Aliyah Boston powers South Carolina to 2022 NCAA women’s basketball final

Aliyah Boston in the 2022 Women's Final Four
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The South Carolina Gamecocks defeated the Louisville Cardinals during the first semifinal at the 2022 Women’s Final Four in Minneapolis, Minnesota, to advance to Sunday’s NCAA women’s basketball championship game. Throughout the game, On Her Turf provided live updates and highlights. See below to relive how the semifinal unfolded.

South Carolina vs. UConn in the 2022 national championship game: How to watch, live updates


Final Four Live Updates: South Carolina vs. Louisville

Here are the starting lineups for both teams:

South Carolina: 

  • 3 – Destanni Henderson (G)
  • 5- Victaria Saxton (C)
  • 1 – Zia Cooke (G)
  • 4 – Aliyah Boston (F)
  • 12 – Brea Beal (F)

Louisville: 

  • 23 – Chelsie Hall (F)
  • 14 – Kianna Smith (G)
  • 21 – Emily Engstler (F)
  • 10 – Hailey Van Lith (G)
  • 44 – Olivia Cochran (C)

South Carolina vs. Louisville – First quarter:

9:09 1Q: And we’re underway! Victaria Saxton puts South Carolina on the board with a layup.

5:30 1Q: Wow, South Carolina leads 11-2, with Aliyah Boston scoring on back-to-back layups.

1:38 1Q: Some real fire from Louisville, sparked off a great pass from Hailey Van Lith. The Cardinals now trail 10-15.

0:00 1Q: At the end of the first quarter, South Carolina leads Louisville 17-10. Takeaways so far: Aliyah Boston is still really good. Four points, five rebounds so far.


South Carolina vs. Louisville – Second quarter:

6:49 2Q: WOW. 10 straight points from Louisville, including back-to-back-to-back 2-pointers from Emily Engstler. The Cardinals now lead 20-19.

6:14 2Q: And a 12-0 run for Louisville now with a jump shot from Kianna Smith.

1:42 2Q: It took nearly twenty minutes of play for Hailey Van Lith to make a basket, though she does have six rebounds so far. Makes this Van Lith quote from yesterday especially prophetic: “I think the emphasis is that whether they do double me, whether they blitz me, whether I get shots or not, whether I’m 0 for 10 in the first half, I’m going to rebound and I’m going to do everything I can on the defensive end to compete.”

0:00 2Q: At halftime, South Carolina leads 34-28. The Gamecocks did a good job of staying focused despite a 12-0 momentum swing from the Cardinals. As Aliyah Boston told ESPN’s Holly Rowe, “Basketball is a game of runs.”


South Carolina vs. Louisville – Third quarter:

5:47 3Q: Speaking of runs… South Carolina with a lot of momentum to start the third quarter. Destanni Henderson hits a jumper to make it 51-36 for the Gamecocks.

0:04 3Q: Oof. Emily Engstler with her fourth foul of the game. She’s been such a game-changer for Louisville tonight with 16 points, eight rebounds so far. Aliyah Boston scores on the free throw to make it 57-48 to end the third quarter.

0:00 3Q: At the end of the third quarter, Dawn Staley heaps praise onto Aliyah Boston, telling ESPN’s Holly Rowe she’s a “relentless competitor.” Looking ahead to the fourth, Staley says, “We got more depth than they do so we’re going to utilize that.”

Truth. Two Louisville players have played every minute of tonight’s game so far: Hailey Van Lith and Kianna Smith.


South Carolina vs. Louisville – Fourth quarter:

6:27 4Q: Junior guard Brea Beal with a layup to give South Carolina an 11-point lead, 63-52. Tic, tac, toe. Beal has had a great night, recording 12 points so far.

4:56 4Q: That was tough to watch. Louisville senior Emily Engstler – who spent the first three years of her career at Syracuse – gets her fifth foul of the night. She goes to the bench clearly distraught. She’ll finish the game (and likely her college career) with 18 points and nine rebounds.

2:21 4Q: Fantastic save from Victaria Saxton, who runs into the photographers to keep the ball inside the lines. I want to see the replay of that a few more times.

1:25 4Q: Aliyah Boston will finish the night with her 29th double-double of the season… that’s in 36 total games.

0:00 4Q: South Carolina defeats Louisville 72-59 to advance to the 2022 NCAA women’s basketball national championship game. It will be South Carolina’s second ever appearance in the title game and the Gamecocks will aim to make it 2-2 in championship finals after winning in 2017.

Next up at the 2022 Women’s Final Four? Stanford vs. UConn. Follow along to On Her Turf’s live updates here.


How to watch No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Louisville in the NCAA Women’s Final Four:

Teams Time (ET) TV Channel Location
No. 1 South Carolina vs. No. 1 Louisville 7 p.m. ESPN Minneapolis, Minnesota

2022 NCAA Women’s Basketball: Final Four schedule, March Madness results and scores


Women’s Final Four – Louisville vs. South Carolina – What’s at stake:

  • This will be the first time South Carolina and Louisville meet in the NCAA women’s basketball tournament. Outside of tournament play, the two teams have only met once in the last three decades: in 2016. South Carolina won that game 83-59.
  • Louisville has twice advanced to the NCAA women’s basketball championship game (2009, 2013), but has never won the national title.
  • South Carolina has only played in one NCAA championship game (2017), going on to win the national title.

RELATED: Dawn Staley aims for ‘generational impact’ ahead of South Carolina’s fourth Final Four appearance


What they’re saying ahead of the South Carolina vs. Louisville Final Four semifinal:

Hailey Van Lith on how the Cardinals and Gamecocks stack up:

“I think for us as a team, what I’ve been really trying to focus on and carry over to the girls is that regardless of whether the ball goes in on the offensive end for us, we’re going to guard, and we’re going to play defense and we’re going to rebound.

So for me, I think the emphasis is that whether they do double me, whether they blitz me, whether I get shots or not, whether I’m 0 for 10 in the first half, I’m going to rebound and I’m going to do everything I can on the defensive end to compete.

It is going to be an elite guard matchup, but I think it’s going to be who’s the mentally toughest to fight through the fact that these are both elite defenses and not get in their feelings about what’s happening on the offensive end.”

Louisville’s Kianna Smith on the semifinal matchup:

“It’s a great matchup. They have great guards and posts, but our defense all year has been a team effort, and that’s the way we play. We scramble. If somebody gets beat, we cover for each other. Nothing is going to change in that manner, that we’re going to be flying around, playing hard.”

Hailey Van Lith on whether Louisville has an underdog mentality and has been given enough credit:

“I don’t think we’re an underdog. I think we’re right where we meant to be. I think our team deserves this opportunity, and we’re ready to compete. But yeah, we’re just — the media isn’t including us, this and that, blah blah blah, we’re not being talked about as much. We cannot control that. That is not our fault. If they want to sleep, let them sleep. We’ll come in and do us, and we’re going to do us to the best of our ability. We’re just not going to waste energy on things that we can’t control at the end of the day.”

Dawn Staley on whether South Carolina’s semifinal loss in 2021 serves as motivation:

“No, I don’t think about it. The only time I think about it is when it’s brought up. But we’re not really motivated by that. We’re motivated by what we’ve been able to do this year and the habits that we’ve been able to create and perform night in and night out, and we just hope that our habits are much stronger than our opponents’ on any given day.”

RELATED: Dawn Staley’s belief in Laeticia Amihere runs deep

Dawn Staley on whether she feels pressure to win another national championship:

“I mean, at the end of the day, we’re going to be judged by championships. That’s the thing that most people remember. Do we feel pressure to win? Yeah, because we’re a pretty good basketball team. We’re here. Will us not winning define who we are and what we’re able to accomplish? No.

Whoever it is that’s standing — the last team that’s standing on Sunday night, it’s divine order. I truly believe that. So if it’s not us, it’s not us. We’ll get another shot at it when it’s our turn. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”


Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC

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.”