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The key to Stefanie Dolson’s multi-championship season

(Chris Marion/NBAE via Getty Images)

Stefanie Dolson had a banner 2021, winning Olympic gold with Team USA’s 3×3 squad in Tokyo and a WNBA championship with the Chicago Sky. At 29 years old, Dolson is hitting her stride after playing eight years in the WNBA and competing with USA Basketball since her U18 days.

The Sky center made history alongside Allisha Gray, Kelsey Plum and Jackie Young when they clinched the first-ever 3×3 basketball gold medal at the 2020 Olympics, a run that Dolson said re-energized her.

“It was just such a nice break from 5-on-5. I think if I went and played 5-on 5 basketball, it would’ve been a little bit harder maybe, or easier to feel burnt out,” Dolson tells Just Women’s Sports. “So I think it helped that I played 3-on-3. It kind of gave me that break from the season of the W.”

Riding the momentum from her Tokyo win, Dolson came back from the break ready to close out the second half of the WNBA season with her Sky teammates, who were some of her biggest supporters during the Olympics.

“Winning kind of brought me back on a high. My team was amazing, they were so sweet when I got back,” she says. “They had, like, these shirts made. It was really cute. I hate the attention, but I appreciate the statement, so they were really nice.”

The team chemistry Dolson attests to was on full display when the Sky went from the sixth seed in the playoffs to WNBA champions, securing the first title in franchise history.

Dolson’s landmark season, however, didn’t come without its challenges. The 29-year-old revealed in early 2020 and that she and her entire family tested positive for COVID-19 and her mom was hospitalized with the virus. Dolson experienced symptoms herself and didn’t return to the court for five months. During the 2020 season in the WNBA bubble, she played a career-low 18.2 minutes per game.

So, going into the 2021 offseason, Dolson decided to fully commit to her overall health, including changing her approach to nutrition. In an Instagram post celebrating the Sky’s championship, Dolson opened up about the hard work she put in during the winter months.

“I worked my ass off this offseason to lose weight, get quicker and be my best version of myself to help my team and I did just that!” she wrote.

“For me, this was probably my biggest year when it comes to my body and stuff. I lost weight in the offseason, I decided not to go overseas,” Dolson says. “I lost 30 pounds.”

Nutrition and conditioning have been paramount for Dolson since she was a college athlete at UConn and learned she had to go the extra mile to refuel her body.

“Even at the end of last year, I wasn’t able to run the floor very hard,” Dolson told the Hartford Courant during her senior season in 2014. “I think that has improved immensely. I know how hard to work now. I have the instinct now to know how I have to work.”

That mentality helped Dolson overcome a foot injury, isolation and underperformance in 2020.

“I feel like my injury was from the weight that I gained from quarantine and from being home,” she says. “So I had to lose it. I got more fit, and then that’s when I started using this product called UCAN.”

The all-natural, zero-sugar energy product has become essential to Dolson’s training regimen in 2021, helping her overcome a grueling schedule to reach new heights. With UCAN, Dolson said that she doesn’t “crash because of the sugar,” something she has become hyper-aware of over the course of her basketball career.

“Just using products like UCAN, watching my carbs, my sugar, like all that stuff, it’s just helped me kind of be the best player that I can be,” she says.

UCAN’s wide range of products, including protein bars and energy powders, helped Dolson “maintain my weight throughout the season and still stay energized.”

“What the nutritional quality translates to for women is the ability to have a fuller capacity of their fuel source for training,” says Dr. Cathy Yeckel, an Assistant Clinical Professor at the Yale School of Medicine and a nutritional consultant for UCAN. “It’s a healthier choice and it can translate to a bigger fuel repertoire when they come to the line to train.”

As for Dolson’s favorite flavor? “Cookies and cream, of course!”

After an eventful year, Dolson enters the offseason as an unrestricted free agent. She joins Sky teammates Courtney Vandersloot, Allie Quigley and Kahleah Copper on the market.

While the future of the Chicago squad — and the possibility of a WNBA title defense — is uncertain, Dolson has found a recipe for success mentally and physically.

Clare Brennan is an associate editor at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @clare_brennan2.

(Editor’s note: UCAN is a sponsor of Just Women’s Sports)

Esme Morgan Signs With Washington Spirit

Esme Morgan of England inspects the pitch prior to the UEFA Women's EURO 2025 qualifying match between England and France
The England national will join the Spirit in DC on July 15th. (Naomi Baker - The FA/The FA via Getty Images)

English defender Esme Morgan has signed with the Washington Spirit, the club announced Thursday. 

Morgan had been with WSL side Manchester City since 2017, with one year remaining on her contract. She’ll now make a move to the NWSL, with City receiving a fee for the move. 

"I wanted to join the Spirit because they have the ambition and tools to be the best team in the NWSL, and trying to achieve that will be a great but enjoyable challenge," Morgan said in a club statement.

"On an individual level too, the opportunity to work under Jonatan [Giráldez], one of the world's best coaches, is really exciting and I look forward to learning from him and pushing myself to become the best player I can be, hopefully helping the team to success."

According to ESPN, Morgan’s lack of playing time under City manager Gareth Taylor played a key role in her decision to leave the league championship runners-up. She’ll join the Spirit in Washington, DC on July 15th, but won’t be able to begin play until August. 

Spirit president Mark Krikorian called Morgan an "exceptional talent" and added that the club is "thrilled" to add her to the roster.

"I think she’s pretty talented," Giraldez told reporters on Friday. "A young player with a great future, but with experience already in a great league and with the national team. She’s been surrounded by great players and also great coaches, so she can give us experience."

Ledecky Goes for 4 at Olympic Swimming Trials

Swimmer katie ledecky swimming at Toyota US Open
Decorated swimmer Katie Ledecky is aiming to make her fourth-straight Olympic squad. (Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Swimming Trials begin this weekend, running from June 15th through June 23rd in Indianapolis, with Katie Ledecky eyeing her fourth-straight Summer Games.

While traditionally held in Omaha, Indiana's Lucas Oil Stadium, home of the NFL's Indianapolis Colts, has been fitted with a 50-meter pool to host the meet that will determine the 2024 Paris Olympics roster.

All eyes will be on seven-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky, who will be competing in the 200-meter, 400-meter, 800-meter, and 1500-meter freestyle — all events in which she’s been an Olympic champion. 

Rival Ariarne Titmus had her trials last week, breaking the world record in the 200-meter freestyle. Ledecky’s 200 is intended to qualify her for the Olympic relay. Meanwhile stateside, Katie Grimes stands to be a challenger in the 1500-meter freestyle has already qualified for the Paris Olympics in the 10km open water event.

Other competitors of note include 47-year-old Gabrielle Rose, who stands to become the oldest US Swimming Olympic qualifier in the 100-meter and 200-meter breaststroke.

Additionally, Kate Douglass — an NCAA and World Champion — is a favorite to make her first Olympic team in the 200-meter IM and 200-meter breaststroke. Simone Manuel, an Olympic champion in the 100-meter freestyle, is also looking to make her third-straight Olympics.

Where to watch: The Trials will be streaming all week on Peacock, with later qualifying heats airing live on USA Network and event finals airing in primetime on NBC.

Orlando and Kansas City Shoot for 13 in NWSL Weekend Action

NWSL's T. Chawinga #6 of the Kansas City Current passes the ball during the first half of their game against the Utah Royals FC
The Kansas City Current hopes to extend its NWSL unbeaten streak to 13 with a win over Chicago. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

The 13th match weekend is fast approaching in the NWSL, with two season-long unbeaten streaks on the line.

League-leaders Kansas City and Orlando will attempt to survive the weekend with their unbeaten runs intact, as the Current host Chicago on Friday and the Pride travel to North Carolina for Saturday's match.

But while Kansas City and Orlando have been the gold standard this year, they're still a number of wins away from tying Washington's record for longest unbeaten streak in a single NWSL season. In 2021, the Spirit went 20 games without a loss en route to the club's first NWSL championship.

Both Gotham and Louisville are carrying momentum into their matchup on Saturday. Louisville is unbeaten in three games, and they’re looking to finally leapfrog Chicago and claim sixth place in the league standings. Gotham, on a seven-game unbeaten run, is into fifth place.

Portland and Seattle will face off in the Cascadia Clash this weekend, with Golden Boot contender Sophia Smith absent, as the decorated forward was shown a red card last weekend for time-wasting on the bench.

The Reign could use a win against their long-time rivals, as a difficult start has 13th-place Seattle registering only two wins amid nine losses so far this season.

Elsewhere in the league, 2024 expansion teams Bay FC and Utah meet for the first time this weekend, as both look to rise from the bottom half of the standings. And Washington will ride a four-game winning streak into Saturday's game against a San Diego side that's earned two hard-fought draws in recent weeks.

Watch more: "Sophia Smith is INNOCENT!" on The Late Sub with Claire Watkins

WNBA All-Star Voting Starts on June 13th

Phoenix Mercury mascot Scorch waving a 2024 WNBA All-Star flag at a 2023 home game.
Phoenix Mercury will host the 20th-annual All-Star Game on July 20th, 2024. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Voting for the 2024 AT&T WNBA All-Star Game opened at 2 PM ET today and runs through June 29th.

All active WNBA players are eligible to make the All-Star Game, set for July 20th in Phoenix. Unlike previous formats that featured two voted-in All-Star squads, this year’s contest pits a single All-Star team against the already-decided Olympic-bound USA Women’s National Team.

Fans can submit a daily ballot nominating up to 10 athletes via WNBA.com or the WNBA App.

Fan-submitted ballots account for 50% of vote, with the other 50% split equally between current WNBA players and members of the media. The top 10 athletes will automatically make the All-Star Game, with league coaches then voting from a pool of the next 36 to complete Team WNBA’s 12-player roster. The final lineup will be announced on July 2nd.

This year's All-Star Game format presents an opportunity for fans to vote for players they might consider Olympic snubs. Indiana rookie Caitlin Clark and Dallas’s Arike Ogunbawole seem like shoo-ins given the discussion surrounding their Olympic omissions, while Connecticut stars Brionna Jones and DeWanna Bonner are also expected to snag All-Star nods.

And after a career-high 20-point, 10-rebound double-double in last night’s 83-75 loss to the Sun, Chicago rookie Angel Reese could also secure a spot.

Regardless, it won't necessarily be smooth sailing for Team USA, as history has tended to favor the underdog. 

The first USA vs. All-Stars matchup took place in 2021, with the league’s squad humbling the Tokyo Olympians 93-85. With 26 points, Ogunbawole was named All-Star Game MVP after barely missing the Olympic cut. Could she and Clark turn the tables on Team USA this year?

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

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