At Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, spotlight shines on women’s golf

Emilia Migliaccio
Wake Forest University / Golf Channel

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on The Darius Rucker Intercollegiate is the first all-women’s regular-season college event to be showcased live on Golf Channel. You can watch coverage, Monday-Wednesday, from 2:30-5:30 p.m. ET.

By Emilia Migliaccio

I crave challenges. Hence, I became a golfer and started competing in tournaments at 9 years old. Competition ignited my desire for that adrenaline rush, a feeling that pulses through my body when I step on the first tee. This week, however, I’m not competing. There will be a microphone in my hand, a headset over my ears, and I will be reporting on one of my favorite college tournaments of the year – the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate.

Two more aspects make this story special to me. One, I have the privilege of reporting on my alma mater, Wake Forest University. My teammates, who I still see every day, will be fighting to defend their title – which we won by 26 shots two years ago – and reclaim that prestigious Darius Rucker guitar trophy. Two, Golf Channel continues to pave the way for change by televising this women’s collegiate event and I am honored to play a role.

On-course reporting has spurred a new perspective for me on storytelling. When I write news and feature stories, I am thoughtful, creative, and considerate with my words. Live reporting requires that same amount of effort, but with a significant time crunch. I change pace from writing a story in a couple of hours to telling a piece of a story in a matter of seconds. When I compete in a golf tournament, I work to quiet my mind and focus on the golf shot at hand. I try to get into a zone, or flow state where I’m in tune with my body and mind and can endure the challenges golf offers – which are many.

Long Cove Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina, where the Darius Rucker is held, is not shy at throwing players a bevy of challenges. The week is often cold, windy and sometimes rainy. It requires a level of discipline that only the best players can handle. Lucky me, I won’t have to face the same challenges the players will undergo this week, but my challenge will come from a different angle. When I step up on “my first tee,” I will be challenged with creating an engaging storyline that draws viewers in, that makes them feel like they are part of the story. I need to be ready to report on all the elements viewers can’t see, hear or feel – the lie of the golf ball, a player’s angle to the flag, the strength of the wind, any slope on the green and interactions between players and coaches.

Reporting allows me to step outside of myself and my own game, to observe and highlight the best parts about another golfer’s game – both the technical and mental sides. I will be challenged with predicting a particular shot or outcome from a player. When players do not hit great shots, I will work to give the audience context on why the shot or putt wasn’t properly executed, refraining from criticizing the player. I hope to demonstrate to viewers that I understand the thrill, adrenaline and joy of a competitive golf round just like I understand the pressure, anxiety and challenges that come with trying to reach peak performance.

When I’m competing on the golf course, I must be creative with my shots. When I’m reporting, I must be creative with my words. How can I describe this shot better? What elements am I not bringing into the picture? How can I say this in a way that will resonate with the people watching? These are just some of many questions I ask myself during and after a day of reporting.

I may not be competing for the Wake Forest golf team in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate this year, but I am lucky to be part of an incredible broadcast team. Just like on a golf team, during a live broadcast, each member must work together to create the best possible production. As the tournament draw near, I wait in anticipation to see if the winning putt will be made by one of my former teammates. However, what’s most important to me, is the opportunity to showcase on Golf Channel the spectacular talent, skill and athleticism these young women possess.

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)


  • 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.”