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Aces’ A’ja Wilson headlines JWS’ WNBA July Team of the Month

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JUNE 29: A’ja Wilson #22 of the Las Vegas Aces shoots against Ezi Magbegor #13 of the Seattle Storm during the fourth quarter at Climate Pledge Arena on June 29, 2022 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The WNBA playoffs are tantalizingly close. The Sky, Aces, Sun, Storm and Mystics have already secured their spots in the postseason, leaving six teams (all but the Fever) to compete for three bids over the final week and a half of the regular season.

In their pursuit of the playoffs, several players stood out above the rest in the month of July. Just Women’s Sports honors the top individual performances by naming the Team of the Month, including starters and reserves.

A’ja Wilson, F, Las Vegas Aces

Wilson is having an MVP-type season, averaging 19.4 points, 9.5 rebounds, two blocks, 1.9 assists and 1.3 steals per game. She’s making a positive impact in every part of the game, with her 17-point, 17-rebound, six-block performance in the Aces’ Commissioner’s Cup win serving as an indicator of how the forward steps up against top competition. In July, Wilson had eight 20-plus point games and four double-doubles to lead Las Vegas to a 9-3 record.

Cunningham has picked up where she left off in a breakout 2021 playoffs performance. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Sophie Cunningham, G, Phoenix Mercury

The Mercury are in the midst of a playoff push, and that means they need to get more out of players not named Skylar Diggins-Smith or Diana Taurasi. Cunningham is certainly doing her part. In July, the guard averaged 17 points — up from her season average of 12.2 — and had a career-high 36 points in a loss against the Lynx on July 12.

Despite missing the occasional game to rest her back, Delle Donne has been a force. (Barry Gossage/NBAE via Getty Images)

Elena Delle Donne, F, Washington Mystics

While Delle Donne was sidelined last season with a back injury, the Mystics missed the playoffs for the first time since 2016. Thanks to her return, that won’t happen again this season. Delle Donne is peaking at the right time, with some of her best performances coming in July. She averaged 22.3 points per game and recorded two double-doubles while leading the Mystics to a 6-3 record during the month.

Alyssa Thomas, F, Connecticut Sun

Thomas made an appearance as a reserve last month thanks to her contributions in virtually every statistical category. After recording the first triple-double in Sun history on July 22 with 15 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds (and even before she picked up her second of the season on Tuesday night), Thomas is making the jump to July’s starting five. She also had three steals and a block in that July 22 game, a 94-84 win over the Lynx, proving just how versatile she is.

Stewart helped Seattle clinch a playoff spot with a win Sunday. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

Breanna Stewart, F, Seattle Storm

Seattle played 10 games in July, and Stewart was the leading scorer in eight of them. Nearly every game Stewart played for the playoff-bound Storm could be considered a highlight for the month, but her best performance came in an 82-72 win over Atlanta on the July 24. Stewart recorded a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while also adding four assists, two steals and three blocks. She continues to do it all for Seattle.


Kahleah Copper, G, Chicago Sky

Copper capped a July that included two double-doubles and four 20-plus point games with a 27-point performance in a 95-92 overtime win over the Sun on the last day of the month. She shot 63 percent from the field in that contest and added five rebounds and two assists.

Kelsey Plum, G, Las Vegas Aces

Plum continued her dominance in July, leading the Aces in scoring five times, while also shooting 45 percent from the 3-point line. Her All-Star MVP performance on July 10 accurately sums up Plum’s scoring acumen, as she finished with 30 points on 66.7 percent shooting.

Sylvia Fowles, C, Minnesota Lynx

It’s hard to imagine the WNBA without Fowles, especially when she’s playing at such a high level. In July, the center bound for retirement after this season had five 10-plus rebound games and four double-doubles.

Tiffany Hayes, G, Atlanta Dream

Hayes made her debut for the Dream this month after overseas commitments and a knee injury kept her sidelined. She’s averaging 16.2 points for the playoff-hopeful Dream. Her best game was a 31-point performance in a 92-76 win over the Aces on July 19.

Diana Taurasi, G, Phoenix Mercury

Taurasi has scored over 28 points five times this season, with three of those performances coming in July. She had 28 in a 94-78 win over the Storm, 29 in an 80-75 win over the Mystics, and 30 in a 90-80 win over the Sparks.

Eden Laase is a Staff Writer at Just Women’s Sports. Follow her on Twitter @eden_laase.

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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