Spirit Advance to NWSL Semifinal in 1-0 Instant Classic

Washington Spirit  |   November 7, 2021
Spirit Advance to NWSL Semifinal in 1-0 Instant Classic Featured Image

Luke Bennett 


Washington, D.C., (11/07/2021) – The Washington Spirit defeated the North Carolina Courage in the quarterfinal of the 2021 NWSL Playoffs this evening, 1-0. 

Ashley Sanchez began the action with a shot just outside of the box but it was easily saved by North Carolina’s Casey Murphy. This was one of the few chances produced by the Spirit in the opening part of the first half. 

The Courage were on the offensive, controlling possession (60-40) and the Spirit were tight, often defending on their side of the pitch in the opening fifteen minutes. Aubrey Bledsoe recorded her first save in the 16’ from a laser off the foot of Lynn Williams. 

However, Bledsoe’s greatest moment came in the 33’ when she fully extended to deflect a goal scoring attempt by Amy Rodriguez. 

After 45 minutes, the Spirit played very uncharacteristically as the Courage were the aggressors much of the first half. The Courage recorded four more shots, six more corners, and twelve more crosses than the Spirit, while possessing the ball over 56% of the time.

The Spirit came out of the locker room destined to flip the script. Kelley O’Hara made contact on a deep ball that nearly made it past the outstretched hands of Casey Murphy. 

Tori Huster, subbed in the 46’, found Trinity Rodman on a cross that just missed the net. 

The Spirit were on the defensive only minutes later when in the 54’, a Bledsoe save was deflected only feet away from the goal, but Emily Sonnett cleared the ball away from danger. 

The North Carolina assault continued eight minutes later when Debinha’s shot made contact with the goal post. Bledsoe saved the subsequent redirect aimed at goal.

The Spirit answered with a set piece kick by Andi Sullivan that set up Huster for a shot that was deflected to the outside of the goal. Then a recently-subbed Tara McKeown lobbed a ball inside the box but it was — no surprise here — saved by Murphy, who moments after, would save yet another shot by Huster. A fourth attempt at goal was made by Dorian Bailey who’s shot was saved from goal by the outstretched hand of Murphy. 

With arguably their best goal scoring opportunity, the Courage’s Lynn Williams rocketed a ball well over the net from a perfectly placed corner in the 83’.

In the waning seconds of stoppage time, Rodman sprinted upfield and nearly placed a softly hit ball past Murphy, but it was covered just before passing into the net. 

Insanity is the best word to describe the following moments. For the Spirit: Bailey, Huster, McKeown, and Rodman all had attempts at goal, and all were stuffed by Murphy. For the Courage, the few chances the Spirit faced in the first extra-time period were all diffused by Bledsoe.

Ashley Hatch, this year’s Golden Boot winner, fittingly broke the tie in the 113’ minute off of a rebound from Rodman’s shot, much to the excitement of the Spirit crowd. The Courage were unable to muster a response and the Spirit recorded their third straight shutout on their way to the NWSL Semifinals.

For their next league fixture, the Spirit travel back to Seattle to face OL Reign on Sunday, November 14 at 3:00 pm ET which will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network (USA) and Twitch (International).

-NWSL Match Report-

Match: Washington Spirit vs. NC Courage

Date: November 07, 2021

Venue: Audi Field 

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. ET

Weather: Cloudy, mid-50s

Scoring Summary:

Goals 1 2+ F
Washington 0 1 1
North Carolina 0 0 0


WAS – Ashley Hatch – 114’


WAS: 1-Aubrey Bledsoe; 3- Sam Staab; 5- Kelley O’Hara; 6- Emily Sonnett; 9- Tegan McGrady (16- Julia Roddar 70’); 12- Andi Sullivan; 19- Dorian Bailey (14- Paige Nielsen 115’); 26- Taylor Aylmer (23- Tori Huster 46’) (21- Anna Heilferty 98’); 2- Trinity Rodman (7- Saori Takrada 118’); 10- Ashley Sanchez (27- Tara McKeown 70’); 33- Ashley Hatch

Unused Substitutes: 17- Kumi Yokoyama; 18- Devon Kerr; 30- Camryn Biegalski

NC: 1- Casey Murphy; 3- Kaleigh Kurtz; 4- Carson Pickett; 6- Abby Erceg; 11- Merritt Mathias (13- Ryan Williams 119’); 8- Denise O’Sullivan; 10- Debinha; 21- Cari Roccarco (34- Angharad James 105’); 9- Lynn Williams; 12- Amy Rodriguez (25- Meredith Speck 77’); 14- Jess McDonald

Unused Substitutes: 2- Taylor Smith; 7- Diane Caldwell; 20- Lindsay Agnew; 27- Brittany Ratcliffe; 29- Rylee Baisden; 42- Sam Murphy

Stats Summary: WAS / NC

Shots: 33 / 21

Shots on Target: 13 / 8

Saves: 8 / 13

Blocked Shots: 12 / 3

Fouls: 8 / 10

Offside: 3 / 3

Misconduct Summary: 


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