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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.

New Washington Spirit Head Coach Jonatan Giráldez Arrivin DC

head coach Jonatan Giráldez
Jonatan Giráldez joins the NWSL from FC Barcelona Femení. (Ramsey Cardy/UEFA via Getty Images)

Five months after announcing that the Washington Spirit had hired Barcelona Femení coach Jonatan Giráldez as the team's new head coach, Giráldez has joined the club in Washington, DC.

Giráldez is coming off of a successful season with the Spanish side, having won UEFA Women's Champions League, Copa de la Reina, Supercopa, and Liga F in his final season to complete a lauded Quadruple.

While Giráldez was finishing out his tenure in Europe, Adrián González filled in as Spirit interim head coach. González has also seen success, leading the team to its third-place standing with a 9-3-1 record through 13 games.

“I’m thrilled to join the Spirit and begin this next chapter with the club,” Giráldez said in an official team statement. “To be part of the vision Michele Kang has for the Spirit and women’s soccer globally is an exciting opportunity.”

Giráldez has worked at Barcelona since 2019, initially coming on as an assistant coach before moving up to head coach in 2021. The team went 30-0-0 on the season under Giráldez during his first year as manager.

He brings along with him Andrés González and Toni Gordo, who will serve as the Spirit's Fitness Coach and Club Analyst, respectively.

US Track & Field Olympic Trials Touch Down in Oregon

Sha’Carri Richardson competes in the women’s 200-meter preliminary round during the USATF Outdoor Championships
Sha’Carri Richardson will have some competition this week as athletes vie for an Olympic berth. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The US Olympic Track & Field Trials begin on June 21st, kicking off a 10-day quest to determine who will represent the US in Paris this summer.

The crucial meet will take place in Eugene, Oregon, where the top three finishers in each event will punch their ticket to the 2024 Olympics. As with this past week's US Swimming Trials, even the most decorated athletes must work to earn their spot — and one bad performance could undermine four years of preparation.

Reigning 100-meter World Champion Sha'Carri Richardson headlines this year's field, as the 24-year-old looks to qualify for her second Olympic Games and compete in her first. Richardson is a world champion in both the 100-meter and 200-meter sprint, but missed the Tokyo Olympics due to testing positive for THC shortly after the last US Olympic Trials.

Other standouts include 400-meter Olympic gold medal-winning hurdler Sydney McLaughlin-Levrone, who's currently the most decorated athlete in the active women's US Track & Field pool. McLaughlin-Levrone qualified to run in the 200-meter and 400-meter flat races alongside the 400-meter hurdles at the Olympic Trials, but opted to focus solely on her signature event.

800-meter specialist Athing Mu will also be a huge draw this week, as the Olympic gold medalist looks to shake off a lingering hamstring injury while pursuing her second Summer Games. Gold medal-winning pole vaulter Katie Moon will also attempt to qualify for her second-straight Olympic Games.

Ole Miss star McKenzie Long could be Richardson's greatest competition in the 100-meter and 200-meter events, as well as Richardson's Worlds teammate Gabby Thomas in the 200-meter. In field events, watch for Oregon senior Jaida Ross going head-to-head with reigning world champion Chase Jackson in the shot put, as both push for their first Olympic team berth.

Regardless of why you tune in, the US Olympic Trials are a perpetually thrilling and sometimes brutal qualification process. If you're able to make your way to the head of the pack, a shot at Olympic glory might just be waiting at the finish line.

Fans can catch live coverage throughout the Trials via NBC, USA, and Peacock.

Top Teams Square Off in NWSL Weekend Slate

NWSL Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda
Orlando Pride, led by forward Barbra Banda, will take on Utah in this weekend's NWSL action. (Nicholas Faulkner/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

As the NWSL season continues, a few top-performing clubs will have a chance to boost their standings this weekend.

First-place Kansas City will travel to Providence Park to take on fifth-place Portland, as the Current look to keep their unbeaten streak intact. And in New Jersey, third-place Washington will take on fourth-place Gotham FC, with both teams attempting to extend multi-game unbeaten streaks.

A six-point gap has opened between the fifth and sixth spot on the NWSL table — with just six points also separating the league's top five. Kansas City, Orlando, Washington, Gotham, and Portland have recently proven themselves to be a cut above the rest of the competition. With eight postseason spots up for grabs and half the season behind us, a pattern is forming that indicates the playoff race could come down to spots six through eight on the NWSL table.

Of those top five teams, only Orlando faces an opponent in the bottom half of the league this weekend: The Pride will take on 14th-place Utah, who nonetheless are coming off a win — just their second of the season — over Bay FC last weekend.

But despite Kansas City and Orlando having yet to lose a game, Gotham might be the squad coming into the weekend with the most momentum.

Clutch goals from Rose Lavelle and rookie Maycee Bell gave the Bats a 2-0 midweek win over San Diego on Wednesday, in a rematch of the 2024 Challenge Cup. Gotham's unbeaten streak dates all the way back to April, as rising availability and sharpened form have honed this year's superteam into a contender.

Bottom line? As the NWSL season passes the halfway mark, some matches might begin to feel more like playoff previews than mere regular season battles.

Chelsea Gray Returns From Injury in Aces Win Over Seattle

las vegas aces chelsea gray and kelsey plum celebrate a win over the seattle storm
Gray has been sidelined with a foot injury since the 2023 WNBA Finals. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Chelsea Gray made her return to the basketball court on Wednesday, helping the Aces to a 94-83 win over the Seattle Storm. 

The lauded point guard missed the first 12 games of the season, having been injured in last year’s WNBA Finals. The left foot injury caused her to miss Game 4 of the championship series, and she’s continued to rehab it through the beginning of the 2024 season. 

Her return on Wednesday was capitalized by the fact that she needed just 20 seconds to make an impact and record her first assist. While she finished with just one point, she had seven assists, four rebounds, and two blocks to go alongside it in 15:30 minutes. Gray's contributions on the night brought her career assist record up to 1,500.

"I probably went through every emotion leading up to today," Gray said after the game. "I was a little anxious all day. It's been a long time since I've been out on that court. But the fans were amazing from the time I came out to warm up to the time I checked in the game. It was a rush and a feeling I missed a lot."

It’s been a roller coaster of a season so far for Las Vegas, who have lost five of their last seven games. Gray, who averaged 15.3 points, 7.3 assists, and 4.0 rebounds in 2023, has proven herself a much-needed addition to the team’s lineup.

"Felt like my heart," Aces coach Becky Hammon said when asked how she felt hearing the crowd erupt for Gray's return. "She's the leader of our team. I thought she did a wonderful job too."

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