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Tara Vanderveer Will Soon Make History—Stanford Is Hoping a Championship Follows

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Stanford comes into the season ranked second in the country in the AP Poll. After a dominant opening win over Cal Poly, Hall of Fame head coach Tara VanDerveer needs just four wins to pass the legendary Pat Summitt for the all-time winningest coach in women’s college basketball.

The 2020-21 season will be VanDerveer’s 41st in coaching, and her win total is up to 1,095, just behind Summitt’s 1,098. Stanford is 12-25 against Tennessee, where Summitt earned all of her wins, in a series that has been played every December for 31 years and includes preseason tournaments and three postseason matches.

While VanDerveer’s team had its highest preseason ranking in 11 years, she started this season simply grateful that the Cardinal were able to practice, much less play. (And already, games are being cancelled due to Santa Clara County’s new Covid restrictions.)

“I’ve talked to our team about, in terms of how to best approach this: ‘Everyone’s middle name is flexible,’” VanDerveer said at the Pac-12 virtual media day. “We just have to be ready to do whatever we’re allowed to do and enjoy each day, one day at a time.”

“I know she has four or five wins until she gets the record, but I know she has bigger goals than that,” senior guard Kiana Williams said.

With the Pac-12 opened up due to the departure of Oregon’s Sabrina Ionescu, Ruthy Hebard and Satou Sabally, a trio who won the last three Pac-12 regular-season titles, Stanford believes it is capable of reclaiming the conference.

Williams, who is from San Antonio, is hoping to make the Final Four, which will be held in her hometown. The key for Stanford will be keeping her off the court, however, as she was forced to play nearly 36 minutes per game due to depth problems last year.

Williams is joined by sophomore guard Haley Jones, who played 18 games as a freshman before a season-ending knee injury. The former No. 1 high school recruit was fantastic as a freshman, and if the season opener was any indication, she has improved significantly in the offseason.

Lexie Hull and Lacie Hull, twins and the only members of the junior class available to play due to guard Jenna Brown undergoing knee surgery, will continue to play a massive role. Lexie may be the best pure scorer on the team, while Lacie continuously earns minutes with her defense.

If sophomore guard Hannah Jump can get hot, then Stanford will really be cooking. She is a 3-point specialist, but VanDerveer saw improvements in her fitness and strength that should allow her to improve on defense and create more shots for herself inside the arc, where she shot less than 20% of her attempts last year.

The guard position is book-ended by a fifth year and a freshman. The fifth year is Anna Wilson, who won an appeal to the NCAA for an extra year and was the 42nd-ranked recruit back in 2016. After an impressive preseason, she was named a starter for the team’s opener. The freshman is Jana Van Gytenbeek, who ranked as the No. 39 player in her class. Those two, and Williams, have learned from each other and make for a formidable group.

Cameron Brink, the No. 3 recruit in the country, is special at 6-foot-4. In her debut game, she dropped 17 points—the most for a Cardinal freshman since Candice Wiggins in 2004. Agnes Emma-Nnopu, the third freshman in the class, is able to rebound at an elite level, a skill that will immediately help the Cardinal and earn her playing time.

For Fran Belibi, the camp period allowed her to win a starting spot where she can showcase some of her incredible athleticism. Together with Ashten Prechtel, the other sophomore forward, the two form a nice duo. Prechtel is 6-foot-5 but has an inside-outside game with 31 blocks and 34% 3-point rate.

Senior forward Alyssa Jerome has started in the past and offers leadership and a steady presence inside. Altogether, the team’s depth will be a strength if it can be maintained. For Stanford, the goal is to play fast, rotate a lot, and maintain a quick tempo throughout all 40 minutes.

Few coaches are better up for that task than VanDerveer, which is no small reason why she is on the cusp of having more wins than anyone before her. For Stanford, the quiet celebration when the inevitable milestone occurs is just a subplot in a season in which their goals are much loftier — like celebrating a national championship for the first time since 1992.

USWNT to face Costa Rica in final Olympic send-off

uswnt sophia smith and tierna davidson celebrate at shebeilves cup 2024
The USWNT will play their final pre-Olympic friendly against Costa Rica on July 16th. (Photo by Greg Bartram/ISI Photos/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

U.S. Soccer announced Tuesday that the USWNT will play their last home game on July 16th in the lead-up to the 2024 Summer Olympic Games in Paris.

The 2024 Send-Off Match against Costa Rica will take place at Washington, DC’s Audi Field — home to both the Washington Spirit and DC United — at 7:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday, July 16th. The friendly rounds out a four-game Olympic run-up campaign under incoming head coach Emma Hayes’ side, with the last two set to feature the finalized 2024 U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team roster.

Hayes will appear on the USWNT sideline for the first time this June, helming the team as they embark on a two-game series against Korea Republic hosted by Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colorado on June 1st followed by Allianz Stadium in St. Paul, Minnesota on June 4th. 

The team is then scheduled to meet a talented Mexico squad on July 13th at Gotham FC’s Red Bull Arena in Harrison, New Jersey, where the Olympic-bound lineup will attempt to rewrite February’s shocking 2-0 loss to El Tri Femenil in the group stages of this year’s Concacaf W Gold Cup. And while clear roster favorites have emerged from both of this year’s Gold Cup and SheBelives Cup rosters, a spate of recent and recurring injuries means making it to the Olympics is still largely anyone’s game.

Broadcast and streaming channels for the USWNT's final July 16th friendly at Audi Field include TNT, truTV, Universo, Max, and Peacock.

Caitlin Clark’s WNBA start to serve as 2024 Olympic tryout

Clark of the Indiana Fever poses for a photo with Lin Dunn and Christie Sides during her introductory press conference on April 17, 2024
The talented Fever rookie is still in the running for a ticket to this summer's Paris Olympics. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The USA Basketball Women's National Team is still considering Caitlin Clark for a spot on the Paris Olympics squad, says selection committee chair Jennifer Rizzotti. 

On Monday, Rizzotti told the AP that the committee will be evaluating the college phenom’s Olympic prospects by keeping a close eye on her first few weeks of WNBA play with Indiana.

The move is somewhat unconventional. While Clark was invited to participate in the 14-player national team training camp held earlier this month — the last camp before Team USA’s roster drops — she was unable to attend due to it coinciding with Iowa’s trip to the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Judging by the immense talent spread throughout the league in what might be their most hyped season to date, competition for a piece of the Olympic pie could be fiercer than ever before.

"You always want to introduce new players into the pool whether it's for now or the future," said Rizzotti. "We stick to our principles of talent, obviously, positional fit, loyalty and experience. It's got to be a combination of an entire body of work. It's still not going to be fair to some people."

Of course, Clark isn’t the first rookie the committee has made exceptions for. Coming off an exceptional college season that saw her averaging 19.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game for UConn, Breanna Stewart was tapped to represent the U.S. at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil less than two weeks after being drafted No. 1 overall by the Seattle Storm. Eight years prior, fellow No. 1 pick Candace Parker punched her ticket to the 2008 Games in Beijing just two weeks after making her first appearance for the L.A. Sparks.

In the lead-up to Paris’ Opening Ceremony on July 26th, USA Basketball Women’s National Team is scheduled to play a pair of exhibition games. They'll first go up against the WNBA's finest at the July 20th WNBA All-Star Game in Phoenix before facing Germany in London on July 23rd.

While an official roster announcement date hasn’t yet been issued, players won’t find out if they’ve made this year’s Olympic cut until at least June 1st.

WNBA teams make history with 2024 season ticket sell-outs

Arike Ogunbowale on the wnba court for the dallas wings
The Dallas Wings are now the third team to sell out their entire season ticket allotment in WNBA history. (Michael Gonzales/NBAE via Getty Images)

For the first time in history, three different WNBA teams have completely sold out of season ticket plans well before the league's May 14th kick-off.

Call it the Caitlin Clark effect, attribute it to this year’s tenacious rookie class, or look to the skyrocketing visibility of veteran players across the board. But no matter the cause, facts are facts: Tickets to the 2024 WNBA season are selling like never before. 

On Monday, the Dallas Wings became the third team to sell out of season ticket memberships in the league’s 27-year history. The announcement from Arlington came shortly after the Atlanta Dream issued their own season ticket sell-out statement, also on Monday, and almost seven weeks after the back-to-back WNBA Champion Las Vegas Aces made headlines by becoming the first-ever WNBA team to sell out their season ticket allotment.   

According to the Wings, season ticket memberships will fill nearly 40% of the 6,251 seats inside their home arena, College Park Center. The club also said that their overall ticket revenue has ballooned to the tune of 220% this year, spanning not just season tickets but also a 1,200% increase in single ticket sales. There’s currently a waitlist to become a Dallas season ticket holder, a status that comes with extra incentives like playoff presale access and discounts on additional single-game tickets. 

In Atlanta, season tickets aren't the only thing flying off the shelves. The Dream also announced that they broke their own record for single-game ticket sales during a recent limited presale campaign. Sunday was reportedly their most lucrative day, with five different games totally selling out Gateway Center Arena. Individual tickets for all upcoming matchups will hit the market this Thursday at 8 a.m., while a waitlist for season ticket memberships will open up next Tuesday at 10 a.m.

"Excitement around women's sports, particularly basketball, is at an all-time high and nowhere is that felt more than here in Atlanta," Dream president and COO Morgan Shaw Parker said in the team’s statement. "We’ve continued a record-setting growth trajectory over the past three years under new ownership — both on and off the court — and 2024 is shaping up to be our best season yet."

As of Tuesday, season ticket sales revenue for Caitlin Clark’s hotly anticipated Indiana Fever debut haven’t yet been announced by the club. But if these numbers are any indication — not to mention the explosive demand for Fever away games felt by teams around the country — it won’t be long before we see some scale-tipping figures coming out of Indianapolis.

Nelly Korda ties LPGA record with fifth-straight tournament win

Nelly Korda of the United States celebrates with the trophy after winning The Chevron Championship
Nelly Korda poses with her trophy after acing her fifth-straight tour title at The Chevron Championship on Sunday. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

25-year-old American pro golfer Nelly Korda secured her spot in LPGA history on Sunday, notching her fifth-straight title at this weekend's Chevron Championship in The Woodlands, Texas.

Ranked No. 1 in the world by Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings, Korda joins Nancy Lopez (1978) and Annika Sörenstam (2005) as just the third LPGA player to rack up five consecutive tour wins. She is also the third No. 1-ranked player to capture The Chevron Championship victory since the rankings debuted in 2006, accompanied by Lorena Ochoa and Lydia Ko.

The Florida native shot three-under 69 in Sunday's final, besting Sweden's Maja Stark despite Stark's valiant come-from-behind attempt in the 18th. Korda finished with a four-day total of 13-under 275, celebrating her two-stroke win by cannonballing into Poppie's Pond, much to the crowd's delight. She left The Club at Carlton Woods with $1.2 million from an overall purse of $7.9 million.

It wasn't long ago that the two-time major champion's current winning streak seemed unimaginable. After maintaining her No. 1 position for 29 weeks, Korda underwent surgery to remove a blood clot from her left arm in 2022. She returned to the course not long after, but failed to win a single tournament in 2023 before seeing a surge in form during the first four months of 2024. As of today, she hasn't lost a tournament since January.

Korda will attempt a record sixth-straight win at next week's JM Eagle LA Championship at Wilshire Country Club in Los Angeles, where she'll vie for a cut of the $3.75 million purse.

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