From Baylor to Becky Lynch -- Reliving an amazing weekend of sports
As I watched Baylor and Notre Dame trade late-game buckets on Sunday evening, a GIF of Becky "The Man" Lynch flashed on my Twitter feed. Moments later, a friend texted me to make sure I knew Mia Hamm would be attending the U.S. women's soccer game later that night.
Something hit me a few moments later: The weekend's best moments -- with the possible exception of the men's Final Four -- involved female athletes and women's sports.
From the NCAA women's basketball semifinals and national championship, to Becky Lynch, Ronda Rousey and Charlotte Flair in the main event of WrestleMania, to women making history on the golf course at Augusta National and at the ANA Inspiration, to some of the biggest names in tennis battling it out, to a handful of phenomenal performances (oh hey, Kyla Ross!) in the NCAA gymnastics regionals, to the U.S. women's national team celebrating the 99ers with a win in front of more than 20,000 fans, the weekend had it all.
And frankly, news of Sabrina Ionescu's decision to return to Oregon for her senior year dominated the Twitter-sphere during at least part of the (at times snooze-worthy) men's semifinal game between Texas Tech and Michigan State.
It's hard to grasp how incredible this is. It was just an amazing weekend in sports -- no gender descriptor needed.
Sure, there will always be the trolls uncreatively talking about making sandwiches, but could our collective attitudes toward women in sports finally be changing? I have to say it's a delight getting to write a column that's basically just "THIS IS AWESOME," so let's please celebrate and relive this amazing weekend before the news cycle goes back to something we'll all end up being outraged over.
Led by two female women's basketball coaches in Baylor's Kim Mulkey and Notre Dame's Muffet McGraw, the Lady Bears and the Irish starred in a clash for the ages. Baylor jumped out to a lead and looked ready to cruise to its third national championship. Then junior forward Lauren Cox sustained a game-ending knee injury late in the third quarter and everything changed. Notre Dame stormed back, and the teams spent the fourth quarter battling back and forth. For a few moments, it felt like no one missed a shot. It was thrilling, exhilarating, and I couldn't stay in my seat. If you were scripting a final few minutes of a basketball game for a movie, they may have looked exactly like this.
With 1.9 seconds left in the game, senior guard Arike Ogunbowale -- the star of Notre Dame's 2018 championship run -- was fouled and headed to the line. Trailing by two, the senior looked confident as she took her first free throw -- then it rimmed out. She tried to miss her second shot, but it went in and Baylor essentially just needed to get the ball in-bounds for the one-point win. It was one of the most emotional moments, filled with the clichéd thrill of victory and the agony -- oh, the agony -- of defeat.
Arike Ogunbowale wipes away tears as she walks off the floor.- SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 8, 2019
After being the hero in this game one year ago, Ogunbowale missed a free throw with under 2 seconds to play that could have sent the title game into OT. pic.twitter.com/UrKB6MgNbN
Hours later, former UFC champion-turned-WWE Superstar Ronda Rousey also felt pain on a public stage. Taking on Becky Lynch and Charlotte Flair in the main event of the seven-hour WrestleMania show -- a first for women -- Rousey was thrown out of the ring in the most ridiculous way possible in front of over 82,000 fans at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey.
Lynch, who has one of the most meteoric and unexpected rises in WWE history, won the match to become the dual Raw and SmackDown title holder. Considering it was just a few years ago women in the WWE were called "Divas" and were fighting just to get a few minutes of airtime, it's nothing short of miraculous to see how far women have come.
Attention, opportunity, trust, and RESPECT.- Charlotte Flair (@MsCharlotteWWE) April 8, 2019
We dreamed of it.
We worked for it.
We deserve it.
Thank you to all female Superstars then, now, and in the future who made tonight possible. #Evolution #WrestleMania pic.twitter.com/Vanse1V4Yo
In NCAA gymnastics, Kyla Ross lived up to her #KylaBOSS nickname with THREE perfect 10s this weekend as she led UCLA, the defending champion, to first place in their regional meet and back to the national championship. In the regional semifinals on Friday, Ross earned top marks on the vault. And on Saturday in the regional finals, she was perfect on bars and beam. I have no idea how it is humanly possible to be so incredible on multiple events, but we should be happy we get to witness her dominance and sheer brilliance at the NCAA level.
Even a fall from MyKayla Skinner, a former national team star-turned-Utah phenom, on bars on Friday was historic as it was her first time doing so on an event in her THREE YEARS of college gymnastics. She had gone -- wait for it -- 161 routines, an NCAA record, without falling.
In a horrific turn of events, Auburn senior Sam Cerio dislocated both her knees and suffered multiple torn ligaments while attempting a blind landing in her floor routine. Despite the gruesome injury, her teammates rallied behind her with a #StickItForSam mantra and advanced to the regional finals behind their second-highest score of the season.
Cerio released a statement on Sunday thanking the fans and reflecting on the end of her gymnastics career. She concluded it with: "Thank you for letting me share my passion with you. Thank you for letting me be a part of something bigger than myself."
The Tigers didn't advance to the national championships on Saturday, but Cerio and her teammates enamored themselves to the country with their gutsy performances and unwavering positivity.
If that's not enough gymnastics for you, American Morgan Hurd edged Canadian Ellie Black for the top spot on the podium at the FIG All-Around World Cup in Tokyo. Even though Simone Biles didn't compete this weekend, it still should get you excited for next summer's Olympics in the Japanese capital.
History was made as women competed at Augusta National Golf Club for the first time during the Augusta National Women's Amateur. Lorena Ochoa, Annika Sorenstam, Se-Ri Pak and Nancy Lopez -- four legends of the sport -- got the final round started with ceremonial first tee shots. Even the most jaded of sports fans had to feel chills as they watched these women step onto the No. 1 tee box.
While the timing of the tournament was questionable in the minds of some (Read: me) as it went up directly against the ANA Inspiration, the LPGA's first major of the year, it's about time the storied home of the Masters allowed representation of 50 percent of the population to play. It feels like progress -- very, very late-to-the-game progress, but progress all the same. Across the country at the ANA Inspiration, Jin Young Ko won her first LPGA major a year after finishing 64th at the event and two years after not even making the cut. She had a well-deserved jump into Poppie's Pond -- one of the best traditions in sports.
The U.S. women's national team continued to prepare for this summer's Women's World Cup, playing a soccer friendly against Belgium in front of 20,000 fans in Los Angeles. Not only did the U.S. rout its opponent 6-0, it also celebrated the 1999 national team, most of whom were in attendance, making you want to wave your jersey around your head while wearing a sports bra.
99ers forever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever and ever! ❤️ pic.twitter.com/VLklv3PHMu- U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) April 8, 2019
Not only that, but Hollywood stars Natalie Portman, Eva Longoria, Jennifer Garner, Uzo Aduba and Jessica Chastain -- perhaps you've heard of them? -- were in the house to cheer on the team and lend their support for equal pay.
We've got a few late roster additions �� pic.twitter.com/0qUYzonLZF- U.S. Soccer WNT (@USWNT) April 8, 2019
In other red, white and blue news, the U.S. women's hockey team has been crushing it at the women's world hockey championships. The squad beat rival Canada on Saturday, 3-2, and then dominated Switzerland 8-0 on Sunday. At this rate, it looks like the Americans should be cruising into next weekend's gold-medal game.
#ICYMI | The #USWNT maintained its undefeated record through three games of the 2019 #WomensWorlds with yesterday's 8-0 victory over Switzerland.- USA Hockey (@usahockey) April 8, 2019
Full recap → https://t.co/5ErV3dLZ60 pic.twitter.com/FhIunIEiKc
It probably shouldn't have been a particularly eventful weekend in tennis, but fans got a treat as Madison Keys won her first title of the year, and her first on clay, over Caroline Wozniacki in Charleston, South Carolina. Garbine Muguruza defended her title in Monterrey, Mexico, over Victoria Azarenka, playing in her first final since coming back from maternity leave. Azarenka had to retire in the second set with a leg injury, but her consolation speech embodied all that is great about sports.
"Thank you for your passion, support and energy. It's unfortunate I couldn't give my best today, but I tried my hardest."- WTA (@WTA) April 7, 2019
An emotional @vika7 thanks @Abierto_GNP for the love en route to her first final since giving birth. pic.twitter.com/rIdyRLnj5e
As sports fans, we love a good comeback. Serena Williams, in her typical fashion, defied the laws of just about everything as she advanced to the finals of her first two majors after the birth of her daughter, but Azarenka's return hasn't been quite as successful. She has struggled on the court, as well as with a custody dispute over her son, but her resolve and honesty should be something we all celebrate. And it will make her return to a title, whenever that may be, all the more sweet.
The weekend had it all -- the highs of highs, and the lows and lows. But no matter if you're a devastated Notre Dame or Ronda Rousey fan, a joyful UCLA gymnastics fan or had no rooting interest in anyone or team competing this weekend, you hopefully got to appreciate all the amazing women on your screens and get excited for the next weekend of epicness.