Women’s Sports Roundup: WNBA Semifinals, NWSL Fallout, and more

Portland Timbers Army fans hold signs showing solidarity with NWSL players before a game against Inter Miami at Providence Park.
Troy Wayrynen USA TODAY Sports

It was a significant weekend for the women’s sports world – both because of the competitions that were held, and the competitions that weren’t.

In case you missed any of this weekend’s news, On Her Turf is here to get you up to speed.

2021 WNBA Playoffs: Chicago Sky, Phoenix Mercury on verge of clinching Finals berths

The so-called “underdogs” were victorious in both of Sunday’s WNBA semifinal round games.

Led by Kahleah Copper and Allie Quigley, the No. 6 Chicago Sky defeated the top-seeded Connecticut Sun 86-83 to take a 2-1 lead in the series. (Read a full game recap here.)

Later in the afternoon, the fifth-seeded Phoenix Mercury outpaced the second-ranked Las Vegas Aces 87-60. (Game recap here.)

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Both the Mercury and Sky can clinch a spot in the 2021 WNBA Finals by winning Wednesday’s game four matchups.

A full guide to the 2021 WNBA Playoffs – complete with results, TV channel info, and more – can be found here.

NWSL Fallout: Lisa Baird is out, league announces new executive group

The NWSL called off this weekend’s games after North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley was accused of sexual coercion and emotional abuse in a bombshell report published by the Athletic on Thursday.

Riley was fired later that day, and by Friday night, NWSL commissioner Lisa Baird had been ousted.

Over the weekend, supporters of the Portland Thorns gathered at the team’s home stadium, Providence Park. During a Portland Timbers MLS game, fans hoisted banners that read “DIGNITY MUST BE RESTORED” and “BELIEVE, SUPPORT, AND PROTECT NWSL PLAYERS.”

On Sunday, the NWSL announced the formation of a three-woman executive committee to oversee league operations, as well as the launch of an independent investigation into the league’s handling of abuse claims.

U.S. Soccer also announced that it had retained Sally Yates – former U.S. Attorney and Deputy Attorney General – to lead an investigation into abusive behavior and sexual misconduct in women’s professional soccer.

2021 London Marathon: Manuela Schaer wins women’s wheelchair division, Tatyana McFadden continues historic fall season

Switzerland’s Manuela Schaer won her second marathon in as many weekends. After winning the wheelchair division of the Berlin Marathon last week, Schaer broke her own course record in Sunday’s London Marathon, crossing the line in 1:39.52.

Germany’s Merle Menje finished second in the women’s wheelchair division, while American Tatyana McFadden placed third.

McFadden, who also raced Berlin last weekend (finishing second), has an especially busy fall racing season. She is the only woman slated to compete in all five Marathon Majors. (Retired elite runner Shalane Flanagan is also planning to enter every race, but just as a participant.)

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Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the annual marathon schedule – which usually begins in early March with the Tokyo Marathon and concludes in early November with the New York City Marathon – has instead been condensed into seven weeks.

“It is the first time in history that all of marathons will be compacted like that,” McFadden told On Her Turf last month. “I think I’m going to be the only woman to do the American three so I’m very excited for that.”

Cycling’s slow road to gender equity: Lizzie Deignan wins first ever women’s Paris-Roubaix

Great Britain’s Lizzie Deignan made history on Saturday, winning the inaugural women’s Paris-Roubaix. She finished one minute and 17 seconds ahead of Dutch cyclist Marianne Voss.

The Paris-Roubaix has been contested by men for 125 years, but 2021 marked the inaugural women’s race.

“Women’s cycling is at this turning point, and today is part of history,” Deignan said after her win. “It proves the appetite for women’s cycling and that the riders can do one of the hardest races in the world.”

Of course, there is still progress to be made.

For her win, Deignan earned a small fraction of prize money compared to men’s winner Sonny Colbrelli of Italy. Deignan received 1,535 Euros ($1784 USD) for her victory, one-twentieth of what Colbrelli won. The full women’s prize pot was 7,505 euros, while the men’s purse was 91,000 euros.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: A more equal future for women’s cycling?

Golf: Celine Boutier rallies to win 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic

Celine Boutier birdied two of her last three holes on Sunday to win the 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic. It marks Boutier’s second career LPGA Tour victory.

“It feels like my first win in Australia was so long ago,” Boutier said. “I’m just over the moon.”

The 2021 ShopRite LPGA Classic also marked the first ever all-women golf broadcast team in U.S. television history. Cara Banks handled play-by-play, Judy Rankin and Paige McKenzie served as analysts, while Karen Stupples and Kay Cockerill were the on-course reporters.

Read a full recap of the ShopRite LPGA Classic here.

Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC