NC Courage, US Women advance to $1M TST championship game ::

NC Courage, US Women advance to $1M TST championship game ::

The NC Courage and the US Women — among the biggest fan favorites in Cary — will be playing for the $1 million prize at The Soccer Tournament on Monday night.

The Courage defeated Streetball FC Canada 2-0 in Sunday’s first semifinal at the WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary. Madison Wolfbauer scored both goals in the game, giving her a tournament-high five goals.

“I think coming into this tournament, everyone in this tournament in so competitive and you want to win, but until you get to this moment, it doesn’t really come into reality,” Wolfbauer told WRAL after the match.

The Courage will play the US Women, a group led by former national team players like Heather O’Reilly and Ali Krieger. US Women defeated Tampa Bay Sun 4-0 in the semifinals behind two goals from Tessa Dellarose, a current UNC player, and Kenne Kessler.

“What an incredible atmosphere this has been, and just to play for a million, it’s going to be a lot of fun, there’s pressure, but I love it, I love kind of playing in those games,” Cat Whitehill said.

The US Women started off the tournament with a 3-0 loss to Streetball FC Canada, but have turned things around tremendously, as they prepare for a chance to win it all on Monday.

“We had to really look within, because we did struggle,” Whitehill said.

Some of it was adjusting to the 7v7 style of The Soccer Tournament.

“We went back to what we were good at with the US Mentality, bringing out flair, our individuality, but also coming together as a group, as a team and we really dug deep,” Whitehill said.

The Courage is captained by Jessica McDonald, who played a key role in the team’s first goal Sunday. McDonald pressured the Streetball FC keeper, leading to Wolfbauer’s first goal.

“You can’t be a striker and score goals without your teammates, it’s never going to work,” said Wolfbauer, who played college soccer at Bowling Green. “I’ve had a lot of preparation for this. I wasn’t in retirement. I haven’t just sitting around. I’ve been training really hard with Next Level Training in Michigan.”

That’s where Wolfbauer met McDonald. She said this team wants to win this whole thing for McDonald and for the Courage faithful watching in Cary.

“We just all look up to her and value her so much, respect the hell out of her, so for her to be here and for us to help take her to the finals, it’s amazing,” Wolfbauer said.

The 48-team men’s tournament is also down to the semifinals Saturday. La Bombonera will take on Hoosier Army at 6 p.m., while last year’s champion Newtown Pride plays Nani FC at 7:30 p.m.

The men’s championship game is Monday at 8:30 p.m. The winning team will also claim a $1 million prize.