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NWSL Sep 10, 2023

North Carolina Courage capture second straight NWSL Challenge Cup title

(Photo Credit: Bob Donnan / USA Today Sports)

CARY, N.C. — The North Carolina Courage are back-to-back NWSL Challenge Cup champions after a 2-0 win over Racing Louisville FC on Saturday afternoon in the 2023 Final at WakeMed Soccer Park.

The Courage have now won a league-record four NWSL finals in the club’s history and become the first NWSL team to win multiple Challenge Cups.

The now seven NWSL trophies (three NWSL Shields, two NWSL Championships, two Challenge Cup championships) are the most by any club in league history, breaking a tie with the Portland Thorns.

The Courage had some early chances, forcing Louisville keeper Katie Lund into a pair of saves within the first 10 minutes. With the Courage on the verge of opening the scoring, the skies opened instead as a two-and-half-hour lightning delay commenced after just 10:55 of game play.

The Courage kept their footing out of the stoppage and broke through just shy of the half-hour mark. Narumi played a brilliant aerial ball, splitting the center backs, to play Kerolin Nicoli in behind. She carried to the end line then smashed a tough-angle shot into the far-side netting to put the home side in front. The Courage would maintain the pressure but keep the narrow lead into the halftime break.

A highlight reel goal for the ages put the exclamation point on the victory near the hour mark. Tess Boade lofted a flick from the top of the box, which clipped the heel of a Louisville defender. Manaka leaped to volley a perfectly placed chip over Lund, under the bar, and into the back of the net for her first NWSL goal. Manaka was named the 2023 Challenge Cup Final MVP.

Overall the Courage had 14 shots, 11 on target, held 57% of possession and passed at 84% accuracy for the match, earning a repeat as champions of the Challenge Cup on their home field in front of over 3,000 supporters, most of whom waited out the storm to cheer on their team and celebrate a cup victory.

Next Match: The Courage return to NWSL league action as they visit the Orlando Pride on Sunday, September 17, for a 7:00 p.m. kickoff at Exploria Stadium. The match will stream live on Paramount+ in the United States and on internationally.

Box Score:

NCC (4-3-3): Casey Murphy, Emily Fox, Malia Berkely, Kaleigh Kurtz, Ryan Williams, Narumi, Denise O’Sullivan(C) (Frankie Tagliaferri – 84’), Manaka (Brianna Pinto – 71’), Haley Hopkins (Mille Gejl – 84’), Tess Boade (Olivia Wingate – 68’), Kerolin Nicoli (Tyler Lussi – 84’)

Subs Not Used: Katelyn Rowland, Brittany Ratcliffe, Kiki Pickett, Rikke Madsen

LOU (4-4-2): Katie Lund, Lauren Milliet, Julia Lester (Kayla Fischer – 73’), Abby Erceg (c), Rebecca Holloway (Maddie Pokorny – 33’), Elli Pikkujamsa, Savannah DeMelo, Ary Borges, Paige Monaghan (Nadia Nadim – 53’), Thembi Kgatlana, Kirsten Davis (Uchenna Kanu – 73’)

Subs Not Used: Zaneta Wyne, Taylor Aylmer, Emina Ekic, Hillary Beall, Parker Goins

NCC: 2
LOU: 0

NCC: Kerolin Nicoli – 28’ (Narumi); Manaka – 54’

NCC: K. Kurtz – 44’
LOU: S. DeMelo – 73’

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