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Sam Staab on the departure of Rose Lavelle and NWSL fall series

Tony Quinn on field/ JWS
Tony Quinn on field/ JWS

Sam Staab plays as a defender for the Washington Spirit of the NWSL and the Western Sydney Wanderers in Australia’s W-League. 

[Editor’s note: this interview took place the day before the Washington Spirit played the Chicago Red Stars to a 1-1 draw.]

Your team is heading into its third game of the Fall Series tomorrow. I wanted to first talk about the format of these games, since this is obviously very different from the Challenge Cup. How do you feel about these more spaced-out games? 

It hasn’t been too bad. I mean, it makes it feel like a bit of a normal season having a few home games and a few away games. They split us up into regions, so we’re only playing Chicago and New Jersey, which are great teams. That’s good because it will be a challenge every single game. But other than that, it’s kind of nice just because it feels like for a month and a half we get to have a bit of a normal season.

I chatted with some other players and they were saying they didn’t realize how emotionally and physically drained they were until they came home from the Challenge Cup bubble. Was that similar for you?

Yes. Definitely leaving the Challenge Cup, I didn’t really realize it. And then when I was at home for a couple of days, I was like, Oh my gosh, this is so nice. Obviously we’re still in a pandemic, but being stuck in a hotel and an unfamiliar place and just everything that we had to go through and be aware of was emotionally and physically draining. But at the same time, I just had to be grateful and reflect on it and be like, okay, we actually got to play, and obviously we were the first league to be able to do so. And I was really grateful at the time to be able to actually play.

What is the team’s mindset given that there’s no trophy or title to play for during the Fall Series?

I think we have taken a bit of a different approach to the Fall Series. We have a lot of players injured, a lot of very influential and impactful players injured on our team right now. And we’re already kind of labeled as like the young and talented team. So I think what we’re doing is giving a lot of younger players, including myself, a ton of experience, not only just playing games, but also being in leadership roles. A bunch of us that aren’t necessarily older or veteran players have had to step into new positions and just kind of take over a bigger role on the team because we have so many big personalities and important people out. Hopefully, next year we’re in a better spot and everyone is a little bit further ahead.

Obviously a huge storyline for your team before the start of the Series was Rose Lavelle being traded and then heading abroad. Did that have any affect on your team’s chemistry?

I wouldn’t say that it had like a major effect on our team chemistry or anything. Obviously, Rose is an unbelievable player, but she had mentioned to us before everything started that this is what she was going to do. So I think we had a bit of a heads up. And everyone was really excited for her new opportunity and we just kind of had to take it for what it is. People have really stepped up into roles that she had in order to fill them. So I don’t think it necessarily had an extreme impact on our team chemistry just because our team is so close anyway, but obviously she’s an amazing player. You can’t really fill that role with anyone else besides her. But people have stepped, and I’ve had to step up, and I think we’ve done a really great job.

A lot of other players across the league have gone abroad in the past month or so. What are your general thoughts on that?

The future of the NWSL, in terms of what the league was going to do at the end of this year, was kind of up in the air and no one really knew what was happen. Everyone is in that same boat. No one knows what’s going on from one day to the next. So I think if people want to play, they’re going to go abroad because they think they can get games in and have a more normal season. It was a good move for some people because the Challenge Cup didn’t necessarily present too many opportunities for people to get playing time and show their skills. So yeah, I don’t know. We didn’t do it [loan out players] as a club just because we wanted to build on what we started and give people opportunities to play but, for the people who thought the opportunity was there for them, I think it’s a good move.

I wanted to end on asking you about any safety concerns you or your team has had given traveling for games while we are still in a pandemic. And how has the team and the league handled these concerns?

I don’t know if our team has really had too many concerns about it. I think in the kind of contract of it all, we kind of just have to make our own sort of bubble. And I think people knew that we needed to be safe with everything. So I don’t necessarily think there were too many issues with playing and traveling just because we know that like the NWSL and our club would take precautions. And ultimately were in charge of what we do with ourselves. So. It’s about putting yourself in a bad or sticky situation. You should be okay. And you don’t have to think more than just yourself because you’re impacting your entire team. So I think if there was any sort of concern, our captains and our club handled it, but I don’t know if there was anything. We get tested twice a week. You need two negative tests before you play any game.

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 Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org 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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