2020 Season Week 1 Preview

After two weeks of training camp at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, the Chicago Sky will begin its 15th season as a WNBA franchise on Sunday, July 26 against the Las Vegas Aces.

The Sky will play four games between the 26th and Saturday, August 1. Each of the Sky’s first four opponents reached the WNBA playoffs last season.

Game No. 1- @ Las Vegas Aces (Sunday, July 26, 2:00 p.m. CT, ABC)

The season opener for the Sky is a rematch from the second round of the 2019 WNBA Playoffs, where Chicago fell to Las Vegas in heartbreaking fashion off a miraculous near half-court shot from forward Dearica Hamby. The two teams had developed a modest rivalry prior to the postseason tilt last year, with this upcoming matchup serving as the headliner among all six games to be played across the WNBA during opening weekend.

“I think that L [loss] hurt a lot, the way it happened,” said forward Cheyenne Parker, who is expected to have an extended role this season due to Jantel Lavender being out for the year. “Of course, we have a bitter taste towards the [Las] Vegas Aces but I think that taste was there before that shot.”

The Sky defeated the Aces once last season while losing twice. Overall, Chicago owns the all-time series in the regular season at 10-7. Of course, the Aces had the last laugh between the two teams at the end of last season, which put a damper on what was an expectation-shattering year for the Sky.

“I think that we’ve kind of been waiting and preparing for this moment to show that the Chicago Sky is the real deal,” said three-time WNBA Peak Performer Courtney Vandersloot. “I think we were just starting to hit our stride and it was kind of maybe taken away from us a little too quick…We have what it takes to compete for a championship in this league. I think what better way to show it than our first game of the season.”

Game No. 2: vs. Los Angeles Sparks (Tuesday, July 28, 7:00 p.m. CT, WCIU)

The Sky will look to right the ship against a team that has had its number over the course of its lifespan as a franchise, the Los Angeles Sparks.

Allie Quigley, who shot a career-best three-point shooting percentage in 2019 (44.2%) led the team with 26 points as part of the Sky’s lone victory (91-81) over the Sparks last season. As she enters her 12th season, the three-time WNBA All-Star said she recognized the importance of starting out strong.

“We’ve been kind of saying it’s a marathon not a sprint, just in terms of you don’t want to rush too much and just play ugly basketball,” Quigley said. “We’re trying to find a good balance, but we all realize that if we start well, then it’s going to be good for us.”

The Sparks will be without two-time WNBA-Star Chiney Ogwumike as she recently opted-out of the season for medical reasons. The former Connecticut Sun player had previously missed the 2015 and 2017 seasons because of injuries.

Game No. 3: @ Minnesota Lynx (Thursday, July 30, 7:00 p.m. CT, WCIU)

Chicago will continue its stretch of playing against quality opponents with the third game of the year coming against a perennial league contender in the Minnesota Lynx. Former Sky center Sylvia Fowles enters her 13th season in the WNBA while still being one of the primary contributors on both ends of the floor for Head Coach Cheryl Reeve.

The Sky came up short in all three outings against the Lynx in 2019, but there were multiple memorable moments during the final meeting of the year between the two sides. Courtney Vandersloot broke her own WNBA single-season assists record (previously set at 258) and Cheyenne Parker set a career-high in points (22).

“My teammates. If it wasn’t for them, I would be getting zero assists,” Vandersloot said after breaking the record. “So, you know, I’m lucky to have a lot of threats on this team. People just make baskets. It’s my job just to give it to them, they just do the rest.”

To no surprise at all, Vandersloot led the Sky with 10 assists while Parker’s contributions helped the Sky’s bench outscore Minnesota’s 29-0 in the 93-85 loss.

Despite this only being the third game of the season, Vandersloot said she fully expects to be off and running by this point if not earlier. The veteran guard’s level of play will be crucial for the Sky early on. Minnesota has been one of the most consistent teams in the league for the past decade (it has reached the playoffs every year since 2011) and figures to be among the league contenders once again despite not having guard Maya Moore for the second consecutive season.

“My role on the team has always been kind of get us going defensively and offensively, be that leader on the floor,” Vandersloot said. “And so that’s kind of where I start at every season, just continue to grow on everything like that.”

Game No. 4: vs. Washington Mystics (Saturday, August 1, 5:00 p.m. CT, WCIU)

The Sky will play its fourth game in six days against the defending WNBA Champions, the Washington Mystics. The Sky hold a slight advantage over the Mystics in the all-time head-to-head series at 27-26. In the Sky’s one victory over the champions last season, Diamond DeShields and Stefanie Dolson led the way with 22 and 18 points respectfully while halting Washington’s six-game winning streak at the time.

Both teams shined offensively last season, with the Sky finishing second in points per game (84.2) and the Mystics ranking first (89.3). Washington’s offense is headlined by former Sky player and two-time MVP (2015, 2019) Elena Delle Donne.

There is some uncertainty as to whether Delle Donne will be joining the Mystics in Florida because of her battle with Lyme Disease, but if she is on the court the Sky’s defense will be

tested. In addition, five-time WNBA All-Star and 2012 league MVP Tina Charles has opted out for the season due to medical concerns.

Chicago improved significantly on the defensive side of the ball in 2019, decreasing opponents’ points per game totals by nearly seven from 2018. The Sky recently began scrimmages against other teams in the league, where defensively the team has looked to build on its transition defense.

“We’re just trying to keep on getting better as far as that is concerned,” Wade said. “Being disruptive also is something that we talked about and that we’ve focused on this year.”

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