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Sydney Wiese: “The Very Existence of Our League Is a Form Of Protest”

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Sydney Wiese is a guard for the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA. An Oregon State graduate, Wiese was a Wooden Award Finalist and Naismith Trophy Semifinalist as well as a 4x All Pac-12 guard for the Beavers. She spoke to Just Women’s Sports about playing in the “Wubble,” using her platform for social justice, and the bond she shares with her Sparks teammates. 

You’re a few weeks into the season. Do you feel like everyone has found their rhythm or do you expect there to be some ups and downs?

There’s always ups and downs. This season is obviously unprecedented with the quick turnaround, and how condensed the schedule is. Injuries are going to happen unfortunately, and so we want to make sure to take care of ourselves. It’s going to demand everything that you got individually, collectively. Every team is going through their own journey – I think it’s just about peaking at the right time. Then continuing to ride that momentum towards the end of season, through playoffs, and making sure that you capitalize when you carry that momentum.

On one hand, you no longer have to travel for games. But you are playing a lot more games back to back. How has that affected your ability to recover and stay healthy?

There’s pros and cons to both, for sure. All of us in the WNBA are facing this same schedule – this same quick turn around. We’re all in the same time zone. I think it just comes down to making sure that as a group, we monitor the opportunities where we can take a step back from basketball to do that, so that when we’re on, we can just grind it out. There’s no other way around it. You just gotta push through it.

What we’re doing right now is historic. We are a living part of history, so we’ve just got to roll with it. Down the road, I’ll be telling my kids about this one day.

What is your team specifically doing to recover and stay healthy? 

We do pool workouts for recovery every once in a while. We do yoga as a team before we start practice. It’s good for our mind, body and spirit – just to realign and slow down, and breathe a little bit. We have ice baths downstairs. We have all hands on deck to make sure that our bodies are good, and that our minds are taken care of as well.

You are third in the Western Conference standing so far. What do you think needs to happen to stay in championship contention?

I think it’s just all about doing what we can and adjusting as quickly as we can when we’re in those moments, because we don’t have time to practice certain situations. You can watch a film, you can talk about it, but it’s going to come to shifting our actions, and actually making those changes real when we’re on the floor, because there’s not a lot of time to drop any games. It’s just continuing to communicate with one another.

Because of how the season is set up, you don’t have time to learn while you’re losing. You have to learn lessons while winning games. About a month from now, we’re going to be in playoff mode. You want to be in the top seeds, because then you can get a bye, and that gives you extra rest. Especially after a season like this, that’s going to be super critical for recovery.

Before you all went to the bubble there was some skepticism around the situation. Then, after a few weeks, people seemed generally upbeat about the ‘Wubble’ life. But are you concerned about bubble fatigue the longer the season goes on? 

I have to give a shout out to our union and our league, because I know back in June and May, when they were having the negotiations for our season, they put in a lot of work. We asked a lot of questions as players, and they covered every base possible to make this a safe environment for us – for our wellbeing first and foremost. They also gave us an opportunity to use our platforms to be vocal about social injustices, police brutality and ‘Say Her Name.’ It’s been really cool.

I know as time goes on, we have to make sure that we continue to take care of ourselves as we play basketball, play these games back to back… That’s going to be really crucial as we continue forward in the season. We’ve got to take care of ourselves and one another – that’s going to be key to fighting off any fatigue.

Heading into the season, you signed a two year contract extension with the Sparks. What went into that decision? 

I’m super fortunate. When I was a kid, I dreamt about being in this league, and then once I got here, it became real in good ways and also gave some tough lessons that I had to learn. I don’t take for granted the opportunity to sign an extension like this, because I think it is rare to be with the same organization for a career for multiple years. Nothing is guaranteed in this league.

I value loyalty. In this professional world, that’s rare. I love representing this organization. I love learning and being a part of these women’s lives, and they’re a part of my life as well. And I’m so thankful that I’ve had this time to build relationships, to get to know who I work with, who I get to play with. That’s super big for me. So it was a no brainer, honestly. I love who I get to work with. And Los Angeles isn’t a bad city to live in either.  I’m from Phoenix, so it’s also an hour flight from my home. I love being on the West Coast.

What are your personal goals for this season?

I don’t really have any personal goals. I want to be of service any way that I can to this team. I recognize that all of us chose to be here under these circumstances. I totally respect our teammates that chose to stay out for their own reasons, but the rest of us that chose to be here – we sacrificed and we made the choice to be here. So I just want to make sure that whatever is needed on the court, off the court, that’s what I want to provide. I also want to make sure that we’re taken care of as a group, as people more than anything. I just want to make sure that we leave this place having enjoyed this experience.

The league has been at the forefront of social justice issues for so many years, but what did it mean to you to have social justice be an official part of the league’s platform this year? 

I think it shows that this league has been beyond the curve. They’ve been vocal, they’ve been advocating from the very beginning. The very existence of our league is a form of protest, because you have a league of majority Black women, of majority LGBTQ. It’s not a coincidence that this league has had to fight for survival because it goes against the societal norms that have been put in place, which, to be frank, have not empowered Black women to succeed. They have not empowered LGBTQ Black women.

Now it’s cool to protest, and it’s cool to be vocal. But this league has always done that. It’s such an honor to be in this league because it’s a form of protest. We are going to rise above the oppression that is trying to be placed on us, and we’re going to overcome it simply by being who we are.

Each week, we are highlighting a Black woman or a woman of color who was killed by police. This past week, we highlighted Michelle Cusseaux. She was killed by police in 2014. We had the opportunity to speak to her mother and her sister and hear her story. And now we’re going to honor Michelle and we’re going to say her name. Even though it happened six years ago, we’re still seeking justice.

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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