Trinity Rodman has come into her own in 2023, for club and country.

The young forward has been vocal about wanting to build her own career, away from her famous father Dennis Rodman’s shadow. And this year, she’s doing it.

Instead of buckling under the weight of the U.S. women’s national team badge, the 21-year-old forward has stepped up. While the World Cup didn’t go the way anyone in the program hoped, it provided a necessary learning experience. And Rodman responded with two goals in two September friendlies against a World Cup Round of 16 team in South Africa.

“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.”

Of Rodman’s six goals with the USWNT, four have come in 2023 — including two against Wales in the team’s World Cup send-off game in July. And while she has just five goals and two assists in NWSL play, short of her career highs, she ranks sixth in the league in shots per 90 minutes (3.30).

And she has been instrumental in helping the Washington Spirit make a playoff push in the latter half of the season. With a game-winner at the end of September, she helped the Spirit snap a seven-game winless streak and move into better positioning in the race for a postseason berth.

The pressure is nothing new for Rodman, who has dealt with lofty expectations since she was selected No. 1 overall by the Spirit in the 2021 NWSL Draft. After forgoing college to turn pro, she won NWSL Rookie of the Year in 2021 and has carried the weight of expectations ever since. But if you ask Rodman, she is not taking herself too seriously, and she is always looking to enjoy the moment.

“I’m similar both off the field and on. I think it’s really important not to take yourself too seriously,” Rodman told Forbes. “I think you can get, as a player, stuck in the mindset of trying too hard to prove yourself.”

That fun side of Rodman is part of what makes her so good, whether it be solving crimes during downtime at the World Cup or playing pickleball and Fortnite. And if you ask Rodman about EA Sports FC 24, she’s excited to play that too — just not with her own player avatar.

“I’m definitely going to play, but I just feel like I can’t play as myself,” she told Uproxx. “I’d want to play against myself to see what she’s all about.”

Ashley Sanchez has returned to the NWSL with a vengeance.

The 24-year-old midfielder did not play in the 2023 World Cup, despite making the 23-player roster for the U.S. women’s national team. But upon her return to the NWSL, she has solidified her place as one of the game’s brightest young stars.

The Washington Spirit signed Sanchez to a three-year contract extension last Friday. While Sanchez was previously set to be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, her new contract runs through 2026.

“Keeping Sanchez with the Spirit is critical for this club,” Spirit coach Mark Parsons said in a statement. “Her world-class technical ability and goal-scoring quality are very important to the success of our team.”

Sanchez said she’s “looking forward” to continuing her career in Washington, having been “fortunate to take a lot of strides in my game” during her four years in D.C.

Among those strides was earning a place on the USWNT’s 2023 World Cup roster. Sanchez has 25 career caps, three goals and four assists with the USWNT. Before the World Cup, she made eight appearances in 2023, averaging 50 minutes per match. But at the tournament, the attacking midfielder did not see the field, having been replaced on the depth chart first by USWNT newcomer Savannah DeMelo, and then by veteran defender Emily Sonnett.

Sanchez has been open about her role at the World Cup, noting that what then-head coach Vlatko Andnovski told her ahead of the tournament was different from what played out in Australia and New Zealand. The USWNT fell to Sweden in a penalty shootout in the Round of 16, marking their earliest exit ever from a World Cup.

“Let’s just say the role (I was told I would fill) was not what I played,” she told the Washington Post.

Since returning to the NWSL in late August, Sanchez has made a statement on the field. Just 40 seconds into her first game back with Washington, she scored a goal in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dash. Sanchez’s fifth goal of the season put her six behind league leader Sophia Smith. And her 1.20 shots on target per 90 is good for ninth in the league, ahead of star players like Alex Morgan.

“Revenge mode was coming,” Parsons said after Sanchez’s return. “It came really quick, and I think that helps. Being involved, she’s now feeling good.”

When Breanna Stewart signed with the New York Liberty during the 2023 offseason, she instantly rocketed the franchise into contention.

After 26 years of existence, one of the WNBA’s founding teams has yet to win a title. But when Stewart joined Jonquel Jones and Courtney Vandersloot as key additions in New York this season, suddenly that first championship seemed not just possible, but likely.

To New York, Stewart brought her immense talent and a winning culture, having won two WNBA championships and two Finals MVP awards with the Seattle Storm. The Liberty needed both, and Stewart has been even better than advertised.

Early in the season, as Jones nursed an injury and the Liberty learned to play together, Stewart kept them afloat, coming out of the gate with 45 points in her home debut. Now, Stewart is one of three leading candidates for the WNBA MVP award — to be announced on Sept. 26 — and New York is poised for a championship run.

Stewart is averaging 23 points per game, a mark that is both second in the WNBA this season and a career-high for the 29-year-old during her seven-year career. She’s also averaging 9.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists, 1.6 blocks and 1.5 steals per game, doing a little bit of everything for the Liberty. The forward finished second to Jewell Loyd for the 2023 scoring title and all-time single-season record, recording 919 total points this season. On Tuesday, she was named AP Player of the Year, beating out A’ja Wilson by one vote.

Stewart also makes her teammates better, something that drew Vandersloot, a 2021 WNBA champion and five-time All-Star, to sign with New York and add another piece to the “superteam” puzzle.

“I think she is one of the best players in the world,” Vanderlsoot said of Stewart, after a Liberty win over the Sun in June. “She makes my job easy. She elevates my game, holds me to a high standard. That was a huge part of my decision to come here. I wanted to play with someone who would do that. She does that on a nightly basis. She is just special. She just performs every single night.”

The No. 1 overall pick of the Storm in 2016, Stewart helped the team win titles in 2018 and 2020 while also being named WNBA MVP in 2018 after averaging 21.8 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.4 steals that season. This year, Stewart is better in every category than she was in 2018.

This historic season in New York only adds to Stewart’s legacy and that of the Liberty, which was the goal from the day she signed. Winning another MVP award — especially over the likes of Wilson, the Las Vegas star and reigning MVP, and triple-double leader Alyssa Thomas — would make her move to the city that much sweeter.

“I decided to go to New York because I want to continue to be great,” she told ESPN at the time of her signing. “And I want to go to the place where I can continue to help this league become better, to continue to raise the standard. And I feel like why not go to the biggest market in all of sports. And I’m really excited to go after their first championship.”

The quest for a championship starts Friday, as the No. 2 seed Liberty take on the Washington Mystics in the first round. New York finished the regular season with a 32-8 record.

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

Aliyah Boston as the No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 WNBA Draft was a foregone conclusion. Aliyah Boston as the WNBA’s Rookie of the Year could be the same.

So far this season, Boston isn’t just the best among her rookie class — she’s putting together one of the best rookie seasons ever.

On Aug. 6, Boston became just the fourth rookie in WNBA history to have a 25-point, 10-rebound, four-steal game. Through 33 games, Boston’s averages not only lead WNBA rookies in nearly every category but also rank among the league’s best. She is contributing 14.7 points per game (23rd overall) and 8.2 rebounds per game (ninth overall) for the Indiana Fever. She also leads the entire league in field-goal percentage at 59.9%.

“You wouldn’t know that she’s a rookie. She’s polished in everything that she does. She’s a professional,” All-Star guard and Fever teammate Kelsey Mitchell told Andscape last month. “She’s a great post player, obviously. More importantly, she’s got the professional look already and she’s just getting started. I’m proud of her.”

In her debut season, Boston became the first player in WNBA history to average 15 points per game on 60% shooting through 20 career games. The former South Carolina star is also the sixth player in the last two decades to have 300 points and 150 rebounds through 20 games, joining the likes of A’ja Wilson, Breanna Stewart and Candace Parker.

“I knew she was special, but she’s exceeded it,” first-year Fever coach Christy Sides told reporters in July. “You just don’t know until you get into this league how you’re going to respond. It’s the different levels, size, speed, quickness, strength — she hadn’t faced that night in and night out. She takes everything in, she talks to every coach, she watches video with every coach, she asks the best questions.”

The 21-year-old forward was named Rookie of the Month in May and June, and in July she became the youngest player to start in a WNBA All-Star Game. Only two other players — Sue Bird and Chamique Holdsclaw — started in an All-Star Game before turning 22, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“I don’t want to sound like I’m being cocky, but I expect greatness,” Boston told reporters shortly after being named the eighth rookie All-Star Game starter in WNBA history.

“Greatness is just being true to who you are but also working hard to accomplish the goals,” Boston later told Andscape. “Every time I step on the court, I expect to be dominant. I go out there every game and I’m just going to be who I am.”

And the praise being heaped on Boston doesn’t end with her own teammates and coaches.

“She’s going to be a great one,” Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon said of Boston following the All-Star Game. “Already what I think Coach Sides has done in Indiana, the culture and everything that she’s trying to build there, and they have a centerpiece. Literally, a centerpiece.”

Ashley Hatch hasn’t let a World Cup snub get her down.

Before the U.S. women’s national team’s World Cup roster announcement in June, Hatch appeared to be a lock for the squad. A frequent member of U.S. camps over the last two years, she was the NWSL’s top scorer in 2021 and is currently tied for second in the league with eight regular-season goals — three behind Sophia Smith, who started for the USWNT at the World Cup.

One of the last cuts from the U.S. roster, Hatch returned to the Washington Spirit and continued to thrive in Challenge Cup play away from the World Cup. Despite Hatch’s production (two goals and an assist) and a 2-1 record in their last three Challenge Cup games, the Spirit missed out on the knockout rounds of the in-season competition.

Currently in fourth place in the NWSL regular-season standings, the 2021 champions are primed to make a push toward the playoffs, drawing the Houston Dash 1-1 on Saturday in their return from the break. And Hatch, 28, will be a big part of those efforts.

In four consecutive seasons with the Spirit, Hatch has scored at least seven goals — the only player to score more in the NWSL since 2021 is Smith. Her 0.70 expected goals (xG) per game in 2023 ranks as the best in the league, ahead of Smith.

Hatch has been nothing if not consistent, both in the NWSL and in international play. Ahead of the World Cup, she was one of the few healthy USWNT forwards to have scored a goal in 2023, with one against New Zealand in January.

“I’m gutted,” Hatch wrote on Instagram following the roster announcement. “I think I’ve felt almost every adjective there is to explain how I feel about not making this World Cup roster. I am still in the process of navigating all these feelings and emotions and trying to comprehend it all while still performing and playing games for the Spirit.”

The USWNT scored just four goals across five games at the World Cup, which ended with a Round of 16 defeat to Sweden in a penalty shootout.

Back in the U.S., Hatch has continued to produce for the Spirit, earning NWSL Player of the Month honors for July after tallying a brace and an assist in a July 28 Challenge Cup game against Gotham FC.

Those were Hatch’s first goals of Challenge Cup play, but across all competitions, she has 10 goals (on 25 shots on goal) and three assists. She has helped lead her team to 23 goals through 16 regular-season games, tied for second in the NWSL.

As the WNBA heads into the final third of the 2023 season, a number of players have emerged as frontrunners for the league MVP award.

Among the list of candidates once again is reigning WNBA MVP A’ja Wilson, who has helped lead a stacked Las Vegas Aces team to a 24-2 record and first place in the league standings. Ensuring she stays in Las Vegas for the near future, the Aces signed Wilson to a two-year contract extension worth $200,000 annually in June.

“A’ja Wilson is a generational talent and a huge foundational piece to our team and organization,” Aces general manager Natalie Williams said at the time. “We are thrilled to have her re-sign and be here in Las Vegas for the next two years.”

Currently, Wilson is averaging 20.7 points (fifth in the league), 9.5 rebounds (third) and 2.3 blocks (first) per game. Her scoring average is slightly up from the 19.5 points per game she averaged last year, and her rebound numbers are roughly equivalent. The forward is also averaging more blocks than she did in 2022, when she was named Defensive Player of the Year.

Last month, Wilson won the ESPY for Best WNBA Player and served as an All-Star Game captain for the second year in a row, as voted on by the fans, while making her third-straight All-Star Game appearance. Just this week, the two-time WNBA MVP helped the Aces become the first team to clinch a 2023 playoff berth. At 24-2, Las Vegas is tied with the 1998 Houston Comets for the best record through 26 games in WNBA history.

It seems that one of the only voids left to fill on Wilson’s growing list of accolades is to be featured on the WNBA edition of NBA 2K. Aces teammate Kelsey Plum agrees, and admires the way Wilson handles herself as the spotlight on her and Las Vegas basketball only gets brighter.

“I appreciate A’ja because I feel like she just remains true to who she is, regardless of the circumstances,” Plum recently told WSLAM. “And a lot of things are thrown her way — professionally, personally, things like that — but she just handles it with grace. And I just admire that.”

Wilson has been the face of a team that also boasts Plum, Chelsea Gray, Jackie Young and Candace Parker (now out indefinitely with a foot injury). Each of those players has the ability to have a breakout performance on any given night, and still, Wilson finds ways to be the best player on the best team in the league.

More than anything, Wilson sets the standard for an Aces team that is far and away the one to beat as they look to win back-to-back WNBA Championships.