South Carolina’s Dawn Staley advocates for Black female coaches

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PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas — Dawn Staley remembers when she was just beginning her coaching career when she’d look across the sideline and rarely see a Black female leading the opposing team.

It happens more often today, but Staley says not nearly enough.

“There is an influx of Black women getting an opportunity,” Staley said. “Black women are getting more chances to be the head honcho in their programs. I hope we continue to be successful.”

Pair of Black women will square off again Saturday when Staley’s top-ranked Gamecocks open play in the first-ever women’s Battle 4 Atlantis in the Bahamas against Buffalo and Felisha Legette-Jack.

Staley, who recently signed a landmark $22.4 million, seven-year contract, said it’s simply a numbers game when looking at the demographics of who plays the sport compared to who gets gets the most opportunities to lead them.

“There should be a fair amount of Black women getting a chance because of who we serve,” Staley said. “We serve a lot of players who are Black. I don’t want people thinking I’m playing the race card. I’ve been in the game a long time, I’ve seen big jobs go to people that deserved an opportunity. ”

There are 12 Black women head coaches at Power Five schools this season, including two new ones out of nine openings: Marisa Moseley at Wisconsin and Johnnie Harris at Auburn.

Overall, 14 of 39 openings at Power Five schools this offseason went to minorities.

“I think more doors should be opening because we’re freaking good. It’s undeniable you have to interview us,” Legette-Jack said. “When you interview us, you must select us. The answer is yes. We are more ready than most people.”

Legette-Jack said Black female coaches couldn’t have a better advocate than Staley.

“I’m in awe of her. I’m a groupie. she’s so great and gracious,” the Bulls coach said. “You call her, and you think you’re the most special person in the world. She does it with everybody.”

Legette-Jack was one of nearly 70 Black female coaches that Staley sent a piece of her championship net that South Carolina won in 2017. It was a gesture that wasn’t lost on Buffalo’s coach.

“She sent it to them and gave a note to them,” Legette-Jack said. “She inspired us to want to reach higher. I’ve not seen that doing this for 33 years. No one has stepped out and been more impactful for the masses the way Dawn Staley has been.”

Staley had been debating who to give a piece of the championship net too the same way Carolyn Peck had done for her years ago.

“I wrestled with who to give it to with so many coaches out there, I can’t just pick one,” Staley said. “Let me do something different and give them to all the Black women’s coaches. There are Black men who are recipients. All Division I Black coaches in our game.”

Staley hopes that those coaches will all find a way to uplift someone else when they are successful.

“I started with the Division I coaches as they are the ones who have the biggest platform. Hopefully they can reach back into their coaching tree and career, see what people have impacted them in a way they can share it with,”″ Staley said. “It doesn’t have to be a tangible net, it could be a phone call, a text message. a letter, It symbolizes you’ve noticed what they are doing. The impact they’ve had in somebody’s life.”

While there are more Black coaches getting that first opportunity, Staley and others hope to see coaches who may not succeed right away be given some time or if they do end up failing, a second chance.

“There’s a different level of pressure put on a woman of color,” said Nikki Fargas, who is the president of the women of color coaches’ association. “We don’t get recycled. You don’t get a second chance. You’re having to think about that.”

Legette-Jack is one of the coaches Fargas has seen not get a second chance at a Power Five school after getting fired at Indiana. She has had success at Buffalo the last few years, leading them to the Sweet 16 before losing to Staley’s Gamecocks.

“You know in the back of your mind, I may not get another opportunity,” said Fargas, who spent a decade at LSU as the head coach after leaving UCLA. “I better do the best I can. A little added to it. It’s sad because we carry so much other stuff with us.”

Crystal Dunn returns to USWNT roster five months after giving birth

Nigeria v USWNT
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Crystal Dunn was named to the USWNT roster for two upcoming friendlies against England and Spain, marking her first official selection since giving birth to son Marcel in May.

Dunn made her NWSL return with the Portland Thorns earlier this month and also trained with the U.S. team as a non-rostered player ahead of friendlies vs. Nigeria.

In addition to Dunn, the 24-player roster features a veteran core of Alyssa Naeher, Becky Sauerbrunn, Rose Lavelle, Lindsey Horan, Mallory Pugh, and Megan Rapinoe.

Alex Morgan was not named to the USWNT roster due to a knee injury. While U.S. head coach Vlatko Andonovski did not provide details of the injury, he noted that “if this was a World Cup final, Alex was going to be on this trip and was going to play, no question.”

Other roster highlights include 17-year-old Alyssa Thompson, who becomes the first player born in 2004 to receive a USWNT call-up. Thomas, a high senior, plays club soccer for the U-17 Total Futbol Academy boys’ team.

“We are very excited for her, very excited about her potential and qualities and looking forward to seeing how she will turn out in our environment,” Andonovski said of Thompson. “This camp is not make it or break it. It’s a first experience for her, it’s just something that she shouldn’t even worry about.”

The USWNT also includes a handful of players who have made their USWNT breakthrough this season — thanks in part to both strong NWSL play and injuries to more veteran players. That list includes the likes of Naomi Girma (7 caps), Taylor Kornieck (5 caps), Hailie Mace (5 caps), Sam Coffey (1 cap), and Savannah DeMelo (0 caps).

Andonovski on Thursday called Coffey, a midfielder for the Portland Thorns, a candidate for NWSL MVP.


USWNT Roster for October 2022 Friendlies vs. England and Spain

Goalkeepers (3):

  • Aubrey Kingsbury (Washington Spirit)
  • Casey Murphy (North Carolina Courage)
  • Alyssa Naeher (Chicago Red Stars)

Defenders(7):

  • Alana Cook (OL Reign)
  • Crystal Dunn (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Emily Fox (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Naomi Girma (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Sofia Huerta (OL Reign)
  • Hailie Mace (Kansas City Current)
  • Becky Sauerbrunn (Portland Thorns FC)

Midfielders (8):

  • Sam Coffey (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Savannah DeMelo (Racing Louisville FC)
  • Lindsey Horan (Olympique Lyon, FRA)
  • Taylor Kornieck (San Diego Wave FC)
  • Rose Lavelle (OL Reign)
  • Kristie Mewis (NJ/NY Gotham FC)
  • Ashley Sanchez (Washington Spirit)
  • Andi Sullivan (Washington Spirit)

Forwards (6):

  • Ashley Hatch (Washington Spirit)
  • Mallory Pugh (Chicago Red Stars)
  • Megan Rapinoe (OL Reign)
  • Trinity Rodman (Washington Spirit)
  • Sophia Smith (Portland Thorns FC)
  • Alyssa Thompson (Total Futbol Academy)

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.”