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Courage Show Growth, Results in Challenge Cup Championship

by Fran Stuchbury
May 9, 2022 - National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) - North Carolina Courage


North Carolina Courage celebrate their NWSL Challenge Cup victory
North Carolina Courage celebrate their NWSL Challenge Cup victory
(North Carolina Courage, Credit: Fran Stuchbury)

The North Carolina Courage won the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship with a 2-1 victory against the Washington Spirit at WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday. The game was televised nationally on CBS.

"The game was a battle; it was about competing," said North Carolina Courage Sean Nahas. "One thing we talked about was finding ways not not lose but to win and I told the team that it was a cumulation of learning from our previous games. I couldn't be more proud of our team."

On winning the NWSL Challenge Cup Nahas said, "We can enjoy it today and tomorrow; we get back to work on Tuesday. I could not be any happier for this team. We hopefully will get better from it but at the end of the day we still need to grow."

The Courage opened the scoring in the 10th minute with a goal from Kerolin Nicoli, her first score with the Couarge. North Carolina signed her to a three-year contract on January 10, 2022. The Courage utilized allocation funds to buy out the remainder of her contract with Madrid Club de Fútbol Femenin. She has played with the Brazil National team since 2018.

Nicoli was also named 2022 NWSL Challenge Cup Championship MVP.

Washington tied the game in the 35th minute on a goal by Ashley Hatch. Hatch was the second overall pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft by the North Carolina Courage. In January of 2018 she was traded to Washington with teammate Taylor Smith for Crystal Dunn's rights. Hatch is the Spirit's all-time leading goal-scorer.

The North Carolina Courage netted the game-winning goal in the 70th minute set up by a corner from defender Carson Pickett who lofted the ball to the far post. Diana Ordoñez challenged the initial ball, sending a shot which deflected off Spirit defender Taylor Aylmer and into the back of the net, counted as an own goal by the Spirit.

Nicoli set up the corner with a terrific run into the box on which she appeared to be fouled as the defender separated her from the ball by knocking it over the backline. Instead, the Courage received just a corner, and Nicoli triumphantly watched the winning goal as she limped toward the North Carolina bench.

On playing in the NWSL Challenge Cup Courage defender and team captain Abby Erceg said, "It shows the potential we have; there is still so much growth. Down the road this experience will pay off for us; this was good for the players."

North Carolina Courage players earned a $10,000 bonus for winning the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Washington Spirit players will receive $5,000 dollars each thanks to a new sponsorship with UKG. UKG will now become the first-ever title sponsor of the NWSL Challenge Cup, increasing the Cup (player) bonus pool ten-fold in 2022, and the total pool will nearly double again in 2023. They will contribute over $1 million dollars.

The Courage add the Challenge Cup Championship to the two NWSL Championships they won in 2018 and 2019 in addition to winning the Women's International Champions Cup in 2018.

The Courage's next game is on the road Saturday against NJ/NY Gotham FC. Their next home game will be on Wednesday, May 18th against the Orlando Pride.





Images from this story

North Carolina Courage battle the Washington Spirit in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship
North Carolina Courage battle the Washington Spirit in the NWSL Challenge Cup Championship

(Fran Stuchbury)
Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett of the North Carolina Courage
Abby Erceg and Carson Pickett of the North Carolina Courage

(Fran Stuchbury)
The NWSL Challenge Cup
The NWSL Challenge Cup

(Fran Stuchbury)
North Carolina Courage head coach Sean Nahas
North Carolina Courage head coach Sean Nahas

(Fran Stuchbury)
North Carolina Courage celebrate their NWSL Challenge Cup victory
North Carolina Courage celebrate their NWSL Challenge Cup victory

(Fran Stuchbury)
 

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