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USWNT World Cup player preview: Get to know Trinity Rodman

(Brad Smith/USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Plenty of new faces are heading Down Under with the U.S. women’s national team for the World Cup. Just Women’s Sports is taking a look at a few of the newcomers and introducing them to fans new and old.

Trinity Rodman

Age: 21 years old
Position: Forward
USWNT debut: February 17, 2022 vs. Czech Republic
Total caps: 18

How has she looked in her NWSL season?

The 2021 NWSL Rookie of the Year, Rodman has not slowed down in her third club season. She has four goals and two assists through 13 appearances for the Washington Spirit, who sit just two points out of first place at the World Cup break. She also has had 43 successful take-ons, which is tied for the league lead.

In the last year, she has averaged 1.07 interceptions per 90 minutes, as well as 2.01 blocks and 2.06 aerials won, high marks for a forward and evidence of her skill in gaining possession for her team.

What does she bring to the USWNT?

Quite simply? Goal-scoring. She made that obvious in the USWNT’s 2-0 win against Wales on July 9, becoming the youngest USWNT player to score a brace.

While the broadcast described her as a “15-minute player” when she came into the World Cup send-off match as a substitute, she made an immediate impact on the run of play. Almost instantly, the USWNT started creating solid chances, which Rodman converted — twice.

“I think Trinity came in and had a task to fulfill,” head coach Vlatko Andonovski said after the game. “She was one of the players that went in but had a task to raise the pace and raise the tempo a little bit and we saw that changed dramatically. … The second goal, I think that’s a world class goal.”

The World Cup first-timer brings a take-no-prisoners mindset that should prove dangerous for opposing teams. The absence of Mallory Swanson due to injury leaves the USWNT in search of a player to provide the extra grit that made Swanson stand out. Rodman could fill that hole.

“My expectations are that we’re the most ruthless team, we’re never going to give up and we’re going to get the title,” she told ESPN’s “Fútbol Americas.”

Rodman made her USWNT debut in 2022, but since then she has 18 international appearances and four goals to her name. Expect more explosiveness and power from the young star, who could very well be a starter when the USWNT takes the pitch for its World Cup opener against Vietnam.

What have USWNT and NWSL coaches and teammates said about Rodman?

Alex Morgan, forward: “I mean, you look at Trinity Rodman, Sophia Smith, Naomi Girma — like, those are just a couple of the players that have already shown that they belong and will be here for many, many years. So it’s exciting to see what they can do in a world Cup and how they can really be a huge factor in us being successful this summer.”

Vlatko Andonovski, head coach: “Ever since she came in the league, we could see the energy and the creativity and the intensity that she brings. I feel like every time when she gets the ball, it’s almost like there is a little expectation of, something will happen, something will transpire off of it.”

Becky Sauerbrunn, defender: “She’s a special player and her ability to create chances is truly a gift. I think she has a bright career in front of her.”

Mark Parsons, Washington Spirit head coach: “Trin has had a lot of expectation. I also disagree with that, and I think that’s unfair. I think that this is a 21-year-old that things are coming thick and fast. She’s taken everything in her stride. I think she’s doing a wonderful job at trying to stay focused on what is most important, which is being a good person, being a good teammate and developing as a soccer player.

“With Trin, she defends and chases and runs and sprints and presses people like no one else. She knows how to beat people 1 v. 1 and run in behind and finish and create goals. They’re the things that make her special.”

Casey Stoney, San Diego Wave head coach: “Trinity Rodman is probably one of the hardest-working forwards I’ve ever seen live. Obviously she’s got pace, she’s got ability to run with the ball. But she tracks back. That woman works hard.

Rose Lavelle hoping to return to play ‘in the next couple of weeks’

uswnt midfielder rose lavalle trains on a soccer field in florida
When healthy, Rose Lavelle is a trusted asset in the USWNT's midfield. (Megan Briggs/Getty Images)

Rose Lavelle is hoping to return to the field soon. 

The 28-year-old midfielder has been sidelined with a lower leg injury since the Gold Cup in early march. Since then, she has yet to play for new club Gotham FC in the NWSL. She also missed a potential USWNT appearance at the SheBelieves Cup in April, where senior team newcomer Jaedyn Shaw saw success assuming Lavelle's role in the attacking midfield. 

At the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee media showcase on Monday, Lavelle told reporters that she’s doing well and hopes to be back soon.

"I’m doing good — I’m hoping I’ll be back in the next couple weeks," Lavelle said. "It’s frustrating to start the year off with an injury, just because I feel like you come off preseason and you’re revving to go, so it’s so annoying."

Lavelle is still looking to compete for one of just 18 Olympic roster spots. When healthy, she ranks as one of the national team’s most trusted assets, but considering this most recent injury, her health is an obvious concern. Faced with an onslaught of experienced competitors and young talent, incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes will have some big decisions to make when selecting the Paris-bound squad — a reality Lavelle seems to be taking in stride as she works to regain full fitness.

"We have so many special players, we have so much depth, and so many different weapons to utilize on and off the bench," Lavelle said. "Unfortunately that means really good players are going to get left off, too. And I think for all of us, it’s just about being ready for whatever role is given to us, embracing that, and looking to put it into a collective picture so that we can go into the Olympics ready to go."

Kate Paye tapped to take VanDerveer’s place at Stanford

new stanford head coach kate paye spins a basketball on the court
Stanford associate head coach Kate Paye has officially been promoted to head women's basketball coach. (Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports)

Stanford has found its replacement for legendary head women's basketball coach Tara VanDerveer in associate head coach Kate Paye.

The Cardinal confirmed the hiring on Tuesday via a press release. Paye was largely expected to replace the longtime head coach, as the college mentioned they were still negotiating Paye's contract when they announced VanDerveer's retirement.

In Tuesday's statement, Paye reported that she was "humbled" to have been tapped to lead the women’s program.

"Stanford University has been a central part of my life for as long as I can remember and I am humbled to have the opportunity to lead its women’s basketball program," Paye said. "I’d first like to thank Tara, who has played such a pivotal role in my career for her friendship and guidance. It’s not what she’s done, but how she’s done it, that has had such a profound impact upon me."

A Woodside, California native, Paye played under VanDerveer from 1992 to 1995, taking home a national title her freshman year. After graduation, Paye briefly joined San Diego State as an assistant coach before making her professional debut with the ABL's Seattle Reign in 1996. After finishing her playing career with the WNBA's Seattle Storm, she joined the team’s coaching staff in 2007 and has been with the organization ever since, picking up another national title win — this time as associate head coach — in 2021. Paye's brother John played quarterback for Stanford from 1983 to 1986, while also serving as a point guard on the basketball team.

In her own response, VanDerveer said that she was "grateful" that Stanford picked Paye to follow in her stead. Last week, the decorated coach stated that this year would be her last after 38 seasons at the helm and three national titles under her belt.

"She has long been ready for this opportunity and is the perfect leader for Stanford at this time of immense change in college athletics," VanDerveer noted. "Kate was the choice for this job and I am confident she will achieve great success as head coach."

After a record-breaking Draft Night, WNBA roster cuts loom

2023 WNBA no. 1 draft pick Aliyah Boston playing for the indiana fever
Despite going No. 1 overall in the 2023 WNBA Draft, Aliyah Boston had to fight hard to make it onto Indiana's roster. (Gary Dineen/NBAE via Getty Images)

The 2024 WNBA Draft has officially concluded, leaving the newly minted rookie class facing a tough road ahead.

Only 144 roster slots are available throughout the league’s 12 teams, the reason why the players are sometimes referred to as the “144.” And Monday’s draft picks are set to join a large group of established players competing for those same roster spots, from seasoned veterans to young athletes determined to prove their value on the court.

Last year, just 15 of the league’s 36 draftees made it onto their drafting team's opening-day squad.

In reality, there are oftentimes fewer than 144 spots available, as not every team maxes out their roster. Per the league's CBA, each team roster must maintain a minimum standard of 11 players, but those lists can include players out with injuries or on other forms of leave. Players can also be assigned to short-term hardship contracts, something waived players must be prepared for at any point during the season.

Earlier this week, Laeticia Amihere — a 2022 national champion with South Carolina who currently plays for the Atlanta Dream — took to TikTok to provide some insight into the WNBA training camp process. 

"You can either get drafted on Draft Night, or you can get signed by a team," she said. "Once that happens, you go to training camp literally like two weeks later... Basically everybody's got to try out. There's 12 roster spots, and there's like 18 people at the at the trial."

@laeticiaamihere Replying to @dantavius.washington #wnba #draft ♬ original sound - Laeticia Amihere

Amihere also had an important point to make: Getting cut does not signify a player’s abilities. 

"If you get cut after training camp, that does not mean you're not good," she said. "That does not mean that player sucks, don't stop supporting that player. Literally, there's so many reasons somebody can get cut."

"If you guys look at the best players in the league, most of them have bounced around teams," she added. "And I promise you it is not a bad thing, it's just how the league is."

Things, however gradually, are changing. With Golden State's WNBA team scheduled to launch in time for the 2025 season, league expansion is just around the corner. On Monday, Commissioner Cathy Engelbert announced that the league is aiming to grow to 16 teams by 2028. But by then, it might be too little too late for the generation of talent emerging from an increasingly competitive NCAA system.

WNBA draft shatters records with 2.45 million viewers

wide shot of BAM during the 2024 WNBA Draft
It wasn't just attendees that were glued to the on-stage action at the 2024 WNBA Draft. (Photo by Melanie Fidler/NBAE via Getty Images)

Monday night’s WNBA draft added to the nationwide uptick in record-breaking women's sports viewership, pulling in 2.45 million viewers throughout the nearly two-hour broadcast and peaking at 3.09 million, according to an ESPN release. 

That number shatters the previous draft viewership record — 601,000 in 2004 — which was fueled primarily by then-No. 1 pick Diana Taurasi entering the league after UConn's historic three-peat March Madness performance.  

The 2023 WNBA draft drew 572,000 viewers, the most for any televised WNBA event since 2.74 million tuned in to NBC for a Memorial Day matchup between the New York Liberty and Houston Comets back in 2000.

While many came to watch Caitlin Clark get drafted No. 1 overall, it’s important to note that viewership didn’t take a massive dip after the superstar shooter left the stage. The numbers show that a bulk of the audience stuck around to watch the remainder of the show, making 2024's event not just the most-viewed WNBA draft in history, but also the most-viewed WNBA program to ever air on ESPN platforms.

Draft Day's popularity is yet another sign indicating an expected rise in WNBA regular season viewership. Clark and Iowa's NCAA tournament showdown with the Chicago Sky-bound Kamilla Cardoso's South Carolina side drew a record 18.7 million to ABC's Sunday afternoon broadcast. Banking on this trend, 36 of Indiana's upcoming 40 games are set to be shown on national television. In-person ticket sales are also soaring, leading the defending WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces to re-home their matchup with the Fever to a venue that can accommodate some 6,000 more fans.

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