Match Recap: Courage Best Spirit on the Road Saturday Night
LEESBURG, VA (June 11, 2022) — The North Carolina Courage defeated the Washington Spirit, 3-2, Saturday night at Segra Field in Leesburg, VA. The match featured goals from Courage forward Kerolin Nicoli and defenders Abby Erceg and Kaleigh Kurtz. The Courage were coached tonight by Assistant Coach Nathan Thackeray, stepping in for Sean Nahas who is under COVID-19 protocol.
“It wasn’t a real pretty soccer game from where I was standing,” Thackeray said. “But it was well fought, well battled. I’m quite happy with what we’ve produced, to be honest. It’s a difficult place to come against a good team. All smiles.”
It wouldn’t take long for the Courage to get into the fray Saturday with forward Kerolin Nicoli netting her first NWSL regular-season goal just six minutes into the match. The play began with a beauty of a pass forward from Brianna Pinto, who connected it right into K. Nicoli’s path to be chased down. The Brazilian then curled the ball around Spirit defender Emily Sonnet and past the fingertips of keeper Aubrey Kingsbury. Pinto earned the assist on the goal, the first professional regular-season assist of her career.
The first half ended with North Carolina up one, but the Courage would double their lead just 6 minutes into the second half when defender and captain Abby Erceg tallied her first regular-season goal of the year with a stellar header off a corner kick in from Carson Pickett.
“For us, it’s the winning mentality,” Erceg said. “It’s to not take our foot off the gas, it’s to keep going. Can we get a third, can we get a fourth? No matter what is going on, I think, we know we have to keep going.”
Through two Spirit comeback goals, including a penalty kick goal from Ashley Hatch, the Courage kept their eyes on those three points and it was Kaleigh Kurtz who made the difference. Scoring a goal in her second-straight match, Kurtz found herself in a prime position inside the box following a Debinha freekick. The set piece ended with the ball landing in Erceg’s path, but the New Zealander’s shot was deflected off Kingsbury and onto the waiting foot of Kurtz, who sent it right to the back of the net.
“I think people underestimated us a little bit coming into this year,” Denise O’Sullivan said. “It’s about our mentality … keeping our foot on the gas. We’re doing really well right now, but we’ve a long way to go. With a captain like [Abby Erceg] and other experienced players on the pitch, we’ll drive those younger players as well.”
Up Next: The North Carolina Courage finally return to WakeMed Soccer Park to take on the Houston Dash in a celebration of Juneteenth on Sunday, June 19, at 5 p.m. ET. The match will be broadcast live on Paramount+, Twitch.
- Kerolin Nicoli scored her first regular-season NWSL goal.
- Brianna Pinto earned her first regular-season NWSL assist.
- Kaleigh Kurtz netted the game-winner and her second goal in as many games.
- Abby Erceg scored her first goal of the regular season, bringing her career total to eight.
- Frankie Tagliaferri made her regular-season professional debut, subbing in the final minutes of the match.
NC (4-4-2): Casey Murphy, Carson Pickett, Abby Erceg, Kaleigh Kurtz, Merritt Mathias, Denise O’Sullivan, Malia Berkely (Ryan Williams — 80’), Kerolin Nicoli (Frankie Tagliaferri — 90+4’), Debinha, Brianna Pinto (Meredith Speck — 65’), Diana Ordoñez (Jaelene Daniels — 80’)
Subs Not Used: Katelyn Rowland, Katie Bowen, Emily Gray, Brittany Ratcliffe, Rylee Baisden
WAS: Aubrey Kingsbury, Anna Heilferty (Kelley O’Hara — 76’), Sam Staab, Emily Sonnet, Camryn Biegalski, Julia Roddar (Bayley Feist — 59’), Taylor Aylmer, Madison Elwell (Morgan Goff — 66’), Ashley Sanchez, Trinity Rodman, Audrey Harding (Ashley Hatch — 46’)
Subs Not Used: Nicole Barnhart, Karina Rodríguez, Tinaya Alexander, Amber Brooks, Marissa Sheva
NC: Kerolin Nicoli — 6’; Abby Erceg — 51’; Kaleigh Kurtz — 90+2’
WAS: Ashley Sanchez — 74’; Ashley Hatch — 79’ (PK)
NC: Denise O’Sullivan — 89’; Kerolin Nicoli — 90+4’
WAS: Sam Staab — 90+1’