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EuroLeague Women: UMMC Ekaterinburg begins title defense without several key players

The 2021-22 EuroLeague Women season is officially underway! While not all of the WNBA stars slated to play in the competition are with their respective teams yet, the league’s opening week still features some compelling matchups.

Perfumerias Avenida v UMMC Ekaterinburg - EuroLeague Women Final
Brittney Griner will once again be suiting up for UMMC Ekaterinburg, but the Russian superteam will need to wait until she’s finished with the Phoenix Mercury for the year.
Photo by /BSR Agency/Getty Images

EuroLeague Women is back! The 2021-22 regular season kicks off Wednesday with six games between some of the world’s top women’s basketball teams, followed by two more games on Thursday.

Unlike the 2020-21 EuroLeague Women regular season — which started late and was heavily truncated due to COVID-19 concerns — the 2021-22 season is beginning on time, overlapping with the latter stages of the 2021 WNBA playoffs. This means that many EuroLeague Women teams won’t yet be at full strength as they await their prized players to finish their seasons in America.

Take UMMC Ekaterinburg, for instance. The Russian club widely favored to win another EuroLeague Women title mostly due to its impressive amount of imported talent will be shorthanded until the WNBA playoffs end, awaiting the arrival of Brittney Griner, Jonquel Jones, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley. Because of this, it’s the most beatable Ekaterinburg has looked in years.

That doesn’t mean that the first week of EuroLeague Women action won’t be worth following, of course. Turkish rivals Fenerbahçe and Galatasaray meet early on Wednesday in what’s sure to be another rowdy contest, while several up-and-coming WNBA players, such as Charli Collier (Beretta Famila Schio), Kennedy Burke (Spar Girona) and Chelsea Dungee (Galatasaray) will make their EuroLeague Women debuts. Select games will be streamed on FIBA’s Twitch channel, while all stats can be found on the official EuroLeague Women website.

Wednesday, October 6

VBW Arka Gdynia vs. Dynamo Kursk

When: 11 a.m. ET

Where: Sport Concert Complex, Kursk

Notable players: Morgan Bertsch, Megan Gustafson (VBW Arka Gdynia); Arike Ogunbowale, Natasha Howard (Dynamo Kursk)

Matchup details: Ogunbowale’s and Howard’s WNBA seasons both ended a while ago, so they should be ready to go for Kursk, which will be one of the more interesting teams to follow due to the high-profile stars. Gdynia, on the other hand, went winless in group play last season; perhaps international basketball will suit Gustafson well and she can put up big numbers for her new club as she did in college for Iowa.

UMMC Ekaterinburg vs. TTT Riga

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Olympic Sports Centre, Riga

Notable players: Emma Meesseman, Maria Vadeeva, Alex Bentley, Alba Torrens (UMMC Ekaterinburg); Laura Meldere (TTT Riga)

Matchup details: Ekaterinburg is obviously missing a huge amount of talent to the WNBA playoffs at the moment, and it’s not looking like Breanna Stewart will be around quite yet, either, as she continues to recover from a foot injury. Regardless, Ekaterinburg will more than likely be too much for Riga to handle, though stranger things have happened.

Fenerbahçe vs. Galatasaray

When: 12 p.m. ET

Where: Şehit Mustafa Özel Spor Kompleksi, Istanbul

How to watch: FIBA Twitch live stream

Notable players: Alina Iagupova, Elizabeth Williams, Kayla McBride, Amanda Zahui B. (Fenerbahçe); Chelsea Dungee (Galatasaray)

Matchup details: Opening the season with one of the biggest sports rivalries in the world is quite a treat, though Galatasaray isn’t the powerhouse it once was in the women’s basketball realm. Fenerbahçe will be without Satou Sabally (Achilles) and Bria Hartley (still with the Phoenix Mercury), but will still be favored in this Turkish grudge match. Keep an eye out for Iagupova, who won EuroLeague Women MVP honors in both 2020 and 2021.

Sopron Basket vs. Spar Girona

When: 1:15 p.m. ET

Where: Pavelló Fontajau, Girona

Notable players: Gabby Williams, Jelena Brooks (Sopron Basket); Kennedy Burke, Laia Palau, Rebekah Gardner (Spar Girona)

Matchup details: Sopron made the EuroLeague Women Final Four in 2021, a season highlighted by a breakout international performance from Williams. The Polish club will be without a pair of point guards in Briann January and Shey Peddy as they continue to compete in the WNBA playoffs with their respective teams. Meanwhile, Girona will debut Burke, whose former teammate at UCLA, WNBA Rookie of the Year Michaela Onyenwere, will join the team when she recovers from a thumb injury.

KSC Szekszárd vs. Umana Reyer

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palasport Taliercio, Venice

Notable players: Cyesha Goree (KSC Szekszárd); Kayla Thornton, Yvonne Anderson (Umana Reyer)

Matchup details: Led by University of Michigan product Goree, Szekszárd earned one of the final two EuroLeague Women spots after finishing strong in the competition’s qualifiers. Astou Ndour-Fall is typically one of the stronger year-by-year performers in EuroLeague Women, but until she arrives, it may be the Thornton and Anderson show for Umana Reyer.


When: 2 p.m. ET

Where: Palais des Sports de Lattes, Lattes

Notable players: Maria Conde (ZVVZ USK Praha); Olivia Epoupa, Haley Peters, Avery Warley-Talbert (BLMA)

Matchup details: Alyssa Thomas and Brionna Jones will make Praha dangerous against just about any opponent, but until their Connecticut Sun are through with the WNBA playoffs, the Czech club will be shorthanded. BLMA doesn’t have as much WNBA talent as it did in recent seasons, but it’s still in a good position to pull the opening-week upset.

Thursday, October 7

Basket Landes vs. Beretta Famila Schio

When: 1:30 p.m. ET

Where: Palasport Livio Romare, Schio

Notable players: Celine Dumerc, Marianna Tolo, Regan Magarity, Marine Fauthoux, Valériane Vukosavljević (Basket Landes); Charli Collier, Kitija Laksa, Sandrine Gruda, Kim Mestdagh (Famila Schio)

Matchup details: Schio joined Szekszárd as one of the two teams to join EuroLeague Women via preseason qualifier. As always, Gruda will be one of the competition’s international staples, and this time around she’ll have a young protégé in Collier. Landes also has an interesting group of international talent, with French basketball legend Dumerc leading the charge; the club awaits the arrival of Sophie Cunningham, who is still competing with the Phoenix Mercury in the WNBA playoffs, and Clarissa dos Santos, who is nursing a knee injury.

MBA Moscow vs. Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca

When: 2:30 p.m. ET

Where: Pabellón Municipal de Würzburg, Salamanca

How to watch: FIBA Twitch live stream

Notable players: Katie Lou Samuelson, Karlie Samuelson, Bella Alarie, Maite Cazorla, Emese Hof, Silvia Dominguez (Perfumerias Avenida Salamanca)

Matchup details: One of 2021’s most successful EuroLeague Women clubs, Avenida was one of four teams to go undefeated in group play last season. It brings back Alarie and the Samuelson sisters; while Kahleah Copper remains in the United States with the Chicago Sky for now, it’s still a tall task for an MBA Moscow club making its EuroLeague Women debut.