Sheridan’s Heroics Not Enough for Sky Blue

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By TOM SLATER

The much-anticipated first-place showdown in the National Women’s Soccer League between North Carolina and Sky Blue never materialized on Wednesday night. And if it were not for Sky Blue’s rookie goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan the final score, 2-0, would have been worse — much worse.

The first-place Courage (5-2-0, 15 points) controlled the game from the opening whistle and scored both of their goals in the first half in the midweek match. North Carolina snapped a two-game losing streak and Sky Blue (3-3-1, 10) saw its two game winning streak come to an end at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C.

Sheridan set a team record with 11 saves as North Carolina unleashed 21 total shots, 13 on goal.

Both teams are in the middle of a stretch of three games in eight days and both coaches — Paul Riley and Sky Blue’s Christy Holly rested starters. Holly sat out Sam Kerr and Raquel Rodriguez. The decision left Sky Blue’s offense handicapped, with the best chance coming early in the game when Mackenzie Meehan snuck behind the North Carolina defense to see her effort stopped by backup goalkeeper Katelyn Rowlan. The visitors managed only two shots, none on goal, all night,

“I thought it was a really good, professional performance,” Riley said. “We talked about a couple of things since the game on Sunday, which was not like us at all. We didn’t press well and had low energy. Tonight, we had high energy and we made it difficult for them.

“It was a good win tonight and we managed the game well. I think we were able to save some legs for the weekend with a quick turnaround.”

Lynn Williams put North Carolina ahead in the 20th minute when she took a pass from Smith and took on defender Christie Pearce. Williams used a quick move to create a half-chance and then a right-footed shot it into the far upper-right corner for the 1-0 lead. The goal was her third of the season and second in as many games.

Sky Blue, behind two sterling saves from Sheridan, nearly escaped the first half down only one goal, but the Sky Blue defense was unable to clear a corner kick and Sam Mewis pounced on the loose ball for the insurance goal, in the 42nd.

Sky Blue closes out its busy week with a game against visiting Orlando on Saturday.