The Washington Spirit fell to the North Carolina Courage 1-0 on the road Saturday evening in front of 5,866 fans at Sahlen’s Stadium at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Following a scoreless first half in which Spirit goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe racked up four saves, the Courage broke through in the second half on a close range header by defender Abby Erceg. Erceg’s goal in the 63rd minute was assisted by a long range cross from fellow defender Jaelene Hinkle, who lifted the ball toward the far post directly in front of the frame.
North Carolina pushed its season-opening unbeaten streak to eight games with the victory, while Washington remain in search of its first road win of 2018.
After managing just one shot on target in the first half, Washington’s attack created more opportunities in the second period, including back-to-back shots on goal in the 48th minute by midfielder Tori Huster and forward Mallory Pugh.
After a free kick was sent in by Andi Sullivan, Huster came up with a loose ball off a deflection in the center of the box and fire a one-time shot, but Courage goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland was there to swat it away. The ball bounced to Pugh on the right side of the box, but her shot was also denied by Rowland on the double save effort.
Despite posting nine total shots, Washington was ultimately held scoreless for the second straight road game. Meanwhile, Bledsoe saved five of the six shots she faced over the course of the game, pushing her league-leading saves total to 37.
Canadian international Rebecca Quinn made her second career NWSL start, playing the full 90 minutes at center back while leading the Spirit with five interceptions. Fellow defenders Whitney Church and Taylor Smith tied for the team lead with seven clearances, as they limited the unbeaten Courage to a single goal.
Forward Ashley Hatch led the Spirit with three shots attempted. Second year player Morgan Proffitt made her first appearance of the season for Washington, entering the game in the 83rd minute for Tori Huster in the midfield.
The Spirit will return home to the Maryland Soccer for their next game on Saturday, May 19 against Portland Thorns FC.
Caption: Washington Spirit defender Rebecca Quinn (4) made her second career NWSL start, playing the full 90 minutes at center back while leading the Spirit with five interceptions.
Photo courtesy Washington Spirit.