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Three Things We Learned in Fawsl’s First Weekend Back

@CHELSEAFCW

Following their return from the international break, the FA Women’s Super League saw an exciting week of women’s football. It was a week of firsts — Sam Kerr notched her first hat trick for Chelsea, and Alex Morgan netted her first goal for Tottenham — while Manchester City cemented their status as a “Big Three” squad.

Below is a breakdown of everything we learned.

1) Sam Kerr is an elite goal-scorer, regardless of what league she is playing in 

One of the most prominent storylines from this past weekend was Sam Kerr’s performance in Chelsea’s match against West Ham United. The Australian bagged a hat trick in the contest, and has totaled six goals in seven matches for her squad this season. Though it took Kerr a while to get settled into the Women’s Super League upon her signing with Chelsea a little over a year ago, there is no question that she is a force on offense, no matter what league she is playing in.

Taking a look at Kerr’s playing history, she has been nothing short of an all-world striker in stints with the Chicago Red Stars, Sky Blue FC, and the Western New York Flash of the NWSL; the Australian national team; and Perth Glory FC. Her stats speak for themselves — most notably, Kerr netted 28 goals in 40 appearances for Sky Blue FC in only three seasons, 52 goals in 49 appearances for Perth Glory between 2014 and 2019, 11 goals in 26 appearances for the Australian national team, and a dazzling 35 goals in 43 matches for the Chicago Red Stars. In fact, Kerr still holds the record for the most goals scored by a player in an NWSL regular season and was named the NWSL league MVP in 2017 and 2019. She’s also the all-time leading goalscorer in both NWSL and W-League history.

Given her impressive past, it should come as no surprise that the 27-year-old superstar is making strides on offense for Chelsea. Following Saturday’s performance, Kerr said of her hat trick: “It’s my first hat-trick for the club so I’m really excited about that,” before politely deflecting credit to her fellow teammates. “It’s nice playing with players like Fran [Kirby], Pernille [Harder], and Bethany [England]. Every day in training we score goals like today.”

Many are calling Kerr’s hat trick “the first of many,” which is indicative of how far her reputation precedes her. Fans expect her to score goals, no matter the opponent. Sunday’s performance was further proof of Kerr’s consistency. From the NWSL, to the W-League, to the FAWSL, Kerr has made it apparent that she’s a threat to go off whenever she steps foot on the field.

2) Alex Morgan is starting to find her groove

Also marking the scoresheet this weekend was Alex Morgan, lifting Tottenham Hotspur to their first win (!) of the 2020/2021 season. Converting from the penalty spot, Morgan’s goal was her first for club or country since the birth of her daughter, sealing the dominant 3-1 win over Brighton & Hove Albion for her team. The goal also comes as a bit of sweet redemption, following a missed PK in a match prior that saw the USWNT star catch quite a bit of heat from English soccer fans.

After many near-scoring chances (including one in the recent USWNT friendly that was called offsides), Sunday’s goal was the breakthrough Morgan needed as she progresses in her playing career with Tottenham. As Doug McIntyre reported for Yahoo! Sports, the Spurs are unbeaten in the three matches that Morgan has appeared in, tying against Reading FC and Bristol City before finally adding a win this weekend. Following the victory, it looks as if the tables are finally starting to turn for the Spurs, as they advance to ninth place in the league over West Ham United, Aston Villa, and Bristol City.

Morgan was a member of the starting line-up during Sunday’s match and subsequently logged 85 minutes of playing time, the most she has played in a single match for Tottenham this season. The contest was Rehanne Skinner’s first match serving as Tottenham’s manager, and it seems that Skinner plans to utilize Morgan in ways that former managers Karen Hills and Juan Amoros did not — which may be just the opportunity that Morgan needs to continue getting settled in the UK.

3) Manchester City is worthy of their “Big Three” label

Last but certainly not least, we learned that Manchester City is worthy of their status as a “Big Three” team following a comfortable 3-0 win over Everton on Sunday. With the win, Manchester City edges closer to a top-three ranking in the table, leaping the vanquished Everton to move into fourth place. With plenty of matches left on the 2020/2021 season, a top-three finish is certainly in reach as City strives to move past prior inconsistencies and continues on their current trajectory.

During Sunday’s match, a trio of goals by Ellen White, Gemma Banner, and Janine Beckie went unanswered by Everton in the first half, and City’s solid defensive play held their opponent to only 9 shots throughout the entirety of the contest. Still not impressed? Consider that City’s stellar first half was carried out without the assistance of big-time contributors like Sam Mewis, Chloe Kelly, Georgia Stanway, and Alex Greenwood, all of whom entered the game as second-half substitutions.

While City’s performance against Everton is promising moving forward, their work is nowhere near complete as the squad takes on fellow “Big Three” opponent Arsenal next weekend. Arsenal, who defeated Birmingham City 3-0 in their most recent match, currently boasts a 6-1-1 record and holds second place in the table. For City to continue their climb up the FAWSL rankings, their upcoming contest against Arsenal is a must-win — so buckle up, because it looks like City is only beginning to dip into the talent their roster has to offer.

WHAT’S NEXT IN THE FAWSL:
December 9th:

Bristol City vs. Aston Villa @ 2:30 p.m. EST

December 13th:

Reading FC vs. Manchester United @ 7:30 a.m. EST

Brighton & Hove Albion vs. Chelsea @ 9:00 a.m. EST

Birmingham City vs. Everton @ 9:00 a.m. EST

Tottenham vs. Aston Villa @ 9:00 a.m. EST

Bristol City vs. West Ham United @ 9:00 a.m. EST

Manchester City vs. Arsenal @ 9:30 a.m. EST

Serena Williams is ‘super interested’ in owning a WNBA team

Serena Williams speaks on stage during keynote conversation at 2019 conference in San Jose, California
The tennis icon is all in on women's sports — and the WNBA is right on her heels. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/WireImage via Getty Images)

Could Serena Williams co-own a WNBA team in the near future? 

Speaking with CNN on Monday, Williams expressed her interest in that potential — as well as the mounting enthusiasm for women’s sports around the world. 

"I think women’s sport is having a moment that it should have always had," Williams said. "I feel like tennis has had its moment. It’s international, and it’s huge, and it’s always gonna be there.

"Now it’s time to lift up other sports — women’s soccer, women’s basketball — there’s so many other sports that women do so great, let’s put it on that platform. Women’s basketball is getting there, and it’s arrived."

When asked if she had any interest in adding a WNBA team to her roster of ownership stakes, the tennis great welcomed the idea. "I absolutely would be," Williams said. "With the right market, I would definitely be super interested in that."

"There is no risk — women’s sport is exciting," Williams added, citing the 2024 NCAA women's tournament's record-breaking viewership as evidence. "People are realizing that it is exciting to watch, so it's an overly safe bet."

Williams may not need to wait long to act on that bet. On Monday, WNBA Commissioner Cathy Engelbert said that she is "pretty confident" the league will expand to 16 teams — up from its current 12 — by 2028. 

The goal, she said, is to reach 14 by 2026. Oakland's Golden State is already on track to launch the league's 13th team in 2025. The move will mark the WNBA's first new franchise since the Atlanta Dream debuted in 2008.

"It's complex because you need the arena and practice facility and player housing and all the things," Engelbert said at a press conference before Monday's WNBA draft. "You need committed long-term ownership groups, and so the nice thing is we're getting a lot of calls."

Engelbert went on to name a few of the cities behind those calls, saying that the league continues to engage in discussions with Philadelphia, Toronto, Portland, Denver, and Nashville, as well as South Florida.

"These can either take a very long time to negotiate or it can happen pretty quickly if you find the right ownership group with the right arena situation," Engelbert added.

The Commissioner's 16 team goal is not only good news for WNBA fans, it's great news for current and future WNBA players. At 12 teams with just 12 roster spots each, the league is held to a total of 144 players for any given season. An abundance of fresh talent coming up through the NCAA ranks has put pressure on the organization to make room for more worthy competitors, and four additional teams might be just the ticket.

Hellen Obiri claims back-to-back Boston Marathon wins

Hellen Obiri, winner of the women's division of the Boston Marathon, poses with the Boston Marathon trophy
Hellen Obiri, winner of the 2024 Boston Marathon's women's division, poses with her trophy. (Photo by Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

Kenyan runner Hellen Obiri won the 128th Boston Marathon on Monday, becoming the first woman to claim back-to-back titles since 2005.

She clocked a total time of 2 hours, 27 minutes, and 37 seconds in a women's division that race organizers described as "historically fast."

"Defending the title was not easy," Obiri said. "Since Boston started, it's only six women [that have repeated]. If you want to be one of them, you have to work extra hard. And I'm so happy because I'm now one of them — I'm now in the history books."

A two-time Olympic silver medalist and two-time 5000m world champion, Obiri is a clear favorite in this summer’s Paris Olympics.

“Last year I was pretty familiar to the marathon, but this year my training was perfect — we trusted everything we were doing,” Obiri said. “When we won last year, of course I was saying I’m going to win this one. Winning is like love. It’s something precious to me.”

Though, she wasn’t without a challenge. Fellow Kenyan Sharon Lokedi finished a mere eight seconds behind Obiri. Edna Kiplagat, who won the 2017 Boston Marathon, completed the podium sweep for Kenya with a third place finish.

Emma Bates, the race's top American finisher, came in 12th.

Obiri wasn't alone in making Boston Marathon history this year. The repeat champ walked away with $150,000 in total prize money allocated from a purse that topped $1 million for the first time ever. 

College rivals Angel Reese, Kamilla Cardoso drafted to the Chicago Sky

Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso competing at the NCAA SEC Conference Tournament Championship
Once rivals, Angel Reese and Kamilla Cardoso are now teammates. (Jim Dedmon/USA TODAY Sports)

The Chicago Sky made a splash in Monday night’s WNBA draft, taking Kamilla Cardoso and Angel Reese in the first round. 

South Carolina’s Cardoso, who was the 2024 Final Four Most Outstanding Player, went third to the Sky. The day before, the team had swapped picks with the Minnesota Lynx to land the No. 7 pick as well, which they used on Reese, the 2023 Final Four MOP.

Now, the two will team up in Chicago after battling each other in both college and high school

"She’s a great player, and I’m a great player. Nobody's going to get no rebounds on us," Cardoso joked afterwards, while Reese expressed excitement about playing under new Sky head coach Teresa Weatherspoon.

"Being able to be a Black woman and as a head coach, and everything she's done at the NBA level, I just knew everything they were bringing to the table," Reese said of the Sky. "Player development is something that I was looking for and they looked for in me. I'm super excited for this move."

Former NBA star and Chicago Sky co-owner Dwayne Wade welcomed the pair to Chicago.

“The foundation is set,” he wrote.

The Sky have entered re-building mode after winning a WNBA title in 2021. This offseason, they traded franchise cornerstone Kahleah Copper to the Phoenix Mercury for a package that included the No. 3 picked used on Cardoso.

Now, Cardoso and Reese will be looking to jump-start the team's return to contention.

Watch: Iowa star Kate Martin’s draft moment goes viral

Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert after being drafted by the Las Vegas Aces during the 2024 WNBA Draft in New York
2nd-round pick Kate Martin poses with Cathy Engelbert Commissioner of the WNBA at the 2024 draft. (Photo by Catalina Fragoso/NBAE via Getty Images)

Former Iowa captain Kate Martin was in the audience during Monday night’s draft when she was selected 18th overall by the Las Vegas Aces. 

The moment quickly went viral, as Martin was in the crowd to support superstar teammate Caitlin Clark going No. 1 overall, and was not one of the 14 players invited to the draft.

"To be honest, I don't think I'd have the type of career if I don't have a teammate like Kate," Clark said about Martin leading up to the 2024 national championship game. "She's been one that has had my back. She holds me accountable. I hold her accountable. But I think at the same time, me and Kate are wired so similarly that we get each other on a different level."

Martin being drafted marks the first time that Iowa has had two players selected in the same WNBA draft since 1998.

“She's one of the best leaders I've been around," Clark said. "She wants the best for her teammates. She's one of the most selfless people."

Iowa coach Lisa Bluder said Monday that she is “so proud” of her player, “because her dreams came true.”

"She has been such a big part of our program over the last six years,” she said. “Her efforts did not go unnoticed by her peers. I wish Kate all the success with this next step.”

Martin said afterward that she’s “excited for the opportunity” and to showcase her “really good” work ethic. Helping Iowa to back-to-back NCAA title games, Martin finished her college career with 1,299 points, 756 rebounds and 473 assists.

“There are a lot of emotions right now,” Martin said in an interview on ESPN. “I’m really happy to be here. I was here to support Caitlin, but I was hoping to hear my name called. All I wanted was an opportunity and I got it. I’m really excited.”

While Martin was watching from the crowd, her family was watching from back home.

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