Archive for the ‘women's sports’ Category

Are you familiar with Petra Kvitova? No?

Perhaps you should get familiar. She is one of the best sports stories of the year.

The two-time Wimbledon champion probably won’t win an ESPY because ESPN doesn’t know there are other athletes not named LeBron or Gronk.

But wow, the left-handed Kvitova is quite an inspiration after returning to tennis just five months after her left hand and forearm were severely damaged in a knife attack at her home in the Czech Republic.

Kvitova fought off the attacker in the Dec. 20 incident and underwent nearly four hours of surgery. Her tennis future was in severe doubt and she still doesn’t have full use of the hand.

Full details of the injury, the attack and the path of her return are detailed in this stellar story — http://www.sportsxchange.com/tsxfiles/?page_id=211&max_colums=20&story_id=167504

But there she was Sunday playing in the French Open, well ahead of schedule, and turning Roland Garros into a highly emotional tennis wonderland. And Kvitova not only played, she won her match 6-3, 6-2 over American Julia Boserup in her first time on a court since November.

“This match is special to me. I won for the second time, if I can say,” Kvitova said after her match. “I think I played well after six months off. I’m happy with the game, of course, but I mean, it wasn’t really about the game today.”

Kvitova’s attacker hasn’t been found so she treads carefully when discussing the attack. But her courageous return and first-round performance speak volumes.

She is highly popular on the women’s tennis tour and has received a ton of support. One of the social media congratulations on Sunday came from Boserup — the player Kvitova cruised past.

“Congratulations to @Petra_Kvitova for so much more than winning a tennis match today,” Boserup said on her Twitter account.

Hey, can you imagine LeBron congratulating somebody on the Warriors when the Cavaliers lose a game in the NBA Finals?

Neither can I.

LeBron can have all the ESPN love but it’s no contest when it comes to which athlete packs a more inspirational story.

It is Petra Kvitova in a landslide.

San Diego might no longer have a NFL team but it gained an impressive new sports legend.

Poway native Kelsey Plum scored an out-of-control 57 points on Saturday to become the all-time leading scorer in women’s basketball history with 3,397 points.

Plum broke the record held by legendary Jackie Stiles — one of the few instantly recognizable names in women’s college basketball history.

Now Plum holds that record and she will raise it to a level that should make it last a long time before her senior season at Washington concludes.

Probably the most enjoyable part of Plum’s scoring spree is she outscored the entire Duke men’s team (50 points) on Saturday.

Coach K is sure to come down with another sore back once that news reaches Durham, N.C.

Plum leads the nation in scoring with a 31.6 average — proof that not all the best players end up at Connecticut.

Oh yeah, someone you know put together a quick story that ended up on this website among others: http://www.scoresandstats.com/breaking-news/basketball/wncaab/washingtons-plum-scores-57-sets-ncaa-womens-career-record/170162/

An interesting tidbit is that former LSU great Pete Maravich is the only Division I player — man or woman — to score more points than Plum. Maravich scored 3,667 points in just 83 games between 1967-70.

That is an incredible 44.2 average over three college seasons. They didn’t let freshman play back then and they also didn’t have a 3-point line.

Maravich would have scored over 5,000 points if allowed to play four seasons with a 3-point line.

The best comment of the day when it came to Plum’s record was made by Boston Celtics’ general manager Danny Ainge.

Congratulations @kelseyplum10 for becoming the best scoring 5’8″ player in UW history. Amazing accomplishment.”

Priceless. You see, the Celtics’ best player is All-Star point guard Isaiah Thomas. He happens to stand 5-8 and played for Washington.

Boom.

Back to Plum … she starred in high school at La Jolla Country Day in San Diego County. That is the same small school that produced former Stanford star and WNBA player Candice Wiggins and football player Rashaan Salaam, the former Heisman Trophy winner at Colorado who committed suicide in December.

She also has good athletic genes as her father Jim was a big-time multi-sport star at Helix High – the school that produced basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton and prominent football players Reggie Bush and Alex Smith — and played football and baseball for San Diego State.

Another thing to note is that Plum said she wasn’t feeling very well during Saturday’s monster outing and was eating applesauce during timeouts.

What I take from that is all budding young girls’ basketball players should start eating applesauce. Gallons of it.

Last week I wrote a soccer preview and hinted that something even more stunning could be on the horizon.

And that more astonishing thing did indeed happen on Thursday evening.

While most people were tuned into the NBA Draft and wondering if any of those foreign players they’ve never heard of are any good, I was writing the first WNBA preview of my career.

Yeah, look closely, there was a W there in front of NBA.

Wow, the things I do for money.

There it is right there on FoxSports.com with my byline nowhere to be found — foxsports.com/sun-storm-preview.

Don’t have a lot of personal tidbits for you on this front but I have seen a WNBA game in person at a once-famous venue.

Yep, I made the drive to Los Angeles to write a story on Vanessa Nygaard – a former Carlsbad High star – when she played for Portland. Met her at the team hotel in Marina Del Rey and then cruised over to the Fabulous Forum in Inglewood for the game.

The preview I wrote is for Friday’s game between the Connecticut Sun and Seattle Storm.

Seattle guard Sue Bird – one of the all-time WNBA greats – was once in the same arena as me.

I was in Viejas Arena covering San Diego State men’s basketball practice and then the women’s team took the floor. Bird was there visiting a San Diego State women’s assistant coach who was a former WNBA teammate — and now I will leave that topic alone.

Also on the Seattle roster is Breanna Stewart, the No. 1 overall pick who just got done winning four consecutive national titles at Connecticut.

That pretty much empties my WNBA tidbits’ file.

First MLS, now WNBA.

What’s next?

Indoor lacrosse? Rowing? Fencing?

Yeah, I better be careful what I wish for.

It was kind of fun to post the Matt Bush story on my website the other day so how about we do this again with a subject you won’t see me tackle very often:

Women’s basketball.

Yep, it’s true, I wrote a women’s basketball story during Sunday’s workday. And I can’t deny it because they put my name on top of the article.

So there you go, full-on proof that I don’t ignore women’s basketball.

The topic was Is UConn’s dominance bad for women’s basketball? and that is actually a decent thing to debate.

Connecticut coach Geno Auriemma isn’t so thrilled to have to defend his team’s success. But wow, his team won its first three NCAA tournament games by margins of 52, 46 and 60 points.

The 60-point shellacking of Mississippi State came in the Sweet 16. That is astounding.

The Huskies have won 72 consecutive games and they should advance to another Final Four when they meet Texas on Monday. I suppose I can take out the word “should” since they lambasted the Longhorns by 51 points in last year’s Sweet 16 en route to winning their third consecutive national title.

That was a record margin of victory for the Sweet 16 — and was broken with the 60-point win over Mississippi State.

Anyway, people are now wondering whether UConn’s dominance is a bad thing for women’s basketball. And guess what? Auriemma doesn’t care what you, your doctor, a welder or anybody else thinks.

Here’s his advice:

“Don’t watch. Nobody’s putting a gun to your head to watch,” Auriemma said. “So don’t watch, and don’t write about it. Spend your time on things that you think are important. If you don’t think this is important, don’t pay any attention to it.”

I will have to think about this — should I turn on a UConn game once the Final Four arrives? Is it worth watching if the Huskies rout another Final Four team by 40 or 50 points? Will anyone even remotely give them a game?

Huskies star Breanna Stewart isn’t sure how the players are supposed to respond to this outcry.

And you know what, I don’t blame her. Players play the game and the ones who play for the Huskies just happen to be really, really good.

OK, now don’t get used to me writing about women’s basketball.

I did something Friday night that I had never previously done unless I was being paid to be in attendance:

I attended a high school girls’ basketball game.

Wait, you’re not sure you heard me correctly? Let me say it again.

I attended a high school girls’ basketball game – and wasn’t paid to be there.

My brother’s family was headed to the Boise-area district championship tilt between Centennial and Mountain View and I decided to tag along so I could see what all the fuss is about when it comes to Destiny Slocum.

The Mountain View senior guard is the reigning Idaho State Player of the Year and a shoo-in to win the award again this season. She also played on the United States under-19 team that won a gold medal in last summer’s FIBA World Championships in Moscow.

And let’s just say she was every bit as good as advertised while scoring 36 points in the Mavericks’ 73-64 victory on Friday night.

She can shoot, she can pass, she can dribble, she can penetrate, she moves well without the ball, she has a solid mix of tenacity and aggressiveness and she probably has had even better games than I witnessed in the contest at Eagle High.

Slocum made six 3-pointers in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score. Her most impressive basket wasn’t even one of her 3-pointers – I’m pretty sure her shooting range extended out to Star – but occurred when she posted up inside the free-throw line and had the ball passed to her.

She caught the ball while defended tightly and immediately knocked down a 13-foot turnaround jumper.

It was the type of shot you don’t see many high school girls even attempt, let alone do it effortlessly and score two points.

Oh yeah, I said she could pass. Picture several bullet-like passes. None of those floating passes that take forever to reach their target.

Slocum is headed to Maryland next season and will play in next month’s prestigious McDonald’s All-Star Game in Chicago. She is the first player – boy or girl – from the state of Idaho to ever be selected.

That Idaho thing was something I wondered about when I first was told about Slocum during her sophomore season.

You see, I covered a couple girls’ basketball games upon first moving to Boise and let’s just say the quality of play wasn’t very good. One of the games was in the state tournament and it looked like the caliber of play that you would see in an eighth-grade league in Southern California.

So it was natural to wonder if Slocum was such a standout because of the sparse talent in the state. As in just way, way better than anyone she’d run into.

But one thing that stood out while seeing Slocum play live is that she would be a solid player in Southern California. Or Washington or Florida. Or Mars.

I also compared her to some women’s college players I covered during my years on the San Diego State beat.

Over the past 25 years, the Aztecs have only been good in women’s basketball when Beth Burns has been the coach. In between Burns’ two stints there was an eight-year period when Barb Smith (49-86 in five seasons) and Jim Tomey (25-58 in three seasons) served as coaches and neither one ever had a winning season.

Know this – Slocum is better right now while in high school than any player on the San Diego State roster during the tenures of Smith and Tomey.

By far.

Slocum and her Mountain View teammates begin their run in the state tournament on Thursday and I think it is clear the top-ranked Mavericks will reach the state title game.

You see, Centennial was ranked second in the state entering Friday’s contest. The Patriots trailed by as many as 24 points midway through the fourth quarter before narrowing the gap.

Friday’s game will be the one and only live impression I will have of Slocum’s game. The NBA All-Star break will end next Thursday so I won’t have a night off work duty to attend another game.

So it’s back to only attending a high school girls’ basketball game if I’m paid to be there.

But this was a pretty good exception to the rule.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

Sarah Stephens won the amateur all-around title for mule riding with Lizzy.

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Something tells me there will be a lot of teenagers named Carli about 15 years from now.

And that’s fine after Carli Lloyd stenciled herself into United States athletics lore with an epic performance on the biggest stage in women’s soccer.

Lloyd scored three goals to lead the United States women’s national team to an easy 5-2 victory over Japan in Sunday’s championship match. The World Cup title is the first for the Americans since Brandi Chastain’s famous penalty-kick goal decided the 1999 finale.

Talk about a big-time performance in a pressure-packed situation in Vancouver. Lloyd scored all three of her goals in the first 16 minutes, including an epic blast from just inside the center line.

There are a couple NFL teams that could use a kicker like that.

The 32-year-old Lloyd scored six goals in the World Cup and strongly shut down the criticism that former U.S. coach Pia Sundhage recently tossed her way in an interview with the New York Times.

“Carli Lloyd was a challenge to coach,” Sundhage told the publication. “When she felt that we had faith in her, she could be one of the best players. But if she began to question that faith, she could be one of the worst.”

The comments made Lloyd sound like a mentally weak head case who might fold under the pressure.

Seems like that scouting report didn’t hold up in the World Cup — hmmm, maybe coach Sundhage was part of the problem.

Those critical comments will quickly be forgotten after Lloyd’s fabulous finale and now her star will be rising as one of the top female athletic role models.

It is always a win-win when young girls find more heroes to emulate in the male-dominated sports field. They see NFL and NBA stars in commercials all the time but have to look hard to find someone of their own gender.

Two of my nieces have become starstruck over U.S. standout Alex Morgan and were among the thousands of little girls mesmerized by the “Share a Coke with Alex Morgan” promotion. The winner of the grand prize earns a training session for themselves and a friend with Morgan.

Carli Lloyd became the hero of numerous young girls on Sunday. Something tells me she won’t be overwhelmed by this new gig.

Anyone who can score three goals in the World Cup final can easily juggle having three million new fans.

As well as having chance encounters down the line with young girls who say “I was named after you!”

The United States women’s soccer team is back on the pitch Monday night and is hoping it will have enough punch to defeat Colombia and move one step closer to reaching the World Cup final on July 5.

Oh yeah, Hope Solo is on the squad. Clearly, the Americans definitely have enough PUNCH.

Solo might be a star goalkeeper but she is also a controversial figure after a domestic assault incident with two relatives last summer. The details in the police report make her sound like the female Floyd Mayweather and let’s just say that is no compliment.

There’s something about repeatedly smashing your 17-year-old nephew’s head into the concrete floor that doesn’t sit right. Obviously, it was a bad draw to land a strong soccer player as an aunt.

Solo tried to paint herself as the victim on a national television morning show but ESPN’s investigative team unearthed details of the way she acted in jail, and that marked the end of any sympathy points. A male athlete who acted that unsavory would be scorched in the media.

Hmmm, maybe Solo was suffering from roid rage. Any media outlets investigating that angle?

At least we know the USA women will win the postgame boxing match.

The story was close to flying under the radar for much of 2015 — just as the U.S. soccer federation was hoping — until ESPN timed its report for the beginning of the World Cup.

That put the lack of action against Solo and the lackluster investigation into the spotlight. Little hard to sweep it under the rug now despite coach Jill Ellis acting like it is something that happened decades ago.

Ellis, of course, needs Solo on the squad as she otherwise has no chance at coaching the Americans to a World Cup title. Apparently, Hope Solo is the only woman in this entire country who knows how to play goalie.

And now Ellis doesn’t want to deal with the situation and the players get stuck in the middle. They are sick of being asked questions about Solo but the goalie hasn’t faced the media in two weeks.

This isn’t going away ladies. Just because some of you wear dresses in your free time doesn’t make it acceptable for one of your teammates — a woman — to beat the tar out of two people.

Remember how everyone ripped the NFL for not penalizing Ray Rice severely enough before finally getting it right? Women’s soccer has gone the opposite route.

The organization figured it could do nothing because people don’t pay attention to the sport most of the time. They were gambling that it eventually would go away. The out of sight, out of mind phenomenon.

Unfortunately for them, the women’s World Cup is one of the few times we do care about soccer and that put the lack of punishment into the spotlight.

Too bad there isn’t a video of Solo pounding her nephew’s head into the ground floating around the Internet. That would change things real quick.

Solo apparently isn’t done with spin control. She recently had People Magazine over to her house and the publication printed a story over the weekend with Solo once again playing the victim.

“It’s been painful,” she said to the publication. “I almost lost my career. It’s been traumatic and embarrassing.”

Well, she should be embarrassed. Her own actions put herself in this situation and she deserves all the derisive comments people make on social-media sites.

Look, the women’s national team has had a number of solid role models over the years, ranging from the great Mia Hamm and Julie Foudy to current member Alex Morgan. Young girls look up to these women because they seldom see women professional athletes on television.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t any bad eggs mixed it. Look no further than Solo, who might not be Tonya Harding bad but she’s up there when we talk about unsavory female athletes.

And if the Americans need Solo’s “punch” to win, that’s pretty shameful. Perhaps it would be fitting if Solo makes a rare mistake and the United States loses on Monday.

I’m sure not flying solo when it comes to that opinion.

Was doing some Internet pleasure surfing Wednesday and came across video of Winter Olympics gold medal winner Kaitlyn Farrington returning to her stomping grounds in Idaho earlier this week.

Unless you slept through the month of February, you probably learned about Farrington’s existence on the planet because she won the women’s half pipe final in Sochi. But had you ever heard of her say way, way back in January of 2014?

kaitlyn.farrington.gold.medal.winnerAs someone who has covered sports for a living for two decades, I had never heard of the young woman until after she won gold. In fact, I stayed up until 3:30 a.m. Boise time to see the taped-delay version of her winning gold and that is when I became enlightened.

NBC told us about her background and the fact that her parents sold cows to fund her trips as she became more advanced in the snowboarding world. Then you saw her happy-go-lucky attitude, her smile and just genuine impressive nature and you couldn’t help but be impressed.

I took to Twitter to tell Wheaties that Farrington should be one of the Olympians who lands a Wheaties box cover. Her story from farm girl in small-town Idaho to Olympic gold medalist is the type of story journalists live to tell.

Except there was nobody interested in telling it way, way back in January of 2014.

That point was drummed in by Farrington herself at a press conference in the Sun Valley area and I watched the clip multiple times. Her words really resonated with the journalist inside me and her point is more than valid.

“It’s been amazing to tell my story because nobody cared until now,” Farrington said with a smile and a hearty laugh. “So I get to walk around pretty much doing interviews and tell people how awesome I am. And it’s been really fun because nobody did care and now everyone is caring. It’s crazy because you can come from nothing and be at the top.”

Certainly, winning a gold medal catapults the amount of attention an athlete will receive. And obviously reporters are going to ask the pertinent background questions and paint the picture and tell the tale afterward because, well, now the story is a pretty easy one to write.

Even if an athlete simply makes an Olympic team, his or her story is well worth telling. I can remember covering the U.S. Olympic swimming trials in Long Beach in 2004 and every single person from our coverage area who was in the event received the awesome opportunity to speak with me (heavy sarcasm font needed).

Heck, I even attended a swimming practice of a 13-year-old named Jessica Schmitt two weeks before the event. She had qualified in the 200 breaststroke and was in the same event as past Olympic medal winners like Amanda Beard and Staci Stitts.

Basically, the youngster had no realistic chance of making the Olympic team but just reaching an unheard of level for someone heading into eighth grade was a quite a feat and a story well worth telling.

Yet move forward nearly a decade later and newspapers are no longer a force. The industry decline was brutal and thousands of excellent journalists are now in other lines of work. Things like storytelling and enterprise reporting are a lost art.

So what happens is the niche sports suffer. Very little attention is paid to them in the first place and when staffs are cut and coverage standards drop, fewer of the hard-to-find stories are discovered.

Stories about people like Kaitlyn Farrington – a snowboarder – are still there to be found. It’s just that nobody is looking to find them.

The cool thing is we all know Kaitlyn Farrington now – I see her wearing a Cheez-It jacket so I know she has at least one sponsor – and she surely won’t sneak up on us when the 2018 Winter Games roll around.

There will be plenty of people lined up to interview her in January of 2018. Her rags-to-riches tale will still be a good one and the overwhelming storyline will be whether or not she can repeat as a gold medal winner.

Farrington is definitely enjoying the attention she is currently receiving and is certainly soaking in the moment. Sifting through her Twitter timeline, you can see she did a round of interviews in New York and attended the Daytona 500.

You know, stuff that wouldn’t have come her way back in the olden days of January, 2014.

The attention will die down over the coming months and Farrington’s life will regain some form of normalcy.

But you know, I’d actually be interested in hearing what Farrington’s life is like six months from now. But I fear there will be nobody poking around to tell us.

Then again, I’m probably due to make a drive from Boise to Sun Valley. So Kaitlyn, hit me up in July or August on Twitter @MrSportsBlog. We can do this storytelling thing right – and do it right here on this website.

Part of the allure of the Olympics is watching somebody go from being relatively unknown to the talk of the nation in the span of a week or two.

The younger the person happens to be, the more impressed the American public gets over the accomplishments and the poise shown while dealing with the pressures of the Olympic stage.

Certainly, gold medalist Gabby Douglas of the women’s gymnastics team fits the bill, but I have found 17-year-old swimmer Missy Franklin to be the hit of the Olympics thus far.

The senior-to-be at Regis Jesuit High completed her first Olympic foray with four gold medals and a bronze and her youthful exuberance and abundance of class has been fun to see (even if NBC often telecasts it several hours later).

Franklin just happens to be from Aurora, Colo., a town that now rolls off the tip of tongues everywhere after the ridiculous shooting massacre that occurred at a movie theater shortly after midnight on July 20.

James Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 others who were just out to have a good time watching a movie. His actions cast a dark shadow over the city of Aurora and it seems more than a bit ironic that one of the best feel-good stories of the Olympics happens to be a youngster from the same city.

Franklin has become a symbol of hope for the suburb of Denver and her path to stardom is unconventional. She resisted urges from USA Swimming to ditch her long-time coach and move away from home and hook up with a more-renown swimming coach and program to chase her dreams.

She decided loyalty and staying true to her roots were far more important. And look, she is now being called the future of America swimming (legendary Michael Phelps plans to retire) and about to become the recipient of tremendous endorsement opportunities that will make her an instant millionaire.

But wait – Franklin has yet to give up her amateur status so she is still just a tall 17-year-old with big feet who doesn’t have much money. You see, she would like to compete in college, an option that would require her to pass up all the endorsements that will come her way.

That would mean hoping everything goes right over the next four years and again winning a slew of medals in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 and then cashing in.

I kind of hope Missy Franklin goes for the riches now – the girl deserves it for being a stellar role model in addition to being a fabulous swimmer.