Nationals

Huskies not stylish, but finding ways to win

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Huskies not stylish, but finding ways to win

SEATTLE (AP) Steve Sarkisian gained notoriety for his fancy, high-scoring units when he was an offensive coordinator. The Washington coach is OK with ugly victories, too.

Just a couple of weeks ago, the questions were about whether Sarkisian had lost his touch with the Huskies riding a three-game losing streak and getting blown out in two of the losses.

Those concerns have subsided after wins over Oregon State and Friday's sometimes unappealing 21-13 victory over California that improved the Huskies to 5-4 and put them on the cusp of securing a third straight bowl appearance.

Washington has three more chances at obtaining bowl eligibility beginning this week with its home finale against Utah. It closes the season at woeful Colorado before facing rival Washington State in the Apple Cup.

``I think when you win a game and then you win two in a row you start to find a way to win games rather than find a way to lose games,'' Sarkisian said on Monday. ``We found a way to win a somewhat ugly football game, but like I said to the staff I'd rather win ugly than lose pretty.''

Washington is the only team from a BCS conference that hasn't scored more than 21 points against an FBS opponent this year. But the Huskies are proving that 20 or 21 is enough thanks to a defense that continues to make stands at critical times and a running game that is making up for inconsistencies throwing.

With quarterback Keith Price still trying to find the same swagger that led to 33 touchdowns, the Huskies have relied more on the run game the last few weeks and may have found a star in sophomore Bishop Sankey. Against Oregon State, it was tougher to find the yards, but he still managed to rush for 92 yards and two touchdowns on the second best run defense in the conference.

But Sankey's breakout performance came on Friday night. He carried 29 times for 189 yards and will have an opportunity, perhaps as early as Saturday night, to become just the 11th running back in Washington history to run for 1,000 yards.

Sankey has 855 yards rushing and his 11 touchdowns are just one behind Chris Polk's total for 13 games last year.

``I don't know if I would have thought coming into the season, `Bishop Sankey can carry the ball 30 times a night.' I didn't know if he was built in that way,'' Sarkisian said. ``But he really is. He doesn't take a lot of head-on shots. He does a nice job bouncing off tacklers. We saw that the other night; he almost ricocheted forward on one run. He does a nice job of using his body to create runs. Probably has exceeded my expectations on that front, his ability to have that many carries and still be strong.''

Keeping that success on the ground going will be difficult this week against Utah and standout defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. The Utes held Washington State to -4 net yards rushing last week, but the better barometer might be the 52 yards rushing they allowed to Oregon State in late October.

``It starts up front for them,'' Sarkisian said. ``If we want to be effective Saturday night, our effectiveness has to begin up front. It can't just be on the perimeter or down the field, it has to be right up front.''

In terms of yards passing, Price had his best game of the season in a victory against California. Part of that success was simply giving his talented receivers a chance to make plays in one-on-one situations. Price hit tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins twice for long gains where the Huskies tight end simply was too big for smaller defensive backs trying to defend him, and found receiver Kasen Williams on another. Seferian-Jenkins finished with eight catches for a career-high 152 yards and a touchdown against the Golden Bears.

``I'd like to see that number increase, to give them opportunities to make plays,'' Sarkisian said. ``It's not a real secret. That's part of our game plan, you know. So much of what we do is trying to run the football effectively enough to make you play single-high defense, and then when we get our chances, one-on-one trying to win outside.''

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Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

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USA Today Sports images

Nationals players believe extended safety netting is a ‘no-brainer’

WASHINGTON -- Visuals can change everything.

It’s happened across sports in different fashion. An issue is discussed or dismissed until a troubling incident is brought to life via video in front of everyone’s eyes.

That breaking point on extended netting arrived for Major League Baseball after Chicago Cubs outfielder Albert Almora Jr. pulled a line drive into the stands May 29. The ball struck a four-year-old girl. But, it was Almora’s reaction, as much as anything, which made the reality so stark. He was stunned and moved to tears. The player’s reaction amplified the incident to a level which forced something to be done.

Steps will be taken at Nationals Park to prevent such an incident. The team announced Thursday it will extend the protective netting up the foul line during the All-Star break. It will end just short of the foul poles. Washington has a good window to complete the work because it goes on the road following the All-Star break. The Nationals’ final pre-break home game is July 7. They don’t return to Nationals Park until July 22.

“As players, it's something that we've pushed for and advocated for years now,” Sean Doolittle said. “I think as you see exit velocities that have continued to increase and these new stadiums that are bringing fans closer and closer to the action, you're seeing balls go into the stands at really, really high speeds. It's really scary. Max broke his nose the other day on a BP pitch that was probably 50 mph and these balls are going into the seats over 100 mph.

“So, I think, hopefully, It's a way to keep fans safe while bringing them closer to the action. As somebody that watches the vast majority of games from behind a screen or chain-linked fence, I can promise you get used to it really, really quickly. It doesn't hinder your view at all. You think the most expensive seats in the stands, they're right behind home plate. People look through a net. I promise you-you can still see the game and after five minutes you don't even notice that it's there.”

Ryan Zimmerman called it a “no-brainer.” Trea Turner wants fans to be paying more attention, in addition to the netting.

“You only have to pay attention to small snippets of the game,” Turner told NBC Sports Washington. “I just want people to pay attention. You can’t block everybody off from a foul pop that goes over the net, that can still hit people. You’re not going to foolproof it.”

Netting in Nationals Park will be thinner than the current netting, according to the team. It will also have sections which can be raised pregame in order to allow players to interact with fans.

The Almora incident was referenced in a letter from Nationals managing principal owner Mark Lerner announcing the extension. The Nationals were also witnesses to an Eloy Jiménez foul ball in Chicago which struck a young fan in Chicago on June 11.

“Jiménez hit a line drive really hard foul and I saw a girl looking towards me -- I don’t know what she was looking at but was kind of looking in the outfield direction, hit her in the side of the face,” Turner said. “I heard it hit her. What sticks in my head is when I heard the ball hit her. Not good.”

Washington becomes the second team to announce a planned extension. The White Sox were the first.

Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred told reporters in Seattle on June 5 he didn’t expect league-wide changes in netting this season. Manfred cited a range of reasons from ballpark framework to fan objections. In 2015, the commissioner’s office recommended teams extend netting to the end of the dugouts. Three years later, that task was completed. The next steps have slowly begun.

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Women's World Cup 2019: Round of 16 bracket is set as USA soccer readies for knockout round

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USATSI

Women's World Cup 2019: Round of 16 bracket is set as USA soccer readies for knockout round

LE HAVRE, France (AP) -- The defending champion U.S. national team faced its toughest test of the Women's World Cup and remained dominant Thursday night, beating Sweden 2-0 to serve up a measure of revenge against the team that stunned the confident Americans in the last Olympics.

Lindsey Horan scored within the first three minutes, the fastest goal of this tournament. The United States went up 2-0 on an own goal by Jonna Andersson in the 50th minute that gave the Americans a tournament-record 18 goals in the group stage. The U.S. did not concede a goal in its first three matches.

Already assured a spot in the round of 16 before the game, the United States finished atop of group F and will head to Reims to face Spain on Monday, June 24th. Sweden will play Group E runners-up Canada in Paris. The U.S. currently has 9 points 

The meeting was the first tournament game between the two teams since the quarterfinals of the 2016 Olympics. The Swedes bunkered in on defense and advanced on penalties after a 1-1 draw, handing the United States its earliest-ever exit from the Olympic tournament. Former U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo called the Swedes "cowards" for the defensive stand.

Round-of-16 Schedule

Saturday, June 22

Germany vs. Nigeria, 11:30 a.m. ET

Norway vs. Australia, 3:00 p.m. ET

Sunday, June 23

England vs. Cameroon, 11:30 a.m. ET

France vs. Brazil, 3:00 p.m. ET

Monday, June 24

Spain vs. United States, Noon ET

Sweden vs. Canada, 3:00 p.m. ET

Tuesday, June 25

Italy vs. China, Noon ET

Netherlands vs Japan, 3:00 p.m. ET

Quarterfinals 

Thursday, June 27 

TBD vs, TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Friday, June 28

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Saturday, June 29

TBD vs TBD, 9:00 a.m. ET

TBD vs TBD, 12:30 p.m. ET

Semifinals 

Tuesday, July 2

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET 

Wednesday, July 3

TBD vs TBD, 3:00 p.m. ET

Third-place game

Saturday, July 6 

TBD vs TBD, 11:00 a.m. ET

Final 

Sunday, July 7

TBD vs TBD, 11:00 a.m. ET