All Scores

WNBA wish list: My hopes for the league in 2022

One wish is for more WNBA postgame coverage, such as Holly Rowe’s interview of Sylvia Fowles on ESPN last year. (David Sherman/NBAE via Getty Images)

Instead of asking for a bunch of knick-knacks or things I don’t really need this holiday season, I decided to make a WNBA wish list. I’m not asking for much — just a few additions here and there that I think will help grow the league, reward fans and improve the overall experience of the season.

The league made significant progress in 2021 and has a lot of momentum on which to build. So, I put together some reasonable requests for the 2022 season. I only hope the jolly guy in the red suit delivers.

1. A new twist to the orange hoodie

The orange hoodie has become the trademark merchandise item of the WNBA. It’s bright, comfortable and fashionable. Everyone from WNBA and NBA players, to celebrities and musicians, have been spotted wearing the sweatshirt, and it even won an award in 2020 for Best Fashion Statement of the Year.

It’s the league’s best-selling product, so why not keep the hype going with a revamped hoodie? Keep selling the classic orange, of course, but also offer it in the signature colors of WNBA teams, like Chicago Sky blue, New York Liberty seafoam, Phoenix Mercury purple, Las Vegas Aces gold, Seattle Storm green and more. How fun (and profitable) would that be?

2. One more season of Sue Bird

When the WNBA announced its 2022 schedule, teams around the league shared the news on social media. The Storm got people talking when they posted their game schedule on Twitter with a graphic featuring a photo of Sue Bird. A free agent, Bird hasn’t confirmed whether she’ll return to the court next season, but she also hasn’t closed the door. If Bird were to announce this coming season as her last, the league could plan the farewell tour she deserves and fans would have the opportunity to say a proper goodbye.

3. New All-Star Game locations

The WNBA All-Star Game debuted in 1999 and has been held in a handful of cities since then, but over the years, many of the locations have been repeats. Las Vegas, for example, has hosted the past two All-Star Games in 2019 and 2021. Availability, access and facilities all factor into the decision of which city gets to host the festivities, but it would be gratifying if the WNBA expanded its horizons and gave WNBA fans in other cities a chance to experience All-Star Weekend in their hometowns. Chicago has never hosted; neither has Los Angeles, Dallas, Atlanta or Indiana. Let’s spread the love around.

4. Expansion, expansion, expansion

The last time the WNBA expanded was in 2009, when the Atlanta Dream entered the fold. For over a decade, the league has been content to roll with 12 teams. But for the past few years, the calls for expansion have been growing from basketball fans all over the country. And signs point to it happening sooner rather than later.

Former WNBA player Alana Beard headed up a group of investors, including the African American Sports and Entertainment Group, to bring a WNBA team to Oakland, Calif. Rapper and Toronto Raptors ambassador Drake even weighed in on the matter, telling the WNBA on Instagram that he “[needs] a Toronto team.” WNBA commissioner Cathy Engelbert has said since the start of last season that if the league were successful in 2021, expansion talks would take place. Viewership numbers for the 2021 regular season were up nearly 50 percent. I’d say that’s a success.

5. Postgame TV coverage

Nothing is worse than watching a competitive, down-to-the-wire WNBA game end in a buzzer-beater win, only to have the broadcast cut to an irrelevant segment seconds later. No postgame interviews, no game breakdowns, no analysis or final thoughts — just a quick “see you later” and move on. I think legitimate postgame (and pregame) coverage in the WNBA, especially for the playoffs, is long overdue. With overall viewership numbers on an upswing, there’s clearly an appetite for it. The more television networks expand their WNBA coverage and introduce the storylines around these players and teams to fans, the more the league will continue to grow.

6. WNBA highlight show

While we’re on the topic of additional coverage, let’s get crazy. Rather than catch a WNBA highlight here or there on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” or daily NBA Show, I’d love to hear WNBA-focused analysts talk about the league on a regular basis. Maybe something like “Inside the WNBA” or “WNBA Talk,” full of game highlights, player interviews, hot takes and game-day fits — the possibilities for conversation topics are endless in a league brimming with intrigue. And between former players and current WNBA analysts and personalities, there is no shortage of possible hosts to guide the discussions and share their insights.

7. WNBA League Pass 2.0

There is a lot to love about WNBA League Pass. It’s easily accessible on any device, it’s incredibly affordable and it allows fans to watch games on demand, pause and rewind in the moment and view real-time stats. But it is not without its faults. Not every live game, for example, is available to consumers. Depending on where you live, some games are blacked out, and the app will sometimes glitch in the middle of a game, logging users out without any explanation. League Pass is a valuable resource for WNBA fans and media alike. I would love to see the WNBA invest in improving the quality of the experience.

8. More exposure for WNBA players

I was casually watching a kids’ sitcom with my 9-year-old when Candace Parker appeared on screen in a guest starring role. It was great to see, and the next time I mentioned Parker’s name out loud in the presence of my daughter, she knew exactly who I was talking about. This is why beyond-the-court exposure of WNBA athletes is so important, especially for upcoming generations. I’d love to see more players make appearances on talk shows, sitcoms, commercials, podcasts, radio segments and more. In fact, a WNBA player has never hosted “Saturday Night Live.” Sue Bird, Diana Taurasi, Candace Parker or Liz Cambage would be naturals.

9. Giving past players their due

As part of the WNBA’s 25th anniversary celebration last season, the Las Vegas Aces honored former players throughout the franchise’s history as the Utah Starzz and the San Antonio Silver Stars. It was a way to celebrate and highlight players who had a significant impact on the franchise and the league. The WNBA would not be where it is today without those who paved the way for the longest-running professional women’s sports league in the country. Individual teams, and the league itself, should honor its past in some form every season.

10. Respect

With all of the growth the WNBA has undergone in the past five years, between the talent level on the floor to the recognition off of it, a little respect from the rest of the sports world would be nice. From a continued lack of recognition in mainstream media to dealing with swarms of Twitter trolls, the WNBA and its players are still fighting for the respect they deserve. They shouldn’t have to. Not in 2022, and not ever.

Lyndsey D’Arcangelo is a contributing writer at Just Women’s Sports, covering the WNBA. She also contributes to The Athletic and is the co-author of Hail Mary: The Rise and Fall of the National Women’s Football League. Follow Lyndsey on Twitter @darcangel21.

Caitlin Clark dunks on Michael Che in surprise SNL appearance

(Julia Hansen/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK)

Caitlin Clark made a surprise appearance on “Saturday Night Live” over the weekend, which quickly went viral.

The Iowa star showed up on the show’s Weekend Update segment to playfully call out Michael Che’s history of making jabs at women’s sports.

It started when Che joked that Iowa should replace Clark’s retired No. 22 “with an apron.” 

When Clark entered, Che said that he was a fan. But Clark wasn’t convinced – especially not when co-host Colin Jost brought the receipts of Che’s jabs.

“Really, Michael? Because I heard that little apron joke you did,” she said, before making him read some jokes of her own in retaliation. Clark finished her segment by shouting out the WNBA greats that came before her. She then got in one final dig – bringing Che a signed apron as a souvenir. 

When Che promised to give it to his girlfriend, Clark delivered her last playful dig of the night.

“You don’t have a girlfriend, Michael,” she said.

Afterward, SNL castmember Bowen Yang told People that the 22-year-old and teammates Gabbie Marshall, Kate Martin and Jada Gyamfi – who joined her at Studio 8H – “were so cool.”

“She's so charming and witty,” Yang said. “They were just the most stunning, noble people.

“Athletes just have this air about them. They know they're amazing. I mean, these are people who have numeric attachments and values to their performance. That's something that comedians never have.”

Portland Thorns, in uncharted territory, start NWSL season winless

Portland has started the season winless through four games for the first time. (Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports)

The Portland Thorns continue to struggle to start the NWSL season, falling 2-0 to the North Carolina Courage over the weekend to remain winless through their first four games. 

It’s uncharted territory for Portland, who has never started the NWSL regular season without a win in four games before.

Following the loss, defender Becky Sauerbrunn voiced her frustrations with the start. 

“It’s hard to find a lot of encouraging things, but what I find encouraging is that people are frustrated,” she said. “People are pissed off that we’re not doing well. We care, and I think that’s really important.” 

She also added that while the team will reflect individually, “there’s going to be no finger pointing.”

“We’re going to look at ourselves and figure out what we should have done, or I should have done better,” she said. “There is a list of things that I could have done better, and I’m going to make sure I know every single thing and watch this game back.”

The Thorns currently sit at the bottom of the league table with just one point, having allowed 10 goals – tied for the worst in the league. They’ve yet to lead in a match. And as questions grow, attention turns to head coach Mike Norris. 

Norris is in his second year as head coach of the club after leading the team to a second-place finish in the regular season last year. When asked about the possibility of pressure growing after the unprecedented start, Norris said that the pressure has been there “from day one.”

“I cannot be driven by my day-to-day and the longer vision of the pressure of the job,” he said. “We’ve got a belief in how we want to play, how we operate. We’ve got to stick with the process of that. While we do it, we have to review and see what is working, what’s not working.

“I’ll be showing up for the team and being there for what they need from me as we approach getting back together as a group next week.”

Maria Sanchez reportedly requests trade from Houston Dash

Mar 23, 2024; Houston, Texas, USA; Houston Dash forward Maria Sanchez (7) warms up before the match between Racing Louisville and Houston Dash at Shell Energy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Maria Sanchez, who signed one of the biggest deals in NWSL history just four months ago, has reportedly requested a trade from the Houston Dash. 

ESPN was the first to report the news, which was confirmed by multiple sources.

In a statement to ESPN, the team said: “​​Maria Sanchez is under contract, a choice she made in free agency at the end of 2023." 

In December, Sanchez signed a new three-year contract with the Dash worth $1.5 million including bonuses and an option year. At the time, it was the largest contract in NWSL history – something that was eclipsed by multiple contracts in the following months. 

The winger was a restricted free agent in the offseason, meaning that Houston could match any offer from another team and retain her rights. Should the team trade Sanchez, her contract would remain as it has been signed with the league. That limits the number of teams that could take on her contract. 

In three starts with the Dash this season, Sanchez has zero goals and an assist. The Dash are 1-2-1 through four games and have allowed a league-worst 10 goals.

The team hired a new coach, Fran Alonso, in December. Earlier this year, former goalkeeper coach Matt Lampson was fired for violating the league’s Coach Code of Conduct and Anti-Fraternization policy. 

Both the NWSL trade window and transfer window close at midnight ET on Friday.

Canada beats U.S. Hockey 6-5 in thrilling World Championship win

UTICA, NEW YORK - APRIL 14: Team Canada raises the Championship Trophy after winning The Gold by defeating The United States in OT during the 2024 IIHF Women's World Championship Gold Medal game at Adirondack Bank Center on April 14, 2024 in Utica, New York. (Photo by Troy Parla/Getty Images)

Canada got its revenge on Sunday, winning the 2024 IIHF Women’s World Championship and taking down the U.S. in a 6-5 overtime classic.

Marie-Philip Poulin, a longtime star for Canada, got her first two goals of the tournament, while Danielle Serdachny had the game-winner. 

"I hate to say you're not trying to rely on it, expect it, but I know I've grown to expect it," Canada coach Troy Ryan said of Philip-Poulin. "Tonight was just a whole other level. I could see in her eyes every time we called her name that she was ready to go. It's just special."

The win came after Canada lost 1-0 to the U.S. in the group stage of the tournament. On Sunday, the two teams met for the 22nd time in 23 tournaments in the gold medal game – and the action between the two teams delivered. 

Among those scoring for the U.S. were Megan Keller, Alex Carpenter, Hilary Knight, Laila Edwards and Caroline Harvey. Julia Gosling, Emily Clark and Erin Ambrose had the other three goals for Canada, giving them their 13th World title after falling to the U.S. in last year’s title game in Toronto. 

This year’s game was held in New York, and it was the second-highest scoring final between the two teams. The U.S. won a world championship 7-5 in 2015. 

"Oh man, that feels good to win it on U.S. soil," Canada goalie Ann-Renee Desbiens said after the game. "We owed it to them and owed it to ourselves to win that one."

Canada also denied Knight a record 10th World Championship win, although she did become the most decorated player in women’s world championship history with 14 medals. After the game, Poulin gave Knight a hug on the ice. 

"We just said 'that was unbelievable,'" Poulin said.

U.S. coach John Wroblewski echoed the sentiment that it was an outstanding game after being asked about ending the game on a power-play after leaving too many players on the ice. 

"Instead of talking about the isolated events of tonight's game, I think that normally that's an interesting storyline,” he said. “But I think the entity of an amazing 6-5 game is an amazing hockey game that took place."

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