Chicago Sky, Red Stars hope to follow Bandits' playoff success
While fall has just begun, it's worth giving a bit more ink to Chicago's girls of summer.
All three of the city's professional women's sports teams had successful seasons this summer, and two are still playing so there's time to add your support.
The Chicago Sky is battling the Los Angeles Sparks in the WNBA semifinals, with a spot in the WNBA Finals on the line. And soccer's Chicago Red Stars are in the NWSL semifinals as well as they march toward their first championship series.
Meanwhile, the Chicago Bandits are preparing for next season, but what a ride they had. Last month, they claimed their second consecutive NPF (softball) title, and their fourth overall as a franchise.
Thriving in the underdog role throughout the playoffs, the Bandits (just 23-25 during the regular season) won a winner-take-all Game 3 (2-1) in the championship series against their biggest rival, USSSA Pride, the best team in the league all season.
"I think (the Pride) has seven all-NPF players on that roster and the coaching staff of the year," Bandits head coach Michael Steuerwald told Excelle Sports in the wake of winning the championship. "But we do what we can to compete."
The Chicago Sky was forced to go back to the drawing board to be more competitive against the Sparks. They lost Game 1 on Wednesday in Los Angeles, 95-75. Game 2 was late Friday night and Game 3 of the best-of-five series is 2 p.m. Sunday at Allstate Arena.
"One thing I can guarantee, we're going to come back an even stronger team," Sky veteran guard and Chicago native Cappie Pondexter said after the Game 1 loss.
The Sky has the difficult task of playing without forward Elena Delle Donne while facing a Los Angeles team that features the newly crowned MVP of the league in Nneka Ogwumike. Delle Donne, who was the 2015 WNBA most valuable player, is out with a thumb injury and is not likely to return this season.
Finally, the Red Stars faced the Washington Spirit on Friday night in the NWSL semifinals. Last year, the Red Stars lost at home in the semifinals to Kansas City.
"We kind of have a chip on our shoulder about last (year) and how it went down," Red Stars captain Christen Press said. "That's helped motivate us and we're going to play with a lot of pride on Friday. You have to fight a lot just to get to the semifinal."
Chicago Sky rookie center Imani Boyette was voted to the WNBA's all-rookie team.
Boyette, who starred at the University of Texas before being selected with the 10th pick in the 2016 draft, ranked second among rookies in rebounding (5.6 rpg) and blocks (1.4 bpg). She started 16 of 31 games and averaged 6.7 points in 18.9 minutes, helping the Sky secure the fourth seed in the playoffs.
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