McHenry County Opinion

Oliver: For fans, this summer has seen a welcome surge in women’s sports

What a summer it has been for women’s sports.

Summers often can be a wasteland for me, sports-wise. Most of my favorite men’s teams play in the fall and winter, with the start of those seasons marking the beginning of fall for me.

As bad as the Chicago Bears are from year to year, the start of the NFL season still gets me excited. Then when the Chicago Blackhawks and the Chicago Bulls start rolling, I know that I’m going to be OK until the spring.

During the summer, as much as I try to be a baseball fan, I just find it hard to commit that much time and energy. I’ll check in from time to time on the Cubs and White Sox. I grew up in a house that rooted for both teams. If I must choose one, it would be the Cubs. That significantly predates their winning of the World Series, which I have to say I never thought I’d see in my lifetime.

Then again, baseball didn’t really matter all that much this summer with so many women’s sports to watch.

As I write this, I’m still stinging from the Chicago Sky’s loss to the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA playoffs. As the No. 8 seed going into the playoffs, the Sky had to play the top-seeded Aces. That they lost in the best-of-three series wasn’t all that surprising.

What was surprising is that the Sky made it to the playoffs at all. The team had lost Courtney Vandersloot to the New York Liberty, Allie Quigley to retirement and Candace Parker to the Aces.

With the loss of Rebekah Gardner for the entire season because of an injury, the Sky were already going to have a harder time winning. Then, they lost their head coach and GM James Wade, who took an assistant coaching job with the Toronto Raptors.

Still, they found a way to claw their way into the playoffs, led by All Star Kahleah Copper, Marina Mabrey and the two Williams, Courtney and Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see how the team shapes up for next year, now that Copper has re-signed.

Then there was the return of Simone Biles to women’s gymnastics. Fans might remember that she experienced “twisties” while competing at the 2021 Olympics and stepped away from gymnastics competitions. To see her compete and win her eighth national all-around title this past August was pure joy. Now she’s setting her sights on next year’s Paris Olympics.

The summer also saw Coco Gauff win the U.S. Open singles title in tennis. Those of us who have watched her from the beginning can only be delighted to see her win her first Grand Slam title. It wasn’t that long ago when Naomi Osaka, then a top player before she stepped away from tennis, was consoling Gauff after one of their matches.

Gauff’s U.S. Open victory comes while she and her doubles partner, Jessie Pegula, briefly became the top two doubles players in the world as well. Pegula in her own right is a top-10 singles player who will be in the conversation for Grand Slam titles in the future as well.

The summer also saw the U.S. women’s national soccer team compete in the World Cup. Perhaps expectations were a bit too high, considering that the U.S. team had never finished in less than third place over the years.

To see a usually dominant U.S. team only score four goals and be eliminated by Sweden as a result of penalty kicks was … heartbreaking. Still, to actually be able to see women’s soccer on such a large stage is exhilarating.

If only the Chicago Red Stars, the area’s professional women’s soccer team, could find a TV home so that fans like me could see them on a regular basis.

Happily, seeing WNBA games during the summer has gotten a lot easier, since networks like ESPN and Ion have finally started picking them up. And the Sky also can be seen on “The U” locally.

Too bad it took 25 years of the WNBA to be in existence to get this far.

Despite all the progress, most things in women’s sports continue to be an uphill climb.

Still, as a fan, I’m so happy that I can follow so many talented female athletes and see them excel.

It’s been a great summer.

Joan Oliver is the former Northwest Herald assistant news editor. She has been associated with the Northwest Herald since 1990. She can be reached at

Joan Oliver

Joan Oliver

A 30-year newspaper veteran who has been a copy editor, front-page editor, presentation editor, assistant news editor and publication editor, as well as a columnist and host of an online newspaper newscast.