in March or in July before the Challenge Cup?

I don’t think so. I think there’s a lot more excitement this time around because it has been so long. But really, we’re just preparing to face the Courage by going over film, positional play, and all of that stuff.  So, it’s typically the same things that we probably would have been doing back in March or before the Challenge Cup, just a bit more eagerness.

Everyone’s really excited to be back and to have the opportunity to play in these four games. Practices have been really good, really competitive, and at a high level. So yeah, we just want to get out there and compete. It’s been a really long time.

There are a lot of players from around the league that have either been loaned to teams in Europe or signed there. How do you think that will affect the Fall Series?

We do have a lot of new faces, especially younger players. For the players who have been here, we’re just trying to bring them in, make them feel comfortable, and just be there as a support system.

It’s obviously going to be different having new faces out there, but we’re not expecting this next game to go perfectly. I think we really just want to focus on progressing throughout these four games, gaining confidence and experience.

As a whole, I don’t think the league will be affected too much. Even last week’s game, between Sky Blue and the Spirit, was still super competitive and went down to stoppage time with that final goal. So I think there will still be high-level soccer within this Fall Series, which is a testament to the league and all of the players involved.

What can we expect from the Orlando Pride during this Fall Series?

We’re going to go out there and just kind of run around and be excited. But once we settle down, we still want to implement our style of being aggressive and just playing good football.

Over these last few weeks, we’ve been really focusing on being more assertive and more aggressive, especially in the final third and in our defending. So I think you’ll see that translate onto the field over these next four games.

And what can we expect from you during these four games?

I think the biggest thing for me is just continuing to get experience at this level and to continue getting minutes. And I think that will help grow my confidence. It’s only my second year, so I still get nerves going into games and everything, but I think these four games will really allow me to kind of situate myself, gain confidence, and try new things out.

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Just be ready for us. That’s the biggest thing.

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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