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Westminster Christian volleyball begins push for elusive state title

Westminster Christian (Fla.) is off to a 22-0 start to the season that has now stretched into the playoffs. (Photo courtesy of Julie Doan)

Westminster Christian (Fla.) volleyball has advanced to the state championship the last three seasons, but each time came up just short of a title. The Warriors hope this year brings a different result.

Already, the Warriors have turned heads with a win over No. 2 Cornerstone Christian, part of an unbeaten start to the season that has now stretched into postseason play. The Warriors knocked off a fellow unbeaten, Boca Raton, in their regular-season finale before opening the district tournament with a straight-set victory to improve to 22-0.

An undefeated start to the season is nothing new for Westminster Christian. The Warriors won their first 22 matches in 2020 before losing in the state final, but if the Warriors complete an unbeaten season, it would be a first for the program.

The prize the team truly craves, though, is a state title, which would be the school’s first since 2016. As it stands now, the Warriors are just one win from another district title, the first step toward capturing the state crown.

Behind this 22-match winning streak, filled with dominant performances and just three set losses all season, the Warriors are a fixture in the Just Women’s Sports volleyball team rankings, moving up one spot this week to No. 5.

Check out the complete rankings below, and click here to view last week’s rankings.

1. Cathedral Catholic (Calif.), 34-0

The Dons still have not dropped a set and have just one more regular-season match remaining before postseason play begins.

2. Cornerstone Christian (Texas), 55-2

Iowa State commit Nayeli Gonzalez racked up 15 kills in a sweep Tuesday to push her season total to 573.

3. McCutcheon (Ind.), 32-1

The Mavericks cruised to a sectional title, winning all three playoff matches in straight sets, and will compete for a regional title this Saturday.

4. Mira Costa (Calif.), 34-3

The Mustangs capped the regular season with a win over Redondo Union and opened the playoffs with a sweep of 28-win Lakewood.

5. Westminster Christian (Fla.), 22-0

The Warriors face Ransom Everglades in the Class 3A-District 15 championship Friday.

6. Washburn Rural (Kan.), 38-1

The Blues pushed their winning streak to 37 matches, winning six this weekend to claim the Emporia Tournament title. Kentucky commit Brooklyn DeLeye, the No. 6 recruit in the nation, surpassed 2,000 career kills in the process.

7. Prestonwood Christian (Texas), 33-1

The Lions notched two more victories this past week, and Macaria Spears racked up 31 combined kills for a team-leading 434 this season.

8. Bloomfield Hills Marian (Mich.), 35-1

Without Miss Volleyball finalist Ella Schomer and senior Reagan Sass, the Mustangs lost in the Beast of the East championship, their first defeat since September 2021.

9. Highland Park (Texas), 37-2

During their 15-match winning streak, the Scots have dropped just one set.

10. Marymount (Calif.), 30-6

The Sailors opened sectional pool play with a sweep of Huntington Beach.

11. Fayetteville (Ark.), 32-2

In a pair of straight-set wins this past week, Brooke Rockwell had a combined 32 kills, Madeline Lafata added 25 kills, Kennedy Phelan racked up 62 assists and 23 digs, and Ashley Ruff contributed 31 digs.

12. Hamilton Southeastern (Ind.), 30-1

The Royals reeled off three straight-set wins to claim a sectional title, with a potential regional final matchup against No. 3 McCutcheon looming this Saturday.

13. Tompkins (Texas), 34-3

The Falcons’ winning streak has reached 14 with just two regular-season matches remaining.

14. Sierra Canyon (Calif.), 30-4

The Trailblazers opened sectional pool play by beating Newport Harbor in straight sets, with a matchup against Marymount looming ahead.

15. Oconomowoc (Wis.), 34-1

Lilly Wagner dished out 30 assists, and Cordelia Kearns and Marlee Sivak both had 10 kills, as the Raccoons cruised to a straight-set victory in their regular-season finale.

16. Cypress Ranch (Texas), 39-2

The Mustangs have won 23 consecutive matches, dating back to an August defeat to No. 2 Cornerstone Christian.

17. St. Thomas Aquinas (Kan.), 33-2

Alea Goolsby notched 11 kills and Kelsey Schenck contributed 21 assists, as the Saints ended the regular season with a sweep of Olathe Northwest, which finished third in Class 6A last season.

18. Mother McAuley (Ill.), 32-3

A loss to Barrington in the semifinals of Glenbard East’s Autumnfest tournament resigned the Mighty Macs to a third-place finish.

19. Yorktown (Ind.), 31-2

The Tigers’ reward for winning their sectional is a regional semifinal matchup against 26-win Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory, one of the two teams to beat Yorktown this season.

20. ‘Iolani (Hawaii), 22-5

The Raiders beat rival Punahou twice to win the ILH Tournament and now have over a week off before the state tournament begins.

21. Dike-New Hartford (Iowa), 41-2

The Wolverines opened postseason play with a sweep to push their winning streak to 18 matches.

22. Mater Dei (Calif.), 28-7

The Monarchs opened sectional pool play with a four-set win over 19-win Palos Verdes, and they have a matchup against Mira Costa on the horizon.

23. Buford (Ga.), 34-5

State champions in Class 6A last season, the Wolves moved up to 7A this season and remain state title contenders, sweeping their first playoff match Tuesday.

24. Saint Francis (Calif.), 26-0

The Lancers have dropped just three sets all season after losing 12 matches last year.

25. St. James Academy, (Kan.), 31-3

The Thunder enter the postseason on a six-match winning streak but are in the same sub-state as No. 17 St. Thomas Aquinas.

Phillip Suitts is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports. He has worked at a variety of outlets, including The Palm Beach Post and Southeast Missourian, and done a little bit of everything from reporting to editing to running social media accounts. He was born in Atlanta but currently lives in wintry Philadelphia. Follow Phillip on Twitter @PhillipSuitts.

Sofia Huerta signs contract extension with Seattle through 2027

(Daniel Bartel-USA TODAY Sports)

Former Oregon soccer players detail instances of verbal abuse from former USWNT assistant

(Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard via Imagn Content Services)

Members of the Oregon women’s soccer team are saying they received harsh treatment and even verbal abuse from head coach and former USWNT assistant Graeme Abel. 

During the 2023 season, the team had zero wins, and upon its conclusion a total of 12 of the team’s 29 players departed the team. Former players told The Oregonian that Abel would verbally attack them, threaten to kick them off the team and at times would even throw objects.

"When I’d make a mistake at practice, it felt like he made it a job to embarrass you to the point where you just wanted to walk off the field,” one player said. “He’d stop the practice – and I know it’s college soccer, it’s very competitive — but he’d stop practice and just keep going nonstop on this one thing."

In total, the Oregonian spoke with 14 former players – including 12 who agreed to be interviewed in depth. All said that they experienced verbal abuse. Six of the players were among those who transferred following the season. 

One instance of Abel’s tirades included him throwing a water bottle that narrowly missed players’ heads. 

“He kicked all of our staff out of the locker room, kicked a trash can, threw a white board, sat on the trash can and started screaming,” one player recounted. “He wanted us to tell him what we thought went wrong in the game. Me and another player spoke up, and he said, ‘You’re just (expletive) wrong.’ And that if we didn’t want to be in this program, we could all quit, and he’d sign our release paperwork tomorrow.”

While Abel was not made available for an interview, he did say in a statement that “at no point have I used threatening statements or financial repercussions as a part of coaching.”

Instances of emotional distress stemming from Abel’s alleged harsh treatment date back to 2021 – his first full year leading the team following an abbreviated 2020 campaign.

Other former players contacted by The Oregonian detailed positive overall experiences, and described his style as “normal coaching.”

Others, like USWNT players Becky Sauerbrunn and Lindsey Horan, did not respond to requests for comment, although Sauerbrunn wrote in 2019 that she had a “great relationship” with Abel. 

Still, multiple players interviewed had similar stories, with one saying that girls would be “crying in the locker room” after practice because of what he would tell players. Attempts to speak with the administration about his behavior, players say, was “discouraging.”

“His office is like the scariest place,” one player said. “You’d have to sit there while he’d belittle you and say all these nasty things, and gaslight you into believing you’re not good enough. ... Our team fell apart because of the environment he created. We were just trying to get through the day. There was no way we could focus on soccer.”

Multiple players said they experienced suicidal ideation while playing at Oregon. In part of his statement, Abel wrote that “at no time do we put our student-athletes in any danger.”

Abel is currently in his fifth and final year of his contract at Oregon.

Gotham FC unveil Championship rings ahead of banner reveal

Gotham FC players celebrate Lynn Williams' goal in the first half of the 2023 NWSL Championship. (Ray Acevedo/USA TODAY Sports)

Gotham FC has unveiled their 2023 NWSL championship rings — and safe to say, they deliver.

The reveal has led to a little bit of trash talk ahead of the team’s matchup with Kansas City this weekend, as both teams have NFL owners. While the Current are co-owned by Patrick and Brittany Mahomes, former Giants quarterback Eli Manning is a co-owner of Gotham. 

On Wednesday, Manning took to Sportscenter to give Mahomes a bit of a hard time.

“He may have one more Super Bowl ring than me, but he does not have a NWSL championship ring like I do,” Manning joked.

“Come Sunday night at Red Bull Arena, April 14th, we’re dropping the banner on Kansas City. We got the ring ceremony, the players get their rings and their championship afterwards. This is it, I’ve got something to talk a little trash to him about because I can’t do it about football anymore, I gotta find something else.”

The appearance came after Manning posted to social media, inviting Mahomes to “come see [the championship ring] up close this Sunday.”

Mahomes responded in kind, writing that “we’ll see y’all Sunday!”

Gotham takes on current league-leaders Kansas City on Sunday at 6pm ET. The game is available on NWSL+.

Oregon State hit by transfer portal again as Raegan Beers departs

ALBANY, NEW YORK - MARCH 31: Raegan Beers #15 of the Oregon State Beavers shoots a free throw during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on March 31, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Oregon State leading scorer and rebounder Raegan Beers announced on Thursday that she is entering the transfer portal. 

"Thank you for all of your endless love and support these past two years," she posted on social media. "I will never forget my time at OSU and I am thankful for the opportunity I had to meet and play with incredible people. My journey as a Beav was a special one and I am grateful for my teammates, coaches, fans, and friends who have changed my life throughout my time here."

A sophomore forward, Beers is a two-time All-Pac-12 selection who averaged 17.5 points per game last season while shooting 66.4 percent from the field. She also added 10.3 rebounds en route to earning third-team All-American honors from the AP. 

She’s the fourth Oregon State starter – and seventh player overall – to hit the portal this offseason. She joins Talia von Oelhoggen and Timea Gardiner in the transfer portal, as well as starting freshman Donovyn Hunter. 

Beers and Gardiner were both top-10 recruits in ESPN rankings coming out of high school. 

With the dissolution of the Pac-12, the program will join the WCC next season and no longer be a part of the Power 5.

Conference realignment is hitting the team hard, with coach Scott Rueck saying during the tournament that he knew it could seriously affect his team moving forward. 

"That's reality," Rueck said. "I can't control that, other than just keep doing what I'm doing. I think the opportunity within that for a leader provides a discipline that you'd better be on your A-game all the time. You'd better take care of people, and you'd better provide a great experience. That's the approach going forward and what happens, happens. We'll find a way."

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