Sylvia Fowles enjoys heartfelt retirement celebration despite Lynx loss to Storm

Sylvia Fowles #34 of the Minnesota Lynx smiles after the game against the Seattle Storm.
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The Minnesota Lynx may have fallen to the Seattle Storm on Friday night, 96-69, but the loss didn’t dampen the celebration that swelled inside Minneapolis’ Target Center in honor of future Hall-of-Famer Sylvia Fowles as she played her last regular-season home game.

The 36-year-old Fowles, who helped the Lynx win two WNBA titles during her eight seasons with the franchise, received a standing ovation when she exited the game with two minutes remaining. The eight-time All-Star scored 13 points and a game-high 12 rebounds in 26 minutes, going 3-for-3 at the line and recording her 100th career double-double in a Minnesota jersey.

“Coming into this season, I didn’t want none of this attention but as the season went along, I realized how much love and how much appreciation these fans have for me across this league and I never want to take this for granted,” Fowles told ESPN after the game. “So, thank you guys for everything that you have done throughout my career. It’s been an amazing ride and I appreciate you all.”

Seattle (22-13) secured the win – and a 4-0 sweep of the season series – behind 23 points and nine rebounds from Tina Charles and 21 points from Jewell Loyd, who set a franchise record with her 73rd three-pointer of the season. The previous record was 72, set by none other than soon-to-be-retired 13-time All-Star Sue Bird in 2016. With the win, the Storm also locked up the No. 4 seed in the WNBA playoffs, where they’ll host the No. 5-seeded Washington Mystics next week in a first-round, best-of-three series.

RELATED: Sylvia Fowles still learning as Minnesota Lynx aim for WNBA playoff spot

“As a fan of Syl and knowing how amazing she is, you don’t want to ruin her night, but it wasn’t ruined at all,” said Storm coach Noelle Quinn, who’s in her second year as head coach. “So much love in the stadium for her and win or lose, you know, it was it was going to be her night and a great night.”

The Lynx put Fowles front and center during a post-game ceremony honoring the 15-year WNBA veteran, who was a four-time All-American at LSU before being picked No. 2 overall in the 2008 draft by the Chicago Sky. The Lynx acquired Fowles via a trade in 2015, and she retires as the league’s career leader in field-goal percentage, total rebounds, defensive rebounds and double-doubles.

“(Sylvia is) one of the greatest players to ever play – the greatest center of ever play,” said Minnesota coach Cheryl Reeve prior to Friday’s tipoff. “People need to know about her, people need to know about her dominance on the court, which a lot of people don’t know. And then obviously, what she’s brought to so many people: the gifts, the gift of love, the gift of friendship, the gift of generosity. I mean, there’s just countless stories.”

Several of those stories were shared during Friday night’s festivities, during which Minnesota’s Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan declared Aug. 12 as “Sylvia Fowles Day” in Minnesota and featured tributes from Reeve, Timberwolves co-owner Glen Taylor, USA Basketball CEO Jim Tooley, current teammate Napheesa Collier, and former teammates Lindsay Whalen and Rebekkah Brunson, who’s also a Lynx assistant coach.

“From a selfish standpoint, I would play with Syl for the rest of my career,” said 25-year-old Collier, who gave birth to her first child, a daughter, less than 12 weeks ago and returned from maternity leave early in order to play with Fowles in her last few games. “I wish you’d play 10 more years. I’d stay here for you. … You are truly one of one, a living legend. The way that you represent yourself, this community, this team your country, is with dignity, grace and class.”

Fowles is a four-time Olympic gold medalist, with four WNBA Defensive Player of the Year awards among her numerous accolades. She was named league MVP in 2017, and she also earned WNBA Finals MVP honors in 2015 and 2017, helping the Lynx earn two of four titles in a seven-year span.

“It’s been a joy,” said an emotional Fowles following the tributes, which included a rousing chant of “Who’s house? Syl’s house!” led by an animated Bird. “I never thought that I would be here in this moment with the impact that I made across this league, to many people, players, fans, family. … This league is competitive and it’s hard, so when you get to that point where you know you have to wind down, it tends to be a roller coaster.”

“Thank (you to) my teammates for pushing me throughout the years,” added the Miami native, who plans to move back to Florida to start her next chapter as a mortician. “Allowing me to be myself, allowing me to take no days off and keeping me motivated. Without you guys I am not who I am. And I want you guys to know that. To the media to the fans, thank you guys for embracing me with open arms.”

The Storm will close out their season on Sunday at top-seeded Las Vegas, while Minnesota (14-21) plays at Connecticut, aiming to secure the final playoff spot.

MORE FROM ON HER TURF: 2022 WNBA Playoffs – Qualified teams, playoff format, game schedule and more

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 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

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.