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Rose Lavelle lifts USWNT Past Canada, 1-0

@USWNT

USA 1, Canada 0

Goals: Rose Lavelle 79’

The SheBelieves Cup kicked off on Thursday, with four elite international teams vying for a championship title. Competing in the tournament this year are the United States, Canada, Brazil, and Argentina, with six matches set to take place from February 18th to the 24th. On the hunt for their fourth SheBelieves Cup victory is the United States, who secured the title in 2016, 2018, and 2020.

The first match of the tournament saw Brazil defeat Argentina, 4-1, with Marta, Debinha, Adriana Leal da Silva, and Geyse Ferreira scoring a goal apiece to propel Brazil to their first victory of the tournament. Mariana Larroquette scored the lone goal for Argentina.

Brazil is now set to take on the United States on Sunday, February 21st at 3:00 PM EST, and Argentina will face Canada at 6:00 PM EST later that day.

A rivalry match-up was on the table as the United States and Canada faced off in the second match of the SheBelieves Cup. To the surprise of many, Thursday night’s winner was not determined until the final minutes of match play, when Rose Lavelle scored the go-ahead goal to earn three points for the USWNT.

Though the Americans were able to see the win through, head coach Vlatko Andonovski was less than satisfied with the result. As reported by ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle, Andonovski said he was “disappointed” with the USWNT’s performance.

“When we create 10 opportunities to score and we score one, I’m disappointed because I want us to score more goals. And on top of that, if we allow any shots to goal, I’m not going to be happy, and I thought tonight [Canada] had a couple of good opportunities to score. We’re going to look into it. We’re going to look a little bit deeper why that happened.”

Also sharing her thoughts on the match was USWNT captain Becky Sauerbrunn: “This team prides itself on being able to find ways to win, and sometimes we win pretty and sometimes we win ugly, and tonight was one of those nights where we won ugly. It’s important that when things aren’t going right, that we’re not vibing right, that we can find a way to win and we did that tonight, which is a good sign about this team’s mentality.”

Here’s how the USWNT made it happen:

The opening 20 minutes were purely defensive for both sides, until Lynn Williams was able to slip a pass to Catarina Macario in the box. On her first touch, Macario fired off a shot that sailed over the crossbar and out of bounds, attempting to net her second international goal. The opportunity was one of the first of the night for the United States, who against Colombia notched goals within the first 10 minutes of both games back in January.

Later, in the 31st minute, Crystal Dunn lofted a ball into the box, her cross taking a bounce before meeting the head of Williams. Williams redirected the header towards the net, only for the chance to be saved by Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbé to maintain the 0-0 deadlock. Labbé, who came in as a substitute early into the match, replaced starter Kailen Sheridan following what appeared to be an injury to Sheridan’s upper leg after dishing out a pass.

A mere three minutes later, Lynn Williams was on the ball again, this time sending in a cross from the right flank and finding Carli Lloyd in the air. Lloyd’s header was narrowly saved by Labbé, who leapt into the air to tip the ball just over the crossbar, notching yet another impressive save to keep Canada in the game.

United States goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher would be put to the test immediately afterward, as Nichelle Prince placed a perfect ball into the path of Janine Beckie. Beckie’s first touch began the demise of the scoring chance, as it gave Naeher ample time to make the diving save and knock the ball out of bounds.

As the first half wound to a close, a shot by Megan Rapinoe was boggled by Labbé and nearly tapped in as a scramble ensued in the six. Luckily for the Canadians, the ball was knocked out of bounds, and the first half ended with the rivals tied at 0-0.

Another dangerous opportunity for the United States came in the 51st minute, with Williams putting another cross into the box. On the other end of William’s cross was Rapinoe, whose first touch was a redirection towards goal in an attempt to draw first blood. Labbé responded with another save, further extending the Americans’ scoreless bout.

Minutes later, Janine Beckie was given another chance to go one-on-one with Alyssa Naeher after being slotted a pass from Nichelle Prince, but again, Beckie took too much time to get a shot off and was denied by the American goalkeeper for a second time.

Finally, in the 78th minute, the US was awarded a free kick from outside the eighteen. The kick, taken by none other than Williams, was lofted into the box and cleared by a Canadian defender. The clearance attempt was intercepted by Rose Lavelle, who buried the game-winner from outside the six to lift the United States to a 1-0 victory.

Lavelle’s goal was her 14th for her country, and what better time to add to her career total than in the final minutes of a rivalry match?

Though the United States’ performance was not up to their usual standard, their relentless grit allowed them to seal the win and remain competitive for another SheBelieves Cup title with two more matches on the horizon. Stay tuned for more SheBelieves Cup action this Sunday, as the United States takes the pitch against Brazil at 3:00 pm EST (FS1, TUDN).

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

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