Sky fans look ahead to playoffs in hopes of back-to-back championships: ‘This team comes together’

If the Sky succeed in their bid for consecutive championships, they will be the first WNBA team to do so in 20 years and the first Chicago team to achieve the feat in decades.

SHARE Sky fans look ahead to playoffs in hopes of back-to-back championships: ‘This team comes together’
Evelyn Benitez (left) and her family walk toward Wintrust Arena on Wednesday to watch the Chicago Sky’s first playoff game against the New York Liberty.

Evelyn Benitez (left) and her family walk toward Wintrust Arena on Wednesday to watch the Chicago Sky’s first playoff game against the New York Liberty.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Like many moms, Sara Parker texted her daughter Wednesday morning.

But the message took on a different tone than moms whose daughters weren’t playing in the WNBA playoffs that night.

“I texted her: ‘Go out there and go to work, do the Candace Parker thing. I love you,’” she told the Chicago Sun-Times.

Parker and the rest of the Chicago Sky are gunning for their second consecutive championship win in the postseason starting Wednesday with a series against the New York Liberty. Last year, the city beamed with pride following the Sky’s championship win against the Phoenix Mercury.

Fans hope they’ll do the same this year.

“That would be fantastic, that would be on the order of the Bulls three-peat (in the 1990s),” said Charisse Hodges ahead of the game. “It would be great to see women’s sports represented like that in Chicago.”

If the Sky succeed in their bid for a consecutive championship, they will be the first WNBA team to do so in 20 years, and the first Chicago team to achieve that in decades. For a women’s team to bring glory to the city twice in a row would be further proof their sports should be taken seriously, some fans say.

Fans make their way to Wintrust Arena to watch the Chicago Sky take on the New York Liberty prior to the Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Fans make their way to Wintrust Arena to watch the Chicago Sky take on the New York Liberty prior to the Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game, Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

But winning it all will take a different strategy this time around, head coach James Wade said this week. As the reigning champs, the team is the target of the rest of the league this postseason.

He’s confident the Sky will win its series against the Liberty.

“We’re like an electric car,” he said this week. “We don’t need fuel.”

This year, the WNBA playoffs shifted from single elimination to bracket-style tournament play. If the Sky wins the best-of-three series against the Liberty, they’ll advance to the best-of-five semifinals, followed by the best-of-five finals.

The playoffs bring not only a heightened sense of anticipation and higher stakes but also a clean slate for teams who have gone head-to-head several times before.

“Everybody’s zero-zero,” Sara Parker said. “It’s a whole new season.”

Will Valentine and Sara Parker, Candace Parker’s mother, prepare to take in the Chicago Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Will Valentine and Sara Parker, Candace Parker’s mother, prepare to take in the Chicago Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Will Valentine, who sat with Parker at a restaurant near the arena, added: “I’m really glad they achieved what they did this year following up on last year, but we’ll see what happens. It’s going to get harder and harder.”

Streams of fans trickled toward Wintrust Arena, which hosts the Sky’s home games. Fans donned blue and yellow jerseys, “Sky” baseball hats and shoes reading “champs” as they made their way to the arena Wednesday.

Fans make their way to the arena to watch the Chicago Sky take on the New York Liberty outside the Wintrust Arena prior to the Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Fans make their way to the arena to watch the Chicago Sky take on the New York Liberty outside the Wintrust Arena prior to the Sky’s round one WNBA Playoff game on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022.

Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Led by Parker, Kaleah Copper, Courtney Vandersloot and Allie Quigley, the Sky is special, fans say.

“The tenacity of the spirit of this team; this team comes together,” said Evelyn Benitez before the game.

Benitez played basketball growing up, before the establishment of the WNBA. Now, watching women’s sports garner attention in a way only men’s sports had historically done, Benitez thinks of a new generation of basketball players.

“For me, (another championship) would be pride for the city, but more importantly for little girls that want to play basketball and see what it’s like to be part of a team,” Benitez said.

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