Minnesota United on Tuesday officially loaned 2020 first-round draft pick Noah Billingsley to USL Championship's Phoenix Rising FC for the 2021 season.

The Loons are contemplating doing the same as well with some of their other young prospects so they can get regular game action.

A forward turned defender, Billingsley spent much of last season on loan to the Las Vegas Lights FC. He made his MLS debut in the 2020 regular-season finale against FC Dallas in November.


U infielder Partain honored

Gophers second baseman MaKenna Partain, a fifth-year senior from Banks, Ore., was named the Big Ten player of the week, the conference announced Tuesday.

The team's leadoff hitter hit .412 in a four-game sweep of the then-No. 22 Northwestern with seven hits in 17 at-bats. Three of her seven hits in the series were home runs, resulting in a team-best slugging percentage of .941. She also led the Gophers with six runs scored and had four RBI.

The sweep in Evanston, Ill., also led to Minnesota (19-5) returning to the national rankings this week. The Gophers are No. 24 in the USA Today/NFCA rankings and No. 22 in Softball America's rankings. Minnesota was No. 25 in the preseason coaches' poll, but dropped out after starting the season 3-3. Since then the Gophers, who host Nebraska this weekend, have gone 16-2 and are in second place in the Big Ten standings.

NCAA hockey tourney ratings up

ESPN's coverage of the NCAA Division I men's hockey tournament from Mar. 26 to April 10 was the network's most-watched since 2014, averaging 193,000 viewers for games across its Nielsen-rated networks (ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU). The tournament, which included all five of Minnesota's teams, was also up 64% from 2019. The tournament was canceled in 2020. Overall, more than 5.8 million viewers watched the tournament.

NCAA action culminated Saturday with the championship game on ESPN with Massachusetts defeating St. Cloud State 5-0. Viewership for that game was up 33% from the 2019 final on ESPN2, averaging 435,000 viewers.

The top local markets included Boston (2.3) and Minneapolis-St. Paul (1.8). It also was the second most-viewed Frozen Four since 2016, reaching 3.7 million viewers.

6-5 center to join U women's team

Former Edina basketball standout Bailey Helgren announced that she is transferring from Kansas to the Gophers for next season.

The 6-5 Helgren has one year of eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer. She played in just seven games this past season as a senior.

The NCAA granted all athletes an extra year of eligibility because of the pandemic.