The 2021-22 tennis season starts out strong with Mariia Kozyreva beating the 75th ranked player in the world, Saisai Zheng, two sets to one at the annual Berkeley Challenger.
By Eden Llodrá
Mariia Kozyreva, originally from Saint Petersburg, Russia, came to the United States at the age of thirteen to play in a tennis academy just outside Sacramento. Her love for the sport has always reflected in her commitment to move wherever there is competition and good coaches. Kozyreva was recruited by many large schools, but found a strong connection to the coach at Saint Mary’s. Since being at Saint Mary’s she’s noticed herself mature, “I came to Saint Mary’s when I had just turned 18, a crazy young teenager, and I really grew up here and turned into an adult,” she said.
Besides her incredible natural talent, her growth and love for tennis has only ripened and matured at Saint Mary’s. When COVID-19 hit, her senior year was cut short and all competitions were cancelled. She said, “it was the best year until it was cut short and I didn’t get to participate in the NCAA’s.” Now, playing her fifth year of tennis at Saint Mary’s, she is given another chance to show all that she’s got.
On September 29th, Kozyreva beat the 27 year old Saisai Zheng, who had been ranked 75th in the world. In the first set Zheng won 6-4 and after that Kozyreva completely overpowered, winning two sets back to back, 7-5 and 6-1. The victory was an exciting shock to the start of the Saint Mary’s women's tennis season, which Kozyreva defined as nothing short of “a really special moment.”
With a huge win like this, Kozyreva attributes her successes to the coaches at Saint Mary’s, “the coaches have been amazing and I feel lucky to have been part of this program.” She is humble in her victories and eager for more matches. This year is her final year and she hopes “it is better than the rest.” With this powerful start, there is no doubt that Kozyreva will make her coaches and teammates proud with her numerous accolades yet to come.
By Annika Henthorn
Paul Riley, former head coach for NWSL, has been accused of sexual misconduct by former player Mana Shim. Shim has deemed him a “predator” who continued to “sexually harass” her, according to CNN. Shortly after these claims surfaced, Riley was fired from the North Carolina Courage following an additional investigation. It was also discovered that similar allegations have been brought to their attention prior to those made by Shim. According to their reports, Riley sexually harassed, and in one instance, had sex with a player. As a coach for three different franchises of NWSL for a total of eight seasons, news of this disgusting behavior has been alarming to the entire community. Riley has refuted these claims.
After such shocking news was announced, Lisa Baird, commissioner for NWSL, resigned. However, before doing so, she canceled all league matches the following week. Not long after, Steve Baldwin, managing partner and CEO of NWSL, resigned as well saying that “I have no doubt made some mistakes, but my effort and focus were always on building a professional experience for our players,” according to The Charlotte Observer.
Another former player, Sinead Farrelly, has exposed her chilling experience with Riley. During her time in NWSL, she was coerced into going back to Riley’s hotel room to have sex. Following this incident, Riley pressured Shim and Farrelly to kiss after manipulating them into coming back to his apartment.
These wildly inappropriate acts imposed on his victims have major impacts that do not just affect them as players but as people. Farrelly spoke to NBC and said that “the damage to my self-confidence and how I saw myself and how I approach life seeps into every part of [my] livelihood.” Alex Morgan, a close friend of Shim, has revealed the difficulty that went into filing a simple complaint against the coach. Although her allegations were made years after playing, during the time it was happening there “was no anti-harassment policy in place, there was no league HR, there was no anonymous hotline, there was no way to report,” according to CNN. This fatal flaw within NWSL has perpetuated the abuse that happens behind closed doors, leaving players vulnerable to the power and authority that coaches and staff have.
Allegations of this magnitude have urged NWSL to take a closer look at its system and its shortcomings. NWSL released a statement that it was “immediately launching several critical investigative and reform initiatives to protect players and staff, and the environments in which athletes live, train, and compete to give athletes the agency and ability to safely report misconduct of any form."
Prior to Shim and Farrelly’s brave stand against the abuse, multiple allegations were reported regarding Riley’s sexual misconduct. The lack of action and urgency from these startling claims reveals the true nature of the system behind NWSL. Such disgusting misconduct should be dealt with properly without needing media attention to move the process forward. In cases with USA Gymnastics and now NWSL, systems seem to only change when media pressures require them to. Shim has called out the league “to start being proactive, not reactive.” This powerful statement should resonate with all leagues, and even beyond sports.
"I want more. I want more justice, I want better policies, I want players to be protected,” Shim told NBC. Crisis shouldn’t be the catalyst for change. Through their stories and experiences, Shim and Farrelly hope that sports leagues reevaluate their policies and prioritize the well-being of their players.
Tonight marks the start of the NBA’s regular season, the first meaningful basketball since the playoffs ended in July.
By Ryan Ford
Three months ago, the Milwaukee Bucks defeated the Phoenix Suns to win their first NBA Championship since 1971. Tonight, those Bucks will host the Brooklyn Nets in a rematch of the Eastern Conference Semifinals, which will tip-off the NBA’s 2021-22 regular season.
After an eventful offseason that included the NBA draft, free agency, and an open dialogue between players and the media about the NBA’s vaccination policy, there are already plenty of storylines that deserve monitoring. Here are some of the more noteworthy stories that NBA fans should keep an eye on as the regular season starts.
It was reported to the Associated Press by an anonymous source in the league office that “around 95%” of NBA players were vaccinated or in the vaccination process, as of September 30th, 2021. The NBA also made it clear that if a player is unvaccinated, they will go through testing far more frequently than those who have received the vaccine, in addition to other restrictions, per NBA.com.
With that being said, there are many players who have remained dug into their stances of remaining unvaccinated. Among those players are the Washington Wizards’ all-star Bradley Beal, the Orlando Magic’s forward Jonathan Isaac, and the Brooklyn Nets’ point guard Kyrie Irving. All three have been consistent in saying that they will not get the vaccine. Unfortunately for Irving, he plays in New York, and local laws will prevent the superstar guard from playing in any home games as long as he’s unvaccinated. As a result, the Nets’ General Manager Sean Marks released this statement on October 12th: “Kyrie Irving will not play or practice with the team until he is eligible to be a full participant.”
The Golden State Warriors’ forward Andrew Wiggins was also facing similar repercussions as an unvaccinated player who plays his home games in San Francisco, but has since gotten the vaccine. Whether they like it or not, a player's vaccination status plays a major role in how they are able to help their respective teams this season.
Lakers’ Chemistry and Age Experiment
A little over a year ago, the Los Angeles Lakers won the 2020 NBA Finals, which was played in Orlando due to the pandemic. The season that followed saw a Lakers team, who entered the year as favorites to come out of the West, lose in the first round of the playoffs to the Phoenix Suns. Superstar Anthony Davis was banged up for most of the season, and all-time great LeBron James seemed to be finally showing his age with lackluster performances in crucial games of the series.
In an attempt to reload for another championship run, the Lakers made a blockbuster trade to acquire former MVP Russell Westbrook this offseason and signed a long list of veterans including Dwight Howard, Carmelo Anthony, and Rajon Rondo. This team is undoubtedly talented, but two questions prevail: How will LeBron and Westbrook coexist, considering how similar their play styles are? And, how will a team that was already injury-prone handle the rigors of an 82 game regular season given that the average age of their roster is 31.6 years old?
Despite these questions, the Los Angeles Lakers are currently the favorites to make it out of the West this season, and, at +375, are behind only the Brooklyn Nets (+250) as betting favorites to win the NBA Championship, per Odds Shark.
When and How will the Ben Simmons Circus End?
Once the Philadelphia 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs by the Atlanta Hawks, All-Star Ben Simmons became the scapegoat for yet another disappointing playoff exit. Shortly after, the former no. 1 overall pick requested a trade.
In the months that followed, the leaks coming from Simmons’ camp said that he would sit out the whole season if need be. His relationship with All-NBA center Joel Embiid is strained, and Simmons’ behavior has certainly rubbed his organization and their notoriously harsh fans the wrong way. Another star player demanding out from their team (look no further than James Harden last year) won’t make the relationship between the league and the players’ association any better.
Recent reports are that Simmons will report to the team, per NBA insider Adrian Wojnarowski, but in what capacity still remains unclear. There’s no doubt that Ben Simmons is a talented player. Any team would be vastly improved if they acquired the star point guard, but trade talks to this point have gone nowhere.
The Sixers went 49-23 last season, which earned them the best record in the Eastern conference. Will Ben Simmons change his tune and help them get back to the playoffs, or have those bridges been burned? However this saga winds up playing out will likely have a huge impact on the league.
By Kulia Osborne
It’s 1971 and tensions are high. The seventies was a revolutionary decade in Saint Mary’s history: Women were being admitted to campus for the first time and the racial climate in America was undergoing a massive shift. However, reality became incredibly clear at the sudden firing of Odell Johnson. Johnson was a critical part of Saint Mary’s culture and the decision left people reeling, with the Black community being most impacted.
Odell Previously played on the basketball team of the 1950s, being one of two black members. Because of his history on campus, the firing of Odell Johnson shocked many and outraged Black students all over SMC. Many of the students then saw Johnson as a support system in a community that already alienated them. A local newspaper reported that “The firing outraged many minority students who regarded Johnson as one of them. [He was] their friend and protector in an isolated setting.”
The resounding effects of this decision led to months of Black student pushback, protests, and demands for a more supported community. The tension on campus took precedence when, suddenly, the starting five members of the basketball team walked off the court in protest of the decision. The students were all Black men and the repercussions robbed them of their scholarship, community standing, and position.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the walkouts, which makes me wonder what we have learned. The current population of Black students exists at 5.6%. This looks even smaller in the current Black athlete population. To break it down, there is one Black woman on the Women's Basketball team, three Black men on the men’s Basketball team, one Black woman on the Tennis team, four on the Women’s Soccer team,and one black women on the beach volleyball.
I spoke to a former SMC student, Hind, who left the college to pursue a professional career in tennis. She was drawn to the small campus and the coaching staff. When I asked her about her experience at SMC, she admitted that she hadn’t faced too much of a culture shock, but acknowledged that there are other Black students who have; she has witnessed friends being ostracized because of their race . Hind continued to talk about her experience, “Personally, there have been moments of microaggressions against me as a student.” For instance, she discussed a moment of isolation when a professor used the N-word, when there were only two black students in the class. She discussed emailing the professor alongside the other student and the professor had apologized.
While the population of Black Saint Mary's students has shifted significantly (it was reported as 18% of the population in 1970), there is a lot to say about the number of Black students in critical positions around campus such as those in academics, sports, and leadership. There’s a conversation to be had about the fact that more can be done. Hind’s experience is not a singular experience. Most occasions go under-reported because of the lack of knowledge of BIRT, committees, or people to speak to. In the last decade, Black students have been demanding better support through End the Silence, the Twenty demands, Black student leadership, and the BLM subcommittee. There are spaces, yes, but they are being created by the students themselves.
An insight into the deep-seated misogyny of collegiate sports, and its correlation to Saint Mary’s.
By Annika Henthorn
News Reporter visiting the Sports Section
In March 2018, Sedona Prince, a women’s basketball player for Oregon University, posted a tik tok that went viral. It highlighted the disturbing difference between the men’s and women’s weight rooms during the notorious March Madness. One was adorned with a variety of weights and equipment, while the other had a small rack of hand weights and dumbbells. Can you guess which room was for the men’s team? If you could not tell, the men’s room was the one stacked with equipment, while the women’s room lacked all but a couple of dumbbells. This explicit act of misogyny by the NCAA has attracted more attention to the issues of sexism, specifically within collegiate sports.
Many questioned whether the obvious difference in quality between men’s and women’s tournaments was legal under Title IX, preventing discrimination on the basis of sex. However, according to NBC, in the NCAA v. Smith case, the NCAA is no longer required to abide by the regulations of Title IX. This is due to the fact that NCAA is not federally funded, unlike the colleges and universities that comprise them. Despite this, they have claimed to voluntarily adhere to Title IX, but their actions say otherwise.
Although this might seem like a larger issue at play, women’s athletes at Saint Mary’s have also revealed their similar experiences. “Coaches would tell us to eat better and lose weight, it’s a big mental strain on women,” says a player who would like to remain anonymous. With already impossible body standards, women, even more so, women athletes, feel immense pressure from outsiders as well as coaches to lose weight and look a certain way.
“There is a strong correlation between women’s collegiate sports and struggles with mental health and eating disorders,” says our source. According to The Sport Journal, 84% of college athletes have suffered from dysfunctional eating habits like excessive eating, bingeing, fasting, etc. With the copious amounts of training and exercise required of athletes, the dire need to refuel is disregarded to satisfy or exceed the goals of their coaching staff. Oftentimes, there seems to be this misconception that performance is linked to an athlete’s body type or build. This destructive mindset has deep and lasting effects on athletes, reinforcing unhealthy eating habits that encourage women to loathe their natural selves.
Not only do body standards plague women’s sports, but also the lack of representation. “Men’s sports are more advertised and tend to have a lot more funding,” our source shared. Reiterated by Prince’s experience at the NCAA tournament, women’s sports are typically shoved in the shadow of men’s, constantly undervalued and under-promoted. Many tend to argue that women’s sports receive less viewership than men’s; however, it’s difficult to compete when women’s sports are seldom announced or advertised.
The devastating reality behind female athletes perpetuates itself through outdated and inexcusable methods of training. Women are perceived as moldable clay that can be stretched and adjusted to their coach’s liking. However, as female athletes have begun to speak out, change is gradually being made.
Saint Mary’s has revealed the new attendance policy for indoor sporting events.
By Ryan Ford
With the volleyball season underway, and the basketball season right around the corner, Saint Mary’s has announced that anyone over the age of 12 who plans on attending indoor sporting events on campus will have to provide proof of vaccination, or a negative test for COVID-19. This comes after the recently updated Contra Costa Public Health Order. Per Contra Costa Health Services, these protocols apply to any “high risk indoor businesses.” Workers at these businesses must be vaccinated or tested weekly, effective November 1, 2021.
Requiring proof of vaccination shouldn’t be an issue for a majority of SMC students. According to Saint Mary’s COVID-19 Information and Resources web page, 97% of undergraduates have received covid vaccines. At the time of writing this article, there have been 22 documented cases of coronavirus among the student body so far this semester.
In other words, goodbye to the cardboard cutouts that filled the stands of UCU Pavilion. Last year, students and fans were unable to attend any of the Gaels’ indoor sporting events, so this announcement is welcome news for anyone interested in supporting our athletic teams this season. Senior and Gael Force member Moises Gonzalez gave his perspective when asked about this recent announcement, “Living on-campus last year, there really wasn’t much to do, so the idea of being in the crowd at games again from a community aspect is really exciting.”
While Contra Costa County is allowing unvaccinated fans to attend these events as long as they have a negative test, vaccination is required in order to attend indoor sporting events in San Francisco, starting October 13. This will apply to not only fans, but coaches and players as well.
The vaccination status of any SMC student is not public knowledge, including our student athletes. But whether or not unvaccinated players will be allowed to participate in games played in San Francisco, where the Gaels face off against conference rival USF at least once a season, remains to be determined. This dilemma has been dominating storylines in the NBA, as many high-profile players have been making headlines in recent weeks for being unvaccinated.
Golden State Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins turned heads this past Monday when he stated to the press that he will remain unvaccinated, despite the ramifications. Since the Warriors play their home games in San Francisco, Wiggins’ decision would result in him missing all home games for the 2021-22 NBA season, which constitutes half of the Warriors scheduled regular season games. The NBA has denied his request for religious exemption, per NBA.com.
There is no indication that Contra Costa will enforce the same restrictions anytime soon, but it is certainly a storyline to keep an eye on. In the meantime, UCU Pavilion figures to be as loud as ever with SMC’s passionate fans allowed back in the bleachers.
In a controversial decision, the NBA has decided to not require vaccines for their players as the season begins.
By Kulia Osborne
The NBA has decided to not make vaccinations mandatory for their players, and while that sounds unbelievable for a sport that lost an entire season to this misguided confidence in the invulnerability to covid, it doesn’t mean they’re not asking very kindly. I’d like to liken it to Saint Mary’s: while there are ways for you to not have to get vaccinated, the vaccinated individuals don’t have to get weekly covid tests anymore.
Players who are vaccinated aren’t held to the same standards as the ones who are not. Players who haven’t received the covid vaccine will be required to get tested everyday before entering the team facilities. This is in stark contrast with players who are vaccinated, who only have to get tested when they show clear signs of symptoms or when it’s mandated for them by the actual officials. According to NBA rules, unvaccinated individuals are not allowed to dine with vaccinated players in doors. These rules extend all the way to how close vaccinated players can be to non vaccinated players. However, all players will be mandated to wear their masks inside.
A recent update is that 95% of players are now vaccinated, and we’ll have to see how these decisions will affect the course of teams in the future.
This week saw the women's volleyball team secure win against the Santa Clara Broncos, but fall short against the Zags.
By Kulia Osborne
The Gaels played against the Broncos Tuesday night, and while it was a successful game, it was most definitely an eventful eventful, especially since there was a city wide power outage in the middle of the night. Saint Marys saw a five set game with a two set lead. First year Kristen Erland #5 made 5 kills in the first set. This was followed by another 5 kills in the second set by senior Chandler Cowell #19.
As said before, this was sure to be an eventful game because for the next couple of sets, the Broncos were not letting up on the Gaels. The third and fourth sets were met with multiple ties that the Broncos ended pulling through. However within the fifth set Jennifer “Boo” Laird #21 put up three kills and three block assists on her own. This set was ended with a winning ace by Ella Sandt #18. The game leaders were Chandler Cowell, Elena Baka #15, Kristen Erland, and Jennifer Laird.
Thursday night was another one to be watched. The gaels played against the Zags in quite an eventful game. There was a bit of a rough start to the first set but it was turned around to a 25-12 win. Laird had assisted the Gaels with two solo blocks. Although Saint Mary’s was close to a fifth set with Cowell and Laird leading the way with kills, Gonzaga pulled through with the final three points to win.
This game was especially impactful due to the fact that every set went to thirty, something that hadn’t been seen since 07.
Two weeks in, the NFL season has been all that football fans could ask for.
By Ryan Ford
Football season is back. Fans are allowed back in stadiums, in most cases at full capacity, and the energy so far has been electric. The NFL has just concluded their second week of games as of this writing, and already there have been many storylines and surprises. For those who haven’t been paying attention, here’s some of the more noteworthy developments at this point in the 2021 season.
Tom Brady continues to defy Father Time
One of the oldest sayings in all of sports: “Father Time is undefeated.” No matter what, at some point an athlete will just be too old and beaten up to continue playing their sport at the highest level. Eventually, this will be true (you’d think?) about Tom Brady, but if these first two weeks are any indication, he still has a lot more left in the tank.
Through two games, Brady leads the NFL in passing touchdowns (9), is 8th in QBR (65.0), and sits at 5th in passing yards (655). Most importantly, his Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 2-0. Watching the tape, his arm looks as strong and lively as ever. Pretty good for a 44 year old QB, who has played in the NFL longer than some of his teammates have been alive. There’s a lot more football left to be played, but Tom Brady is looking like one of the favorites for the NFL MVP early on in the season.
New-look Ram’s offense has the NFC West looking like the NFC’s Best
Ever since the Los Angeles Rams lost Super Bowl LII to the New England Patriots in 2019, something just seemed off about the relationship between QB Jared Goff and wunderkind head coach Sean McVay. The Rams never returned to the Super Bowl with Goff, and after two disappointing seasons, he was traded to the Detroit Lions along with several draft picks for Pro Bowl QB and former number one overall pick Matthew Stafford.
So far, the marriage between Stafford and his new play-caller McVay has been must-watch TV. The Rams’ offense looks amazing, and alongside a defense that was the best in football last season, they have outscored teams 61-38—good enough for a +23 point differential that is 6th in the league. Stafford has made all the difference, as he sits 4th in the NFL in QBR (78.1) and has propelled the Los Angeles Rams to a 2-0 start with his veteran leadership and cannon of an arm.
Add in the hot starts of Kyler Murray’s Arizona Cardinals, Russell Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks, and Kyle Shanahan’s San Francisco 49ers, and it’s looking like the NFC West (a combined 7-1 record and +72 point differential through week 2) is once again one of the best divisions in football.
Biggest Surprises of the Season So Far
The Las Vegas Raiders sit at 2-0 following impressive wins against the Baltimore Ravens and the Pittsburgh Steelers. Many were skeptical of the Raiders following another off-season in which they made questionable draft picks and overhauled their entire offensive line. But so far so good for Jon Gruden’s Raiders, as Derek Carr is making his case for the most underrated QB in all of football.
Another team off to a surprising start are the Carolina Panthers, who are also undefeated through two weeks after clobbering the New Orleans Saints this past Sunday, 26-7. Newbie quarterback Sam Darnold has been impressive (3rd in the NFC in QBR at 66.3), and their defense has been top notch (1st in yards allowed in the NFL at 380).
Meanwhile, Buffalo Bills QB Josh Allen has had a lackluster start to the campaign. Following a 13-3 regular season and a 2nd-place finish in MVP voting in 2020, Allen and his Bills were popular bets to win the Super Bowl this year. However, they sit at 1-1 through two weeks, and even though they are fresh off a blowout win against the Miami Dolphins, Josh Allen hasn’t been himself. He currently sits at 23rd in the league in QBR (44.6) and 32nd in yards per attempt (5.3). Again, there is still plenty of time to regain his MVP-worthy 2020 form, but this is certainly not the start that he and Bills fans were hoping for.
Image Courtesy: Bleacher Report
The SMC track and cross country team are finally back to competing and running without the constant ubiquity of masks
By: Eden Llodrá
While for most of us it is a struggle to walk with a mask, try running or starting a race with one on. This year the Saint Mary’s track team is relieved to be able to run without masks, yet the remains of social distancing and mask protocols are still present in tournaments and indoor practices. Compared to last season’s strict COVID-19 protocol restrictions and training regimens, this year, there is an unanimous feeling of relief and excitement to be somewhat back to normal.
From an athlete’s perspective, Trinity Santana, a junior on the track team, said “it's honestly just so nice to be back and even though things aren't completely ‘normal,’ it's nice that my team has kept the same love for running even through the pandemic.” Although not everything has reversed back to the way it was, there is team motivation in the rekindled friendships that resurfaced after quarantine.
Training without the push and reward of being with like-minded teammates made last year’s mental and physical struggles immense. With constant COVID-19 tests, health forms, and teammates separated across the country, the track team, like most other sports teams, felt the heavy weight of the pandemic on their shoulders. Santana shared that “last season during cross country and track we had to do temperature checks going into every meet.”
No matter what, there was no escaping the new reality that COVID-19 introduced to all of us, and for the track team that was greeting teammates from afar and racing with masks in hand. Stuart Kendall, a senior on the team, said “as of right now the training has resumed to pre-Covid conditions, other than wearing masks during weights.” With the introduction of the vaccine, restrictions have been slowly lifted and teams do not feel the same kind of stress they had felt before. Slowly, teams are building back up again as a unit and getting the chance to travel again for competitions.
The Cross Country races have made progress in restoring the way competitions used to be, yet Kendall said “some races still have limited entries in order to limit the total number of athletes racing at once.” Although things may not be completely back to normal, it is admirable that sports teams are still being mindful and proactive in preventing the spread of the pandemic. The Saint Mary’s track team seems to have outrun the isolation of COVID, yet minor restrictions remain in their practice regimen, but have not stopped them from racing together, masks set aside.
This season for most feels like a fresh start, a chance to reconnect, relearn and reflect. The track team feels the excitement of being able to celebrate each other's successes and rekindle their love for running. Since last season, many had to continue training on their own, which made it hard, as many lost the feeling of what it was like to be part of a community. Now, as team training has commenced, the act of striving together is what makes everything the team has been through worth it.
Melanie Moyer '22,