All Scores

The top 21 women’s sports moments from 2021

LOUISVILLE, KENTUCKY – NOVEMBER 20: Kelley O’Hara #5 of Washington Spirit celebrates after scoring during extra time against Chicago Red Stars during the NWSL Championship held at Lynn Family Stadium on November 20, 2021 in Louisville, Kentucky. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

From Carli Lloyd hanging up her cleats to Allyson Felix shattering records to Emma Raducanu announcing herself to the world, 2021 was a defining year for women’s sports.

As the year comes to a close, we’re looking back at the decisive moments from a banner 12 months that included NCAA championships, the Olympics and a landmark NWSL season.

Here are the top 21 women’s sports moments from 2021:

1. Stanford wins NCAA basketball tournament

Stanford won its first National Championship since 1992 and the third title in school history, defeating Arizona 54-53 back in April. The thrilling final capped off a record-breaking season for the Cardinal, with coach Tara VanDerveer passing Pat Summit as the winningest head coach in DI women’s basketball history. With 4.08 million viewers tuned in to ESPN for the championship, Stanford and Arizona’s nail-bitter marked the most-matched title game since 2014.

2. Odicci Alexander’s WCWS stand

James Madison’s Odicci Alexander burst onto the scene over the summer, leading her school to an unlikely Women’s College World Series run in June. The star pitcher threw 1,057 pitches, recording a staggering 66 strikeouts in leading James Madison to the semifinals, the first unranked team to do so in WCWS history. James Madison’s historic run included a massive first-round upset against No. 1 Oklahoma, capturing national attention and catapulting Alexander to softball fame.

3. Ash Barty wins Wimbledon

Ash Barty made history in July, becoming the first Australian woman to win Wimbledon since Evonne Goolagong Cawley in 1980. The world No. 1 defeated Karolina Pliskova 6-3, 6-7 (4), 6-3 to capture her second Grand Slam title.

4. Sha’Carri Richardson bursts onto the scene

Sha’Carri Richardson sprinted into track and field celebrity over the summer when she clocked a winning time of 10.86 seconds in the 100m final at the U.S. Olympic Track and Field Trials in June. Her first-place finish was later disqualified when it was found out that Richardson tested positive for marijuana, bouncing her from the Olympics with a one-month suspension. The ordeal followed the passing of Richardson’s biological mother and spurred a conversation about mental health and rules banning marijuana that many now deem outdated. Despite not racing in Tokyo, Richardson was one of the breakout athletes of the year.

5. Simone Biles rewrites the script

Simone Biles shocked the world when she withdrew from the gymnastics team all-around event at the Tokyo Olympics after being overcome by the dreaded “twisties.” The gymnastics icon went on to pull out of the individual all-around, vault and uneven bars. Biles’s prioritization of her health was a rare and welcome change, instigating a conversation about mental health in sport. Naomi Osaka also contributed to the broader conversation on mental wellbeing when she withdrew from several events on tour. After a trying year of isolation and loss, athletes advocating for mental health offered a timely shift in the cultural perspective.

6. Suni Lee wins gold

American gymnast Suni Lee stepped into the spotlight when Biles stepped back from the individual all-around event in Tokyo. The 18-year-old dazzled audiences, beating out her competition with a score of 57.433 to capture gold in gymnastics’ most recognized event. Lee’s Olympic title also made her the first Hmong American gymnast to win an individual gold medal.

7. Allyson Felix cements her legacy

Allyson Felix became the most decorated track and field athlete of all time after winning a bronze medal in the 400m and gold in the 4×400-meter relay in Tokyo. The five-time Olympian surpassed a record set by Carl Lewis, increasing her medal count to 11, the most of any American track and field athlete to date. At 35 years old, Felix’s accomplishment is made more impressive by the fact that she gave birth to her daughter in 2018, between her last two Olympic campaigns.

8. Ariarne Titmus upends Katie Ledecky

Ariarne Titmus swam her way to the top of the podium in Tokyo, dethroning American swimming star Katie Ledecky in the process. The Australian swimmer captured gold in the 400m freestyle, becoming the first athlete to beat Ledecky in an individual Olympic event. Titmus also took home a gold in the 200m freestyle, capping off a breakout Summer Games. The now 21-year-old’s incredible performance captured international attention, but perhaps no one was as excited as her coach Dean Boxall, who went viral for his celebration following Titmus’s 400m victory.

9. April Ross & Alix Klineman dominate the beach

April Ross and Alix Klineman, or “the A-Team” as the duo is lovingly called, dominated the beach volleyball competition to capture gold in Tokyo. The Olympic title completed Ross’s trifecta, as she won silver and gold in her two previous Games. Klineman had a very different path to Tokyo, only partnering with Ross starting in 2017 and with less than a year of beach volleyball experience. Now, the pair are beach volleyball royalty.

10. Carissa Moore wins surfing gold

Carissa Moore added to her growing trophy cabinet, clinching the first-ever surfing Olympic gold medal during the Summer Games. The Team USA surfer followed up her podium-topping performance in Tokyo with her fifth WSL title, solidifying herself as a legend in the sport.

11. Nelly Korda caps golden year

Nelly Korda had a landmark 2021, becoming the first golfer to win Olympic gold and a major championship in the same year. The 23-year-old tapped in a four-foot putt to capture gold on the Kasumigaseki Country Club’s 18th hole before being embraced by sister Jessica in what was a historic moment for the Korda family, Team USA and the sport of golf.

12. Christine Sinclair wins elusive Olympic gold

Christine Sinclair is already a bona fide soccer legend. At 38 years old, she has the most international goals of all active players with 188 and has won just about every award there is to win in the sport. An Olympic gold, however, had always eluded the Canadian superstar, until this summer, when Sinclair and Canada downed Sweden in a thrilling PK shootout to win gold after defeating the USWNT on their path to victory.

13. Cat Osterman retires (again)

Cat Osterman hung up her cleats for good this year after coming out of retirement for the Tokyo Olympics. The American pitcher helped Team USA to a silver medal and officially closed out her historic career with a successful Athletes Unlimited season, coming second in strikeouts after winning the league’s inaugural season in 2020. On top of an Athletes Unlimited title, Osterman leaves the sport with two Olympic silver medals and a gold, and is widely considered one of the best pitchers in softball history.

14. Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi do it again

The Team USA basketball dynasty continued in 2021, with the Tokyo squad winning the program’s seventh straight gold during the Summer Olympic Games. Legends Sue Bird and Diana Taurasi made their own history in Tokyo, becoming the first basketball players to win five Olympic gold medals. After the team’s 90-75 victory over Japan, Bird talked about the next generation of players carrying the Team USA torch in the future, while Taurasi signed off the interview by saying, “see you in Paris.” It might have only been a joke about the 2024 Olympics in France, but we’re not counting either GOAT out yet.

15. Trinity Rodman’s grand debut

Trinity Rodman fielded one of the most compelling rookie seasons in NWSL history, finishing the season with seven goals and seven assists. The youngest player drafted in NWSL history, the 18-year-old ran away with the NWSL’s Rookie of the Year race while also helping lead the Washington Spirit to their first-ever NWSL Championship. Sharing the pitch with some of the best in the game, Rodman was perhaps the most impactful player in the final against the Chicago Red Stars, registering the game-winning assist.

16. Emma Raducanu wins the US Open

This year’s US Open was one for the history books, featuring an all-teenage final between two previously unknowns: Canada’s Leylah Fernandez and England’s Emma Raducanu. The 18-year-old Raducanu pulled out the win over Fernandez, clinching the Grand Slam without ever dropping a set, the first person to do so since 2014. The Englishwoman was also the first qualifier ever to capture the US Open title and the first British woman to win a Grand Slam in 44 years. Raducanu’s meteoric rise catapulted her to international fame, as the rookie firmly planted herself at the fore of tennis’ next generation.

17. Shalane Flanagan’s marathon of marathons

Shalane Flanagan crossed the finish line at the New York City Marathon with a time of 2:33:32, completing her goal of running six marathons in six weeks. The 2017 NYC Marathon winner completed the Berlin, Boston, London, Tokyo (remote), Chicago and New York Marathons, running each of them in under three hours. The 40-year-old, now retired from professional running, celebrated the self-imposed project by cheering USWNT icon and fellow NYC Marathon participant Abby Wambach at the race’s finish line.

18. Candace Parker brings WNBA title to Chicago

Candace Parker had a 2021 to remember, winning a WNBA Championship with her hometown team, the Chicago Sky, in her first year with the squad. Parker led the Sky in an unlikely title run, clinching the league championship after entering the playoffs as the No. 6 seed. With help from Finals MVP Kahleah Copper and seasoned veterans Allie Quigley and Courtney Vandersloot, Parker clinched her second WNBA title and Chicago’s first championship in franchise history. Later, Parker announced her marriage to Anya Petrakova, with the couple expecting their first child together. Did anyone have a better 2021?

19. The NWSL’s moment of solidarity

The NWSL underwent a league-wide reckoning in 2021 after multiple players went public with a series of accusations of abuse and misconduct against several prominent coaches. A bombshell report in The Athletic rocked the league, with former players Mana Shim and Sinead Farrelly going on the record with claims of sexual coercion and abuse against former North Carolina coach Paul Riley. The story spurred a sequence of events, including NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird stepping down from her position and the players taking a weekend off from competition. When the athletes returned, they paused at the sixth minute of their matches to recognize the years of silence both Shim and Farrelly endured. A list of demands accompanied the move, instigating an international and ongoing conversation on players’ rights and safety. Needless to say, the league will never be the same.

20. Carli Lloyd’s Philly send-off

Carli Lloyd received a sendoff fit for her historic career after the 39-year-old icon announced she would retire at the end of the NWSL season. Before Lloyd hung up her cleats, her hometown fans got one final chance to watch her play in Subaru Park in Philadelphia after Gotham FC organized a farewell match. The USWNT legend was given a proper salute from nearly 10,000 fans, delivering an emotional farewell speech after the game.

21. Washington Spirit win NWSL title

The Washington Spirit captured the team’s first NWSL Championship in franchise history in November after a rollercoaster season. On the pitch, the team persevered despite several off-field controversies, including former coach Richie Burke’s being fired following reports of abuse, an ongoing public dispute between owners, and two forced forfeits due to a violation of COVID protocols. The Spirit weathered the storm to end their season on a seven-game win streak, including a thrilling 2-1 victory over Chicago in the NWSL final.

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.

Start your morning off right with Just Women’s Sports’ free, 5x-a-week newsletter.