Labbé (third from left) celebrates with her Courage team mates (credit NWSL)
METUCHEN, NJ - The North Carolina Courage defeated the Chicago Red Stars in strong fashion to capture their second straight National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) league title this past Sunday. Head Coach Paul Riley was able to lift his third NWSL Championship trophy in his coaching career with thanks to four different goal scorers and a dominant defensive performance in the 4-0 home victory in front of 10,000+ fans at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, NC. Courage goalkeeper and Calgary Foothills Women's FC alum Stephanie Labbé had two saves in the first half to keep Chicago and star forward Sam Kerr scoreless going into halftime.
Labbé was a 2018 All-United Women's Soccer (UWS) Second Team and All-West First Team selection for Head Coach Troye Flannery's conference champion side before she made the move to Linköpings FC of the Swedish Damallsvenskan. Riley signed the Canadian international keeper in February of this year following the departure of Sabrina D'Angelo. Long Island Rough Riders alum Crystal Dunn scored the third goal of the match and her ninth of the season right before halftime, as she took on the Chicago defense to put the Courage up by a dominant margin. North Carolina became just the second team in NWSL history to win back-to-back titles and finished the season unbeaten at home (10-0-4).
Bethany Balcer (credit Jane Gershovich/isiphotos.com)
2017 Midwest Player of the Year and All-UWS selection Bethany Balcer scored another accolade after her rookie campaign with Reign FC, who made it to the NWSL Semifinals. The Grand Rapids FC alum was named the 2019 NWSL Rookie of the Year on Tuesday and follows up on her top rookie award by the NWSL Players Association from last week. Balcer was also named to the NWSL's 2019 Second XI alongside Long Island alum Crystal Dunn. The 22-year old made history for becoming the first player from an NAIA school (Spring Arbor University, where she was coached by Lansing United mentor Jason Crist) to sign a NWSL contract.
Balcer appeared in all 24 regular-season matches for Reign FC scoring six goals and adding two assists. She made just as big an impact for the 2017 UWS champions as well. The GRFC Women closed out the season with nine consecutive wins en route to the league championship. The biggest factor during that span was the outstanding play of Balcer, who was named to the UWS Team of the Week on three straight occasions. Bethany made eight appearances scoring 14 goals & three assists (31 points) to finish the season as the 2017 UWS Golden Boot winner.