North Carolina Courage snap Spirit’s streak to win NWSL Challenge Cup

(Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images)

The North Carolina Courage defeated the Washington Spirit 2-1 on Saturday to win their first NWSL Challenge Cup title.

The Courage snapped the Spirit’s 20-game win streak dating back to late August and secured their first trophy since winning the NWSL championship in 2019. With the victory, North Carolina has now won three championships overall, the most of any NWSL franchise.

Nicoli Kerolin opened up the scoring for the Courage in the 10th minute, running onto a pass from Debinha and dribbling into the middle of the 18-yard box before firing a shot past Spirit keeper Aubrey Kingsbury.

Ashley Hatch pulled the Spirit even with the Courage in the 35th minute, receiving an outside-of-the-foot pass from Trinity Rodman in the box and sending her shot off of the left crossbar and into the net.

After Kerolin left the game following a collision in the 70th minute, the Courage regained the lead off of a corner kick that resulted in an own goal.

Kerolin was named MVP of the Challenge Cup final after recording a game-high three shots on goal, including the opening tally. North Carolina signed the 22-year-old Brazilian forward to a three-year contract in January after trading longtime club staples Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams to Kansas City in the offseason.

Kingsbury, the hero of the Spirit’s semifinal win over OL Reign, nearly kept her side in the game with five saves. The Courage ultimately put enough pressure on the Spirit’s backline, outshooting them 19-9, to pull away with the win.