Lloyd, Rapinoe, Morgan headline U.S. Olympic women’s soccer roster

England v USA: Semi Final - 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup France
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For U.S. women’s national soccer team (USWNT) head coach Vlatko Andonovski, figuring out which 18 players would make the U.S. Olympic roster for Tokyo has been an all-consuming experience.

“It’s probably easier to tell you how often I don’t think about it,” Andonovski said earlier this month. “It’s always in the back of your mind.”

At the Tokyo Olympics, the USWNT will aim to return to the top of the Olympic podium. The 2016 Rio Games marked the first time that the U.S. failed to win an Olympic medal since women’s soccer made its Olympic debut in 1996.

The U.S. women’s soccer team is also aiming to become the first nation to follow a World Cup title with Olympic gold, albeit with an extra year in between given the one-year postponement of the Olympics.

On Wednesday morning, Andonovski was finally able to reveal the 18 players selected for the U.S. women’s soccer team for this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.


The U.S. women’s soccer roster for the Tokyo Olympics

GOALKEEPERS

Adrianna Franch

Tokyo will be the Olympic debut of Adrianna Franch, who is likely to serve as backup goalie behind Naeher at the Games. Franch, who plays professionally for Portland Thorns FC, will be the first women’s soccer player from Kansas to represent the U.S. at the Olympics.

Alyssa Naeher

Alyssa Naeher was on the U.S. roster for the 2016 Rio Olympics, but didn’t see any minutes on the pitch. That won’t be the case in Japan. Since 2016, Naeher has become the USWNT’s starting goalie, highlighted by her World Cup-winning performance in 2019.

ALSO IN OLYMPIC ROSTER NEWS: Steffens and Johnson headline U.S. women’s water polo roster for Tokyo Olympics


DEFENDERS

Abby Dahlkemper

Center back Abby Dahlkemper, who signed a professional contract with Manchester City earlier this year, will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo.

Tierna Davidson

The Tokyo Olympics will also mark the Olympic debut of Tierna Davidson, who at age 22, is the youngest player on the U.S. roster. (She also held the distinction of youngest player on the roster at the 2019 World Cup.) Davidson was born in September 1998, a full two years after the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where the U.S. won the inaugural gold medal in women’s soccer.

(Note: Even if Davidson had been alive in 1996, she wouldn’t have been able to watch the USWNT win Olympic gold. That’s because only a few minutes of the game aired on TV. Ahead of this summer’s Tokyo Games, Peacock will be airing that 1996 women’s soccer gold medal game in full.)

Crystal Dunn

Crystal Dunn made her Olympic debut in Rio after being the last player cut from the 2015 World Cup roster. Five years later, Dunn is one of the most consistent players on the pitch. “She brings a lot of versatility,” NBC Olympics soccer analyst Danielle Slaton told On Her Turf earlier this month. “Crystal Dunn can pretty much play any position except for goalkeeper.”

Kelley O’Hara

Kelley O’Hara, who typically gets the start at right back, will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo.

Becky Sauerbrunn

U.S. captain Becky Sauerbrunn will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo. At the 2012 London Games, Sauerbrunn played in three matches off the bench. She has since become one of the consistent center backs.

Sauerbrunn, who plays professionally for Portland Thorns FC, is the second-most capped player (186) on this year’s Olympic roster (behind only Carli Lloyd).

Emily Sonnett

Emily Sonnett, a member of the 2019 World Cup championship team, will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Sonnett was considered one of the bubble players for this year’s Olympic roster, but ultimately got the nod.


MIDFIELDERS

Julie Ertz

Julie Ertz, who made her Olympic debut in Rio, is currently returning from an MCL injury that kept her out of the USWNT summer series earlier this month. Andonovski says she is expected to be ready to play when the Olympics begin next month.

Lindsey Horan

The Tokyo Games will mark Lindsey Horan’s second Olympic appearance. Horan saw limited time on the pitch at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but has since become a regular starter in the midfield.

Rose Lavelle

Rose Lavelle will be making her Olympic debut in Tokyo. Lavelle made a big impact in her World Cup debut in 2019, playing six games and scoring three goals, including one in the final against the Netherlands.

Kristie Mewis

Kristie Mewis is the only member of the Tokyo Olympic roster that watched the U.S. win the 2019 World Cup from the stands. Her inclusion on this roster marks a truly incredible comeback story.

Kristie – who is older than sister Sam by 20 months – was the first Mewis sister to be named to the U.S. women’s national team (USWNT), making her debut in 2013. But Sam was never far behind. The 2014 Algarve Cup marked the first time both Mewis sisters competed together for the USWNT. And until 2020, it was the only time both Mewis sisters competed together for the USWNT.

While Sam developed into a national team mainstay, Kristie stopped receiving invitations to camp, and was then sidelined from her professional team (Houston Dash) by an ACL tear in 2018.

In November 2020, Kristie received her first national team training camp invite in years, and made the most of it, securing a roster spot on the USWNT for her first major international tournament.

“For Kristie, she’s a product of the NWSL,” Andonovski said on Wednesday afternoon following the roster announcement. “She played extremely well in the league in the last year or so.”

Sam Mewis

The Tokyo Olympics will mark Sam Mewis’s second major international tournament (after making her World Cup debut in 2019) and first with “S. Mewis” on the back of her jersey. Sam ended 2020 by being named USWNT player of the year.


FORWARDS

Tobin Heath

Two-time Olympic gold medalist Tobin Heath, who is currently coming back from a knee injury, will be making her fourth Olympic appearance in Tokyo (tying a USWNT record held by Christie Pearce Rampone).

When healthy, Heath “provides something that no other woman on this roster provides: her flair, her creativity, and her soccer IQ,” Slaton explained earlier this month.

Carli Lloyd

Don’t bet against Carli Lloyd. “It’s like betting against Tom Brady or LeBron James. You just don’t do it.” Slaton joked.

Lloyd is a prolific scorer, and certainly isn’t slowing down as she gets older.

In her Olympic debut in 2008, Lloyd scored the winning goal in the U.S. team’s 1-0 overtime victory against Brazil.

Four years later, she scored both goals in the U.S. team’s 2-1 win over Japan at the 2012 London Olympics.

Along with Heath, Lloyd will tie the record for most Olympic appearances by a USWNT player (4). She also leads the team in caps (304) by a huge margin. Sauerbrunn, the second most-capped player, has 186.

Lloyd, who turns 39 on July 16, will be the oldest player to represent the U.S. in women’s soccer at the Olympics.

Alex Morgan

Alex Morgan will be making her third Olympic appearance in Tokyo, and first as a mom. She gave birth to daughter Charlie in May 2020. In Tokyo, Morgan will become the fifth USWNT player to make an Olympic roster after giving birth.

While Morgan never ruled out trying to make the U.S. Olympic team before the Games were postponed, she was certainly aided by the one-year delay. Morgan returned to competition in fall 2020 (playing limited minutes for Tottenham). She has since returned to top form in her appearances with the USWNT and professionally with the Orlando Pride.

RELATED: Meet the moms who have qualified for the U.S. team for the Tokyo Olympics

Christen Press

The Tokyo Games will mark Christen Press’s second Olympic appearance. She will enter the Games with 147 caps (sixth most on this year’s Olympic roster).

Megan Rapinoe

The Tokyo Games will mark Rapinoe’s third Olympic appearance. At the 2016 Rio Games, she was coming back from an ACL tear and wasn’t in top form. She proved her resilience at the 2019 World Cup, where in addition to leading the U.S. to its fourth World Cup title in history, she also won the Golden Boot (most goals scored) and Golden Ball (best player) awards.

“She is somebody who steps up in the big moments and I think she’s got a chip on her shoulder from Rio, where she wasn’t able to participate in the way that she would have liked,” Slaton explained.


THE ALTERNATES

The USWNT will travel to Japan with four alternates: goalkeeper Jane Campbell, defender Casey Krueger, midfielder Catarina Macario and forward Lynn Williams.

One of the biggest surprises is Margaret “Midge” Purce not being included as an alternate. While Purce wasn’t considered a lock to make the 18-player roster, her versatility as both a forward and defender makes her exclusion perplexing.


This story will continue to be updated. 

RELATED: U.S. Olympic soccer roster for Tokyo led by Megan Rapinoe, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

Justine Wong-Orantes’ atypical path to becoming one of the best liberos in the world

Justine Wong-Orantes hits the ball in the women's semi-final volleyball match between USA and Serbia during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
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It’s been 20 years since the same nation held both the Olympic and world volleyball titles at the same time, but libero Justine Wong-Orantes is looking to help lead Team USA accomplish that very feat at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championships in the Netherlands and Poland. Competition began on Friday and the U.S. is currently 2-0 after group play wins against Kazakhstan and Canada.

“We’re trying to win, for sure,” Wong-Orantes told On Her Turf. “I think, especially with the new turn of the program and the new year of the quad, we just have a really nice blend of veterans and also newcomers on the team.”

The 14-woman roster for Team USA, which is ranked No. 1 in the world and won its first Olympic title last summer, features six players from that gold-medal-winning team. And while Wong-Orantes is among the 2021 U.S. Olympic team veterans, she’s still a relative newcomer to international play.

The Southern California native enjoyed a notable junior career – she was 12 when she became the youngest female to ever earn an AAA rating in beach volleyball – and was a standout collegian at Nebraska, where she was a member of the 2015 NCAA championship team. But Wong-Orantes followed a different path upon graduation, initially choosing not to go overseas to play professionally.

While she was first selected for the U.S. national team in 2016 and played a handful of international tournaments in the following years, it wasn’t until she started playing professionally in Germany in 2019 that she saw the potential to elevate her position on the roster. In particular, the pandemic-delayed Tokyo Olympics gave her an additional year of overseas experience, which she calls “a blessing in disguise.”

“I just felt like I was still in that developmental stage,” she said. “And a whole year postponement allowed me to go overseas and really get all the touches, all the repetitions, and just kind of expose myself to international volleyball another year. So I was, in hindsight, pretty thankful for that COVID season because I got an extra year under my belt, and I think that just gave me a ton of confidence.”

Ahead of the Olympics, Wong-Orantes earned “best libero” honors at the 2021 FIVB Volleyball National League in Rimini, Italy, which helped secure her spot on the Olympic roster. In Tokyo, she followed up with another standout performance and was named best libero of the Olympic tournament.

As to how the Wong-Orantes transformed into one of the world’s top liberos, she points to her background as a beach volleyball player. She began competing at age 8, and her first partner was Sara Hughes, a star on the AVP Pro Tour who also won two NCAA titles with USC.

“I think having that background and just the court awareness that beach volleyball forces you to have allowed me to really have a good read on the game,” said Wong-Orantes. “I think that’s what makes a great libero is just reading and always being reactive towards the ball.”

Wong-Orantes also credits the assistance of mental coach Sue Enquist, a former UCLA softball coach and U.S. national team coach, who now helps teams work on their culture and relationships. Enquist began working with the U.S. volleyball team during the pandemic and has continued in her role ever since.

“We just worked on a lot of stuff within ourselves, within our program, how to communicate with each other off the court, and I think that honestly propelled us into such a high, high level with how we worked with each other, and then that transferred onto the court,” explained Wong-Orantes, who noted the team has Enquist on speed dial while at the World Championship. “I really commend Sue. I just really give a lot of praise to her because I think our culture was never bad, but I think [she] just transformed into a different level.”

2022-09-26 - FIVB Volleyball Womens World Championship 2022 - Day 4
ARNHEM, NETHERLANDS – Justine Wong-Orantes (far right) poses for a photo with her U.S. teammates after defeating Canada at the 2022 FIVB Volleyball Women’s World Championship on September 26, 2022. (Photo by Rene Nijhuis/Orange Pictures/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

Wong-Orantes said she and her U.S. teammates are on their toes for the world championships, which features twice as many teams (24) as the Olympics and a “more grueling” format.

“It’s going to be a long tournament, and I think we’re really going to need all 14 of us that are here. I’m pretty certain that, at any given moment, someone’s going to be called on and someone’s going to need to step up in big moments.”

2022 Ascendant LPGA: How to watch, who’s playing in Texas’s annual signature event

Atthaya Thitikul of Thailand hits her second shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.
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The LPGA make its annual stop in The Colony, Texas, this week for the 10th edition of the Ascendant LPGA benefiting Volunteers of America, where Thailand’s 19-year-old rookie Atthaya Thitikul comes in hot off her second career win and second playoff victory this season at the Walmart NW Arkansas Championship.

Leading the 132-player field at Old American Golf Club, located at Golf Clubs at The Tribute, are Texas residents and past champions Cheyenne Knight and Angela Stanford. They’ll compete for the $1.7 million prize purse alongside major champions Nelly KordaLydia Ko and Brooke Henderson. Last year’s Ascendant LPGA champion, world No. 1 Jin Young Ko, will not be defending her title after announcing earlier this month she would be missing several weeks due to a nagging wrist injury.

This past weekend in Arkansas, Thitikul took the lead with a 10-under 61 in the second round and shot 68 in the final round to finish regulation tied with Danielle Kang at 17-under 196. Thitikul, who won the JTBC Classic in March in a two-hole playoff vs. Nanna Koerstz Madsen, drained an 8-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole to secure the win over Kang.


How to watch the 2022 Ascendant LPGA 

Coverage of the 2022 Ascendant LPGA from Old American Golf Club in The Colony, Texas, can be found on Golf Channel, with streaming options available any time on any mobile device and online through NBCSports.com and the NBC Sports app.

  • Thursday, Sept. 29: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Friday, Sept. 30: 12:30-3:30 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Saturday, Oct. 1: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel
  • Sunday, Oct. 2: 1-4 p.m. ET, Golf Channel

Who’s playing in the 2022 Ascendant LPGA

Six of the top 10 players in the Rolex World Rankings are among the field in Texas, including:

  • No. 2 Nelly Korda
  • No. 4 Lydia Ko
  • No. 5 Atthaya Thitikul
  • No. 6 Brooke Henderson
  • No. 7 Lexi Thompson
  • No. 10 Nasa Hataoka

A number of local Texans also are in the tournament, headlined by past champions, Angela Stanford (2020) and Cheyenne Knight (2019), and two junior champions of the Volunteers of America Classic Girls Championship, who are playing on a sponsor exemption: Yunxuan (Michelle) Zhang (2022), a freshman at SMU, and Avery Zweig (2021), a high school sophomore from McKinney, Texas.


Past five champions of The Ascendant LPGA

YEAR WINNER SCORE MARGIN RUNNERUP
2021 Jin Young Ko (South Korea) 16-under 268 1 stroke Matilda Castren
2020 Angela Stanford (USA) 7-under 277 2 strokes So Yeon Ryu, Inbee Park, Yealimi Noh
2019 Cheyenne Knight (USA) 18-under 266 2 strokes Brittany Altomare, Jaye Marie Green
2018 Sung Hyun Park (South Korea) 11-under 131 1 stroke Lindy Duncan
2017 Haru Nomura (Japan) 3-under 281 Playoff Christie Kerr

Last time at The Ascendant LPGA

South Korea’s Jin Young Ko carded a final-round 69 to maintain her 54-hole lead at Old American Golf Club and held on for a one stroke win at the 2021 Volunteers of America Classic, her eighth career LPGA tour title. Ko finished regulation at 16-under 268, edging Finland’s Matilda Castren by one stroke.

It kicked off a five-win season for Ko, who had just lost her No. 1 ranking to Nelly Korda the week prior after holding the top spot for 100 straight weeks. She regained the No. 1 ranking back in October 2021, after earning her fourth win in seven starts at the BMW Ladies Championship.


More about Old American Golf Club

Opened in 2010, the Old American Golf Club is one of two clubs at The Tribute, a lakefront resort community on Lewisville Lake in The Colony, Texas. Designed by Tripp Davis and 12-time PGA Tour winner Justin Leonard, Old American plays as a Par 71 and stretches to 6,475 yards on the tournament scorecard.