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September 22, 3:00 PM ET
Chat with Mechelle Voepel

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:06 PM)

Good afternoon from Indy! Sorry to be starting a little late, just got in from KC, was in Lincoln, Neb., last night for quite an exciting volleyball match. Let's get started!

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

Does Atlanta already have Indiana's number for the Eastern Conference Finals, or is the Dream's 4-0 mark versus the Fever this season deceiving?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:10 PM)

I guess you could say both. :) The Dream did have the Fever's number ... hard to argue that, since they swept the season series. That last game was deceiving because Catching didn't play, there was nothing, really, to play for. I still picked Indy to win this series. I think the home-court advantage will be important.

airjazzy (dc)

Mechelle, I know this is a tough question for you but who ya got? Could we see a repeat of Phox and Indy in the finals!!!! Wouldn't that be awesome, that 2009 finals was the best i have ever seen and would love a rematch with Indy coming out on top this time? What are you feeling, who takes the crown/cake?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:12 PM)

I've been going with the "Polis" finals, so I'll stick with that: Indy and Minny. But, yes, a 2009 repeat finals could be very interesting. It was inspiring to see how gutsy the Mercury played when Taurasi fouled out in Game 3 at Seattle. That was quite a game from both teams, really.

kevin (macon ga)

Apparently the Mystics are going to stick with Trudi Lacey for next season. Good choice?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:17 PM)

No. But I guess her price is right for the Mystics? I feel sorry for the people who are loyal fans who've invested their emotion into this franchise. I grew up a St. Louis Cardinals football fan, so I got a lot of exposure to the misery of loving a team with cheap/incompetent ownership in my formative years.

Matt (Sandusky, OH)

In the Western Conference Finals, does the Mercury match up better with the Lynx using their BIG lineup with Nakia Sanford or their small lineup with Temeka Johnson?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:19 PM)

I think the big lineup, because staying with the Lynx on the boards is so crucial to being able to beat them. Sanford is a big body and will work hard inside when she's in the game.

Ferdinand (Chapel Hill, NC)

Am I the only one that thinks it is a bit rich for the ESPN writers whose primary gig is to cover football & men's basketball to whine about the various collegiate conference shifts,a free-for-all caused mostly by ESPN tv money? ESPN (and the other tv networks, but ESPN's Longhorn network deal specifically) is the reason there's money out there for college presidents

Barry (Phoenix, AZ)

What happened to Serena Williams against Samantha Stosur? Serena beat her pretty soundly a few weeks ago. Will Serena win any more Grand Slam tournaments?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:29 PM)

I was trying to post Ferdinand's question, and my laptop froze up. Then I clicked on Barry's question. Same thing. Then they both were posted. So ... we'll take Ferdinand first. No, I am sure you are not the only one who sees that. It's part of the strange dichotomy of ESPN and all other networks that have both entertainment and news divisions, if you will. Networks do business with the very leagues/organizations that they also "cover." There's no way to avoid this conflict. I will say, though, that the commentators/columnists on ESPN.com aren't involved in negotiating rights contracts or anything with leagues/organizations. They are completely removed from that. Whether it still appears to people that networks critique and criticize issues that they are, in fact, heavily involved in ... well, of course. That's part of why there is an ombudsman. :) As for Serena ... I think we tend to take for granted that she can play top level all the time even when she hasn't been able to put in the training/match time to really be ready. And against the Aussie, it seems like it caught up with her. I also think she was little tired from playing the night match before. Maybe emotionally more than physically. And, yes, I think Serena has a few more GS titles in her.

Sofia (Chapel Hill, NC)

The Storm just announced that Sue Bird has played all season with torn labrums (both hips). It is a testament to her that she was able to play so well all season with those injuries. But with the European season and the Olympics in 2012, players like Bird aren't going to get much rest. How likely is it that their careers will be shortened?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:34 PM)

Bird has proven her toughness and durability throughout her career. The only year she missed significant time was 1998-99, when she tore her ACL her freshman year at UConn. When you consider all the basketball she's played, it's pretty remarkable. As for shortened careers ...Bird will be 31 in October, and she was still able to have a MVP-candidate type of season, even with the injuries. Bird talks a lot about how well she's learned to take care of herself, prepare, eat right and rest. These players have had to do that in order to play as much as they have.

kkimura (Hawaii)

How big was the crowd in Nebraska for that Penn State match? The crowd Hawaii got last Saturday was amazing.

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:37 PM)

The Nebraska Coliseum holds just over 4,000, so that is their capacity crowd. Saturday, the Huskers played at the Devaney Center and drew around 10,000. That's where they will be moving to in the next few years. Hawaii, of course, is the volleyball attendance queen. I would LOVE to get to a match out there sometime. Maybe somebody can talk my editors into that one? :)

Roy (Phoenix, AZ)

Who do you think has the most potential in the 2012 Draft class?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:39 PM)

Nneka Ogwumike of Stanford looks far and away to be the best player in the upcoming senior class to me. It doesn't look like it's going to be a very dynamic draft. Hopefully some players will develop more and have big senior seasons. Sorry to hear of Jasmine Dixon's injury at UCLA.

Laura (Delaware)

Glad to see Catch finally got MVP! There are always many deserving, but none as deserving as her this year. As Indiana rolls on, is this their last shot with these veterans?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:41 PM)

I imagine most folks, even if they voted for or hoped for someone else, feel good for Catchings getting this honor. I'm not sure this season is "it" for the Fever with these vets. Catch and Douglas both look still in (or near) their primes.

jake (Fl)

besides seattle what other places to you consider the best home courts in the league(minnesota bandwagoners do NOT count)

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:46 PM)

Ha-ha! But it is the nature of sports for there to be bandwagon fans, of course. I have been in Target Center in years past where I practically could have introduced myself to everyone in attendance before the game was over, so seeing the 11,000-plus there last week was cool. All that said, as for best home courts besides Seattle - I think Phoenix and San Antonio can be very good. Connecticut isn't bad, especially when it's full. Madison Square Garden back in the day was great. Still hope that when the Libs go back there, they can recapture that. But the organization has to communicate with and treat its fans better.

Howard (PA)

Short of lions, how was the game between PHX and SEA any different than the old gladiator contests of long ago?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:51 PM)

Well, we were carving our stories into stone tablets then. And let me tell you, with some of the rambling leads I'm capable of, it was hell. Actually, it's been interesting looking over some e-mails people have sent me reacting to that game. Some say the refs let it get away from them, some say the refs called too many fouls. There is a LOT of emotion when those teams play each other. There are friendships, and strained friendships and all kinds of stuff percolating when they meet. And considering what was at stake, I'm not surprised this one got crazy-physical. I would not have wanted to ref it.

Beth (Atlanta)

Have you been to any Dream home games? Unfortunately, we're not the largest crowds in the WNBA, but the atmosphere can be electric and the team really feeds off that. If you haven't been, y'all come see us, you heah?

Mechelle Voepel
  (3:54 PM)

I was there last year, and it was nice. Honestly, I think any WNBA arena can be a good home environment if the crowd is engaged. Believe it or not, it can be that way in Tulsa, even, when the Shock gives those folks even the smallest things to cheer about. And not to change subjects, but it would be fun for any women's sports fan to have been in the Nebraska Coliseum last night for how loud and excited the Husker volleyball fans were in the fifth set against Penn State. It was one of those times when it wasn't at all a cliche to say the crowd played a factor. They were so supportive every second of that set that the players elevated their play. It was cool. You love to see that.

Howard (PA)

Okay. Give us your unbridled (current) vision of The (Not-Really-So-)Big 12?? Theories?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:02 PM)

The short version is that most of the issues revolve around the Goliath of Texas and how the other schools have tried to deal with that ... or have decided to get away from it. And it really seems clear that Oklahoma, in its public flirtation with the Pac-12, thought it was far more in the driver's seat than it actually was. The Big 12 from the start was a dysfunctional family that came together OK ... but the problems were always under the surface. Over the years, they've bubbled up. I guess the league is going to stay together now, but who knows for how long?

kevin (macon ga)

Isn't Catchings winning MVP for this season sort of like Scorcese winning the Oscar for The Departed, instead of Raging Bull or Taxi Driver?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:06 PM)

I don't know that I'd go that far. She did have a terrific season. Her team finished first in the regular season. I think her qualifications hold up in an advanced-stats light, too. But there will be some folks who see this as being as much a "career" achievement honor as one for just this season. And I'm not sure in a season in which a lot of people made the case for the award, that there's anything wrong with letting Catchings' career be a sort of "tiebreaker," if you will.

Mary (WV)

What are the odds that Stephanie White makes it all the way through the finals without going into labor?

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:08 PM)

I believe she's due in October ... so we'll see. :) If Steph can possibly be on the Indiana sidelines, you know she will be.

Mechelle Voepel
  (4:10 PM)

Thanks for all the questions. Looking forward to seeing the crowd reaction at Conseco tonight to Catchings' MVP award. And the games, of course. Will chat again next week.