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Trinity Rodman receives red card as Spirit miss out on playoffs

Trinity Rodman finished the NWSL regular season with five goals. (Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports)

The Washington Spirit were dealt two crushing blows on NWSL Decision Day.

First, star forward Trinity Rodman received a red card in the club’s regular-season finale against the North Carolina Courage. Then, moments later, Courage forward Tyler Lussi scored what would be the only goal in the 1-0 decision, ending the Spirit’s postseason hopes.

Rodman initially was given a yellow card after tripping North Carolina’s Denise O’Sullivan from behind, but after a VAR review it was elevated to a red card. As a result, Rodman exited the match in the 23rd minute, and the 21-year-old also would have been unavailable for the Spirit’s first game in the 2023 NWSL playoffs. Rodman broke out into tears after the referee showed her the red card.

The twin disappointments marked the end of what had been an encouraging stretch for Rodman: She scored two goals for the U.S. women’s national team in friendly matches in late September, and then scored the game-winning goal in the Spirit’s 2-1 win over the Kansas City Current on Oct. 1.

That the burst came after Rodman went scoreless at the 2023 World Cup was an encouraging sign for the up-and-coming star.

“I do feel like there was a type of freedom. I don’t know where that came from,” she told Uproxx about the USWNT’s September camp. “The World Cup obviously didn’t end the way we wanted it to, but I do think it was a learning experience for everybody. … I think this camp there was a lot more trust, communication and just willingness to play for each other. And if things weren’t going right, we fixed it really fast.”

The Spirit played the OL Reign to a 0-0 draw on Oct. 6, setting up the playoff-deciding matchup Sunday with the Courage. After Rodman’s penalty, which appeared to be an accident, the Spirit let down their guard, and Lussi and the Courage capitalized.With the win, North Carolina clinched a postseason berth, setting up a quarterfinal clash with Gotham FC.

Dash winger Maria Sanchez confirms trade request a day shy of NWSL deadline

María Sanchez of Houston Dash during a NWSL game
In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the club worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images)

Maria Sanchez issued a statement on Thursday, confirming recent reports that she has requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

In it, she revealed that the club has been aware of the request "since late March."

"This has all taken a toll and isn’t an easy thing to talk about, but I want to confirm that I’ve requested an immediate trade," she wrote. "My expectations and reasons have been clear. I trust that my current club’s management will honor my decision in a timely manner and proceed with accepting a trade."

"I’m eager to refocus and dive back into what I love most: playing football," she concluded.

Reports of Sanchez's trade request first surfaced on ESPN last week, and were later confirmed by multiple sources. 

In December of last year, Sanchez signed a three-year contract with the Dash valued at $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. It was the largest contract in NWSL history at the time — a figure that would be eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

Sanchez spent the offseason as a restricted free agent, meaning that Houston could match any other team's offer to retain her rights. Should the Dash trade Sanchez, her current contract terms would remain intact, limiting potential buyers to teams able to afford to take on an inking of that size.

The Dash has yet to address the trade, instead reiterating to ESPN that Sanchez is "under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close tonight, April 19th, at 12 a.m. ET. The window will stay closed through the next 11 regular season games, reopening on August 1st, 2024.

Seattle Storm debut state-of-the-art $64 million practice facility

Jewell Loyd #24 of the Seattle Storm during warms up during practice on July 11, 2020 at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida
Jewell Loyd, seen here practicing at Florida's IMG Academy, and her team are in for a major upgrade this season. (Photo by Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images)

The four-time league champion Seattle Storm unveiled their new practice facility on Thursday, with Storm co-owner Lisa Brummel dubbing Interbay's Seattle Storm Center for Basketball Performance the team’s "new home."

"It's just such a special space," Brummel told Fox 13 Seattle. "I think when the players get here, it's gonna be overwhelming."

The sprawling 50,000-square-foot, $64 million property is just the second designated practice facility to be designed and built expressly for a WNBA team, with the Storm further noting that 85% of all design and engineering team members involved in the project's construction were women and people of color. The finished product holds two professional indoor courts, two 3x3 outdoor courts, a state-of-the-art locker room, and players' lounge, plus designated areas for strength and conditioning, kitchen, dining, and nutrition, and recovery. 

"This facility reflects our commitment to providing our athletes an exceptional environment that supports their growth, health, and performance," said Storm co-owner Ginny Gilder in an official team release. "It’s built for women, by women, embodying our dedication to leading the way in professional women’s sports."

For their part, the team can't wait to make the faciilty their own.

"It's amazing," Storm guard Jewell Loyd told Fox 13. "Not having to drive everywhere around, knowing you have access anytime of the day to get into the gym, to workout." 

Head coach Noelle Quinn said she predicts the team is "never going to leave this building."

"Which is a good thing for me," she continued. "You talk about having an edge in performance. We want our athletes to not only perform on the court, but get whatever they need."

All of the Storm's staff and operations will now live under one roof, and the team also has plans to launch a youth basketball program operating out of the building.

Mystics relocate game to accommodate Caitlin Clark fans

Maya Caldwell, Erica Wheeler, and Lexie Hull of the Indiana Fever celebrate Caitlin Clark
Get ready — Caitlin Clark is coming to town. (Photo by Ron Hoskins/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Caitlin Clark effect is quickly making its mark on the big leagues, as WNBA host teams around the country rush to upgrade their Fever games to larger arenas in order to accommodate surging ticket sales.

With Clark mere weeks away from her Indiana Fever debut, both the Las Vegas Aces and Washington Mystics have officially relocated their scheduled home games with head coach Christie Sides' squad. On Thursday, the Mystics became the latest to adjust their plans, moving their June 7th matchup from Entertainment & Sports Arena in Southwest DC to the more centrally located — and much larger — Capital One Arena "due to unprecedented demand."

The Mystics home court's capacity taps out at 4,200, while Capital One Arena — home to the Wizards, Capitals, and Georgetown Hoya's Men's Basketball — can fit nearly five times that crowd at some 20,000 spectators.

"The move to Capital One Arena will allow for additional fans in the stands as well as premium hospitality options, including Suites and the all-new all-inclusive courtside Hennessy Lofts," the team announced via Thursday's press release.

The Aces were one of the first teams to switch venues, aiming to take on the Indiana Fever in front of as many as 20,000 fans inside T-Mobile Arena on July 2nd. That’s a sizable a boost from their home venue, which holds just 12,000.

For those still planning to face the Fever in their home arenas, ticket prices have skyrocketed. Previously scheduled construction has already forced the LA Sparks to relocate their first five games — including their May 24th clash with the Fever — to Long Beach State's Walter Pyramid. The temporary venue is quite the downsize, holding just 4,000 in comparison to Crypto.com Arena's near-19,000. As of Friday, the get-in price for that game started around $400.

Despite fans launching a Change.org petition urging relocation, the Chicago Sky say they're unable to move their June 23rd Fever meeting from Wintrust Arena's 10,000-seat facility to the 23,500-seat United Center due to a concert. Tickets for that game start around $325 as of Friday.

Hailey Van Lith reportedly headed to TCU

LSU Tiger Hailey Van Lith shoots against the UCLA Bruins at the 2024 NCAA Sweet 16
After just one season as a Tiger, Van Lith has reportedly set her sights on Fort Worth. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Hailey Van Lith is reportedly on her way to TCU, says Talia Goodman of The Next Hoops.

The former Louisville star joined LSU for the 2023-24 season, but a disappointing run in Baton Rouge saw her enter the transfer portal once again at the season’s end. Van Lith opted to use her fifth year of eligibility versus declaring for the WNBA draft.

Van Lith was admittedly less effective as a Tiger. Her field goal percentage decreased from .411 in 2022-23 with Louisville to .388 at LSU. She also went from averaging 19.7 points per game to just 11.6, due in part to a change of position from shooting guard to more of a point guard role.

At an end-of-season banquet last week, LSU coach Kim Mulkey used her speech to wish Van Lith well, calling her "one of the hardest working players that I’ve ever coached."

"Her aspirations were to get drafted this year," Mulkey said, according to NOLA.com. "And she realized, 'I need another year, and I need to go back to a place where I can relax and get back to my normal position.'

"And what do you do? You hug her, and you wish her well."

The decision to commit to TCU may come as a surprise after Van Lith paid a visit to Mississippi State last weekend. The Horned Frogs finished out the 2023-24 season 21-12 overall, coming in 9th in the Big 12 and scoring an average of 69.5 points per game. The program also made headlines in January when they held mid-season open tryouts in response to an onslaught of sidelining injuries.

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