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Dawn Staley and South Carolina relish another top-2 showdown

Sunday’s game between No. 1 South Carolina and No. 2 Stanford will be the Gamecocks’ fourth top-two matchup in two years. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)

South Carolina women’s basketball will play in its fourth top-two matchup in two years Sunday, as the No. 1 Gamecocks take on the No. 2 Stanford Cardinal.

The two teams met under similar circumstances last December. Both teams held the same rankings and their rosters held many of the same faces, including Aliyah Boston for South Carolina and Haley Jones and Cameron Brink for Stanford.

South Carolina coach Dawn Staley sees such a high-profile contest as an opportunity for her team.

“You don’t play for the ranking, but we certainly play to see where we are — like, where do we stand up against the rich tradition of Stanford and their style of play?” Staley told the Mercury News. “It has an ambiguous meaning, but ultimately, it’s a measure of where you are, and when you stack up against one of the best teams in the country.”

She also sees the game, which will air on ABC at 3 p.m. ET Sunday, as an opportunity for women’s basketball as a whole.

“I think that we’re all thinking this for the greater good of the game,” Staley told the Mercury News. “This generates a lot of publicity. It generates a lot of buzz. It puts us on a platform to be seen by the rest of women’s basketball teams, programs, fans, bands, and everybody that just enjoys watching basketball.

“I know everybody’s been in a football mode, but it kind of jump-shocks you, to know it’s basketball season, and there’s a space for the basketball enthusiast to see a quality basketball game.”

Ahead of the showdown, Just Women’s Sports takes a look back at each of South Carolina’s last three No. 1 vs. No. 2 battles.

Dec. 21, 2021 – No. 1 South Carolina 65, No. 2 Stanford 61

South Carolina overcame an 18-point first-half deficit to take the win against Stanford last December. If history repeats itself, count on another close game Sunday.

The contest against the Cardinal marked the second top-two meeting in little more than a month for the Gamecocks, who had played then-No. 2 UConn in November.

“We had a packed house and we just didn’t have it in the first half,” Staley said. “Then we made a few adjustments at halftime and we got ourselves back in the game and we made it a game for the people who paid their money to watch, the people that were watching on TV or streaming it.

“I know Tara didn’t like the outcome, but I’m sure she could appreciate it being a highly contested basketball game.”

Destanni Henderson helped lead South Carolina in the win, but she has since moved to the WNBA as a member of the Indiana Fever. Still, new additions including freshman Ashlyn Watkins already have made an impact for South Carolina, which could give the Gamecocks a boost Sunday.

Nov. 11, 2021 – No. 1 South Carolina 73, No. 2 UConn 57

The first of South Carolina’s No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchups during the 2021-22 season also featured the No. 1 Gamecocks recovering from a double-digit first-half deficit.

Paige Bueckers pushed the UConn offense to a 13-point lead in the second quarter, but the Gamecocks ended up forcing 19 turnovers to not only come back but win in convincing fashion.

South Carolina ended last season as the wire-to-wire No. 1 and won the national championship. The Gamecocks will aim to repeat both feats this season, despite some key departures.

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Feb. 8, 2021 – No. 2 UConn 63, No. 1 South Carolina 59 (OT)

South Carolina’s first top-two matchup since 2016 proved to be a defensive battle, and No. 2 UConn scored the upset victory in overtime.

Paige Bueckers scored a game-high 31 points, including all nine of the Huskies’ overtime points, in a Herculean effort that helped make her case for her Player of the Year award. No other UConn player finished in double digits.

Aliyah Boston, then a sophomore, finished with 17 points and 15 rebounds. But South Carolina struggled on the whole, shooting 36.8 percent from the field and making just one 3-pointer.

Since then, South Carolina has been tough to beat in ranked matchups, with a 15-2 record heading into Sunday’s game against Stanford.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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