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Stanford’s collapse against South Carolina exposes early issues

Haley Jones and Aliyah Boston go head-to-head in South Carolina’s overtime win over Stanford on Sunday. (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

It should have been Stanford’s game.

Playing on their home court, the Cardinal led South Carolina by eight points heading into the fourth quarter. But bit by bit, shot by shot, steal by steal, the No. 1 Gamecocks battled back.

And with two seconds left in regulation, Aliyah Boston reminded everyone that she’s the reigning Player of the Year, with a feathery shot off the backboard to knot the score at 61 and force overtime.

What followed was a disastrous collapse from No. 2 Stanford in a 76-71 loss, the team’s first of the season.

The good news for Stanford? The loss came on Nov. 20, and there is a lot of time left to correct the issues that emerged. The bad news? There were a lot of issues, especially down the stretch.

“Maybe it’s a team not ready to be No. 1,” Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer told reporters after the game. “So we have to be hungry as the No. 2, and we have to want to improve.”

It was an exciting, down-to-the-wire nail-biter, but there was no mistaking this for a postseason contest. South Carolina and Stanford exposed weaknesses in one another and learned a lot about themselves. It’s why VanDerveer and Dawn Staley schedule games like this during the regular season: to figure out where they stand now, and how they can be the last team standing on April 2, 2023.

Cameron Brink led all scorers with 25 points, and for the 23 minutes she played, the junior looked like the best player in the country. But it was the minutes she didn’t play that made the difference, particularly the last three after the 6-foot-5 forward had fouled out.

Brink was a mismatch for South Carolina, like she will be for most teams this season. She’s lanky, athletic and skilled around the rim, but she also possesses the guard-like skills needed to stretch defenses, attack from the 3-point line and knock down shots from long range. When the junior was on the floor, South Carolina had no answer for her. The problem for Brink is the same one that plagued her during her first two seasons — staying on the floor.

“Cameron is developing into something pretty special,” Staley said. “Her ability to hit 3s, to put the ball on the floor and stretch defenses elevates her game.”

Brink led all Stanford scorers with 25 points before fouling out in overtime. (Darren Yamashita/USA TODAY Sports)

Brink exited the game for good with 3:01 left in overtime. Even as South Carolina started to claw back, Stanford had a chance to seal the win with 10 seconds left after Agnes Emma-Nnopu stole the ball to give the Cardinal another possession, up 73-71.

Stanford drew up a play but failed to inbound the ball, resulting in a five-second call. Yet again, Stanford had another chance. Brea Beal missed both of her free throws, and Stanford’s Kiki Iriafen grabbed the rebound before positioning her hands in a “T” shape and turning to the official. The sophomore didn’t realize Stanford had used its last timeout. She was assessed a technical foul, and South Carolina got two free throws and the ball, ending the game on a sour note for the Cardinal.

That’s a lot of chaos to sum up one major concern for Stanford: maturity. The Cardinal have all the skills they need; they just need more time to develop. But this one will sting for a while because South Carolina didn’t storm in and take the victory. Instead, the Cardinal handed it over.

“There is a lot we left out there on the court,” said Stanford senior Haley Jones, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists. “But also in the grand scheme of things, it’s November. It’s our first loss, so I think there’s a lot left on the table.”

South Carolina won’t be pleased with the late-game turnover or four missed free throws in the last 24 seconds of play, but at this point in the year, they were seasoned enough to secure a victory.

“Stanford brings out the best of you, and the worst at times,” Staley said. “I just thought we didn’t play our best, and Stanford had a lot to do with it.

“We gutted out a win. This wasn’t an easy thing at all.”

Boston finished with 14 points and 13 rebounds for her 63rd career double-double. In addition to the basket that forced overtime, she made two buckets in the extra period to help secure the victory.

Down South Carolina’s lineup, sophomore Bree Hall and senior Laeticia Amihere also gave the Gamecocks a lift off the bench. Hall had 12 points, and no basket more important than the 3-pointer she made to put her squad up four with 45 seconds remaining.

Amihere finished with nine points, six rebounds and two blocks, doing a little bit of everything for South Carolina.

For Stanford, it’s hard to pick out the positives in a mistake-riddled overtime loss that included 22 turnovers, but it wasn’t all bad. Jones and Brink outplayed Boston and Zia Cooke for most of the game. It wasn’t until the second half that the South Carolina duo got their footing, after combining for just one made field goal in the opening two quarters. And with Brink on the bench, Stanford senior Ashten Prechtel proved herself to be a reliable defensive option, finishing with seven rebounds and five blocks.

The mistakes were glaring on Sunday. But it’s November, and November games are for making mistakes and learning from those mistakes. March games are not.

And March is when these teams will likely see each other again.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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