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St. Thomas Aquinas matches expectations, rises in soccer rankings

(Courtesy of @WattsRian on Twitter)

St. Thomas Aquinas is accustomed to success. The Overland Park, Kansas powerhouse is the reigning 5A state champion, and its success goes back even farther than that.

The Saints have won 17 national titles, including seven in a row from 2010-17. They have been a mainstay near the top of national polls, even nabbing the No. 2 spot in one ranking in 2005.

This year’s team is living up to that tradition, having finished the regular season with a 12-0-2 record, including a win over last year’s 6A state champs.

Defender Assa Kante is a Kansas commit and one of five seniors who will continue their soccer careers in college. She is joined by Abby Hansen (Missouri State), Shandon Carr (Washburn University), Maria Jensen (MidAmerica Nazarene University) and Mara Loughman (Benedictine College). Sophomore Sydney Watts has also committed to play for Vanderbilt.

With that talent and experience, the Saints hope to add another state championship trophy to their cabinet this spring after moving up one spot in the latest JWS high school soccer rankings.

(Note that these rankings do not include teams from Georgia, Alabama and North Carolina.)

1. Valor Christian (Colo.), 14-0

The Eagles capped a perfect regular season with a win over previously unbeaten Pine Creek and then opened the postseason Tuesday with a commanding 8-0 win.

2. South County (Va.), 12-0-1

In a matchup of undefeated teams, South County beat Fairfax on Friday and followed it up with a 4-0 win Tuesday.

3. Gretna (Neb.), 19-0

The Dragons are just two wins away from a state championship and an unbeaten season.

4. Colonial Forge (Va.), 13-0

The Eagles are one win away from an undefeated regular season.

5. Valley (Iowa), 14-0

Anna Van Wyngarden has been involved in nearly half of Valley’s 50 goals this season with 12 goals and another 12 assists.

6. St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.), 12-0-2

The Saints ended the regular season undefeated thanks to a 1-1 tie Friday, and now turn their attention toward defending their Class 5A state championship.

7. Liberty North (Mo.), 17-0

Florida commit Megan Hinnenkamp had a hat trick, and the Eagles ended the regular season undefeated with a 4-0 win over Lee’s Summit West. It was the Eagles’ second win this season over Lee’s Summit West, which has won or tied its 17 other games.

8. Colgan (Va.), 13-1-1

The Sharks have allowed just two goals since a 3-1 defeat to Colonial Forge on March 23.

9. Legacy (Colo.), 15-1

The Lightning opened the postseason with an emphatic 10-0 win as junior Kendall Rippley (Air Force commit) scored five goals and added an assist, and senior Juliauna Hayward (Colorado commit) collected five assists and a goal.

10. Yorktown (Va.) 13-1-1

The Patriots followed a scoreless draw Monday with a 6-2 win on Senior Night two days later.

11. Wando (S.C.), 17-1

After a 4-2 win over Chapin in the Lower State Finals, the Warriors are just one win away from back-to-back Class AAAAA state championships.

12. Fort Zumwalt South (Mo.), 20-1

The Bulldogs enter the playoffs on a nine-game winning streak and as the defending 3A state champions.

13. Bentonville (Ark.) 16-1-2

The Tigers’ undefeated season came to a crashing halt with a 3-0 loss to Bentonville West. Bentonville now begins state tournament play this Friday.

14. Triad (Ill.), 18-1

The Knights have allowed just five goals all season and posted 14 shutouts.

15. O’Fallon (Ill.), 17-1

The Panthers are putting that mid-season loss to Triad behind them, and the reigning Class 3A state champions appear primed for another playoff run.

16. Hudsonville (Mich.), 10-0-1

Hudsonville has given up just three goals this season, and just one in the last nine games.

17. Grandview (Colo.), 13-1-2

The Wolves ended the regular season with a 2-0 win over fellow 5A power Columbine to earn the fourth seed in the state playoffs and opened the postseason with another 2-0 victory.

18. Pine Creek (Colo.), 15-1

The Eagles nearly knocked off No. 1 Valor Christian but fell 4-3 in overtime. They bounced back from that defeat with a 4-0 win in the first round of the state playoffs.

19. James Island (S.C.), 19-1-2

A 5-3 win over Hilton Head gave the Trojans their second Lower State championship in as many years. Now, they look to repeat as Class AAAA state champions.

20. Lyons Township (Ill.), 17-1

Last year’s Class 3A state runners-up enter the postseason on a four-game winning streak, having outscored opponents 57-6 this season.

21. Oregon (Wis.), 13-0-1

The Panthers had given up four goals in 13 games before surrendering two Wednesday in a 2-2 draw.

22. Broomfield (Colo.), 13-2

After a disappointing end to the regular season, Broomfield opened the postseason with a victory.

23. Metea Valley (Ill.), 15-2-1

The Mustangs knocked off previously ranked Naperville Central 4-1 to win their first DuPage Valley Conference title.

24. Muskego (Wis.), 9-0-3

The Warriors have given up just four goals all season, but two of those goals have resulted in 1-1 ties. The other was a scoreless draw.

25. Nerinx Hall (Mo.), 16-2-1

The Markers won five of their first eight games. Since then, last year’s Class 4 state finalists have reeled off 11 consecutive victories.

Phillip Suitts is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. He has worked at a variety of outlets, including The Palm Beach Post and Southeast Missourian, and done a little bit of everything from reporting to editing to running social media accounts. He was born in Atlanta but currently lives in wintry Philadelphia. Follow Phillip on Twitter @PhillipSuitts.

USA Women’s Basketball Releases Olympic Roster, Explains Clark’s Omission

USA Women's Basketball's Diana Taurasi #12, Brittney Griner #15 and Sabrina Ionescu #6 at April's National Team Training Camp
All the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience. (Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)

USA Women's Basketball announced its official Olympic roster on Tuesday, with officials noting that Caitlin Clark’s lack of national team experience played a key role in her omission.

Selection committee chair Jen Rizzotti said that the committee evaluated players according to a set of on-court criteria they were given.

"When you base your decision on criteria, there were other players that were harder to cut because they checked a lot more boxes," she told reporters on Tuesday. "Then sometimes it comes down to position, style of play for [coach Cheryl Reeve] and then sometimes a vote."

Three first-time Olympians made the squad: Alyssa Thomas, Sabrina Ionescu, and Kahleah Copper. Additionally, Jackie Young and Kelsey Plum will make the switch to the national 5-on-5 team after winning gold in the inaugural 3×3 competition at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Age, Rizzotti said, was "never brought up" in player selection discussions. It’s the first time in Olympic history that a USA Women’s Basketball 5-on-5 team will travel to the Games without a single player under 26 years old.

Rizzotti commented that all the players tapped for this year's Olympic roster have senior national team experience, something that Clark does not have.

"She's certainly going to continue to get better and better," USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley added. "Really hope that she's a big part of our future going forward."

Rizzotti said it would have been "irresponsible" to base roster decisions on anything outside of a basketball context. Marketing and popularity were not on the selection committee’s list of criteria. 

"It would be irresponsible for us to talk about her in a way other than how she would impact the play of the team," Rizzotti said. "Because it wasn't the purview of our committee to decide how many people would watch or how many people would root for the US. It was our purview to create the best team we could for Cheryl."

Clark expressed that she'll be using what some consider a snub as fuel for a run at the 2028 Olympic team. 

"I think it just gives you something to work for," Clark told media after practice Sunday. "It's a dream. Hopefully one day I can be there. I think it's just a little more motivation. You remember that. Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

Watch more: "Were Caitlin Clark and Arike Ogunbowale snubbed?" on Expert Adjacent

Arsenal Women Confirm US Tour, Preseason Friendlies

Arsenal's Lotte Wubben-Moy battles with Mayra Ramirez of Chelsea at the 2023/24 FA Women's Continental Tyres League Cup Final
The last time Chelsea and Arsenal faced off, the Gunners took home the FA Women's League Cup. (Copa/Getty Images)

Arsenal announced on Monday that it will join Chelsea for a series of preseason friendlies in the US in August. 

Arsenal will be based in Washington, DC from August 15th through August 26th. The Gunners are scheduled to play the Washington Spirit on August 18th, followed by a match with fellow WSL team Chelsea on August 25th. It’s the first time that the two London clubs will meet each other on this side of the Atlantic. 

Chelsea had previously announced their game against Gotham FC, confirming reports from ESPN that surfaced last month.

"We always want to create the best conditions for our teams to prepare and perform at their best in pre-season," said Arsenal sporting director Edu Gaspar in a statement. "This gives our players an opportunity to play and train in a new environment, in front of our supporters around the world."

Both Arsenal and Chelsea tout rosters full of international talent — formidable opponents for two equally stacked NWSL teams gearing up for postseason action. Arsenal is home to accomplished England nationals Leah Williamson, Beth Mead, and backheel goal-scorer Alessia Russo alongside Ireland captain Katie McCabe and USWNT defender Emily Fox.

The games are set to be streamed live for free on DAZN.

Arsenal's US tour builds off of a trip to Melbourne, Australia at the tail end of the 2023/24 season, where they beat A-League All Stars women 1-0 in front of 42,120 fans.

US Women Defeat NC Courage to Claim $1 Million TST Prize

TST team US Women celebrate a semifinal win
USWNT legend Heather O’Reilly led the 7-on-7 side to victory at Monday's TST championship. (The Soccer Tournament)

The US Women 7-on-7 team won the first-ever edition of The Soccer Tournament’s women’s bracket, taking home the $1 million prize.

The TST concluded on Monday, with Ali Krieger and Heather O’Reilly leading the US Women past the North Carolina Courage’s 7-on-7 team to a 6-3 victory.

"I mean, at that moment, you're not thinking right? Like, I just saw the ball come to me and i was able to put it in the back of the net," said game-winning goal-scorer Talia DellaPeruta. "And it was just... everything kind of stopped for a second. When it went in, I just could not believe it. Like, that was the winning goal, everything that we had worked for this whole weekend.

"I'm just so grateful that I can contribute in that way and to be surrounded by such legends on the field. I mean, to be able to get us over that line, it's the best feeling I've ever felt. This is the best day ever."

Each team member will take home $40,000, with the winnings split equally amongst the 25-person group. First launched in 2023, TST is now the world’s highest-stakes women’s soccer tournament, offering equal $1 million prizes for both the men’s and women’s champions.

"Every single person, staff, players — we deserve it. One million dollars!" O'Reilly said in a team huddle after the victory.

USA Basketball Reportedly Finalizes 2024 Olympic Roster

Jewell Loyd #4 of the United States and Breanna Stewart #10 of the United States celebrate the teams victory during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics Japan V USA basketball final
This will be the first year since 1976 that USA Women's Basketball travels to the Summer Games without a single player under 26 years old. (Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)

The women’s basketball roster for the Paris Olympics has reportedly been decided, with star WNBA rookie Caitlin Clark left off the 12-player roster.

Three first-time Olympians are slated to join the team: the Sun's Alyssa Thomas, the Mercury's Kahleah Copper, and the Liberty's Sabrina Ionescu. Meanwhile Clark, Brionna Jones, and Aliyah Boston are reportedly on the short-list for an injury replacement should any of the rostered players not make it to Paris, according to The Athletic.

Chelsea Gray and Brittney Griner, who were both named to the team, are currently in the process of returning from injury.

"I'm excited for the girls that are on the team," Clark told reporters Sunday. "I know it's the most competitive team in the world and I know it could have gone either way — me being on the team or me not being on the team. I'm going to be rooting them on to win gold. I was a kid that grew up watching the Olympics, so it will be fun to watch them.

"Honestly, no disappointment. It just gives me something to work for — it's a dream... Hopefully when four years comes back around, I can be there."

The reported Olympic lineup leans heavily on its veterans, with Diana Taurasi preparing for her sixth Olympic Games — a new all-time international basketball record. In fact, not a single player under the age of 26 was listed, a noteworthy departure from previous years.

In every Olympic roster dating back to 1976, at least two players under the age of 25 made it onto the US women's basketball team. Nancy Lieberman, the youngest player to ever compete for the US Olympic basketball team, was just 18 when she joined the 1976 Summer Games. At the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, WNBA stars Napheesa Collier and A’ja Wilson were both rostered at 24 years old.

Clark said USA Basketball officials called to tell her the news before it reached the press, the same approach they used for all other Olympic hopefuls. But according to Fever head coach Christie Sides, what some might see as a snub could also act as the catalyst for improved performance in the future.

"The thing she said was, 'Hey coach, they woke a monster,' which I thought was awesome," Sides said.

Clark also expressed excitement about the potential to get some much-needed rest during the Olympic break.

"Absolutely, it's going to be really nice," Clark said. "I've loved competing every single second. But it's going to be a great month for my body to get rest, get healthy and just get a little time away from basketball and the craziness of everything that's been going on. And just find some peace and quiet for myself.

"But then additionally, it's a great opportunity for us to work and get better. A great opportunity for myself to get in the weight room. To work on the court, at things that I want to get better at that I maybe didn't have time [to] going from college to the pro season."

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