|4||Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe||F-C||6-2||175||8/29/91||Simon Fraser||R|
|17||Amanda Zahui B||C||6-5||250||9/8/93||Minnesota||2|
|22||Ameryst Alston||G||5-9||173||7/15/93||Ohio St.||1|
|HEAD COACH:||Bill Laimbeer|
|ASST. COACHES:||Katie Smith|
|ATHLETIC TRAINER:||Rosemary Ragle|
|8||Carolyn Swords||C||6-6||209||7/19/89||Boston College||5|
|11||Lanay Montgomery||C||6-5||212||9/17/93||West Virginia||R|
|24||Jewell Loyd||G||5-10||148||10/5/93||Notre Dame||2|
|HEAD COACH:||Jenny Boucek|
|ASST. COACHES:||Gary Kloppenburg|
|ATHLETIC TRAINER:||Tom Spencer|
|TEAM DOCTORS:||Dr. Adam Pourcho|
|Dr. Jeff Cary|
The latest WNBA AP Power Poll placed Seattle (No. 8) two slots below New York (No. 8). Both teams have had streaky 2017 seasons. Seattle has enjoyed a four-game winning streak, but the Storm has also endured two separate three-game skids. New York’s season-high for consecutive wins also stands at four, and the Liberty is currently in the midst of a three-game losing slide. On June 1, these teams appeared to be headed on entirely different trajectories. Seattle’s record on that date was 4-1, while New York had won just two games and lost three. Since then, the Storm has lost five games and the Liberty has won five games, bringing their records to a near-even 7-8 and 7-7, respectively.
Thursday’s game is not only intriguing from a team vs. team standpoint, but also because of one particular player matchup. Each team boasts one of the elite power forwards in the league, with Breanna Stewart suiting up for Seattle and Tina Charles for New York. Stewart is seventh in the league in points per game (18.4), not far off from Charles, who is third in the league at 19.6 points per outing. Both players are in the WNBA’s top five in rebounds per game as well. Charles (8.9) is a tick ahead of Stewart (8.7) in that category. However, Stewart owns the slight advantage in rebound percentage, with her 16.6 rate edging Charles’ 14.9.
While Stewart and Charles were both No. 1 overall picks out of the University of Connecticut, they each have teammates that took a far more unconventional path to reach the league. Sami Whitcomb of Seattle and Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe of New York both went undrafted and played overseas before finally cracking a WNBA roster. Both first-year players have already made tremendous impacts on their new teams. Whitcomb went from local standout at the University of Washington to undrafted in the 2010 WNBA Draft. After appearing in two preseason games for Chicago, Whitcomb took a job as a video coordinator at UW. From there, she decided to pursue her playing career again, going from Germany to Slovakia to Australia, where she won multiple championships and MVP awards. This high level of play earned her attention from the Seattle Storm, which signed her prior to the 2017 campaign. Whitcomb’s crowning achievement in the WNBA to date came on May 25, 2017 against the Liberty. In that game, Whitcomb led all Seattle scorers with 22 points, all of which came in the second half. She made six threes, tying a WNBA record for threes in a half. Raincock-Ekunwe, like Whitcomb, had her best game of the season against tonight’s opponent. On June 11 at Madison Square Garden, the forward out of Simon Fraser University had 10 points and six rebounds against the Storm, marking the first time in her young career that she reached double-digit points.
Seattle owns a 10-7 record against the Liberty at KeyArena. That record holds both stretches of dominance and intense struggles. The Storm won every game in Seattle against New York from 2005 to 2012, winning eight straight times. Then, in 2013, the Liberty began its reign of power. Starting that year, coach Bill Laimbeer and his team rattled off a four-game winning streak in the Pacific Northwest, which was snapped earlier this year. In its last five home games with New York, the Storm has averaged 76.8 points per game. Both matchups between Seattle and New York this year have been tightly contested, with the Storm taking a game by six points and the Liberty responding with an eight-point win 16 days later.