The first four matches of the USL W League Conference Semifinals did not disappoint. Between high-scoring affairs, incredible goalkeeping, and cheeky backheels, day one of the playoffs excited.
Check out recaps of each conference semifinal match below.
Central Conference Final: Minnesota Aurora FC will take on Indy Eleven on Saturday at 3pm ET
Southern Conference Final: Tampa Bay United will face off against NC Courage U23 Saturday at 6pm ET.
Minnesota Aurora picked up a 1-0 victory over Chicago City SC with the lone goal of the match being a converted penalty kick in the 23 minute.
The opening 20 minutes of the match was fairly balanced with both sides pushing up in the opponents' final third. Chicago City’s goalkeeper easily had the most-impressive on-field performance of the night with her heroics keeping Chicago City in the game until the final moments of the match.
The deciding goal came when Minnesota was awarded a penalty kick after Chicago committed a foul in the box during an Aurora corner kick. Ari DelMoral buried the PK giving Minnesota the edge at the half.
With just 20 minutes left in the match, Schopp’s lights out goalkeeping paired with Chicago stringing together passes in their attacking third, an equalizer looked promising. However, Chicago City found themselves down to just 10 women on the field after a straight red card was shown to Sophia Jaime in the 77th minute for a dicey challenge from behind.
The penalty ended up being the deciding factor in what turned out to be a hard-fought match, a complete turnaround from the team’s two regular season meetings where Minnesota ran away with both matches.
MN: Ari DelMoral (PK) 23’
Indy Eleven cements their place in the conference final after an exciting 3-0 win over Flint City AFC
This matchup between old foes was intense in the first half of play. Indy went up thanks to a converted penalty kick in the 13 minute but Flint City continued to look dangerous over the next 30 minutes with the team knocking on the door multiple times but unable to finish. Minutes before halftime, Indy doubled their lead after a cheeky backheel by Samantha Dewey.
Coming out of the locker room Indy took control and never looked back, adding a third just four minutes into the second half. Flint managed to hold the team at bay for the remainder of the game, but were unable to cut into Indy's commanding lead.
IND: Grace Bahr (PK) 14’
IND: Samantha Dewey 42’
IND: Katie Soderstrom 49’
This thrilling back-and-forth high scoring affair between Tampa Bay United and Tennessee SC had everyone on the edge of their seats. Tampa Bay came away with the 3-2 victory after finding the winning goal in the 79 minute.
TSC came out of the gates strong, controlling the first 15 minutes of the match. Momentum turned to TBU when the ball took a deflection and found the back of the net. Ryanne Molenaar went on to equalize for TSC with her first goal of the night, helping lead her team into the locker room at halftime 1-1.
The second half showcased some incredible action from back sides, but the match would come down to a 79 minute go-ahead goal from TBU after Boeckmann shook off multiple defenders in the middle of the field to supply the assist for teammate Audrey Shackelford.
TBU: Crosby Nicholson 20’
TSC: Ryanne Molenaar 32’
TBU: Carissa Boeckmann 51’
TSC: Ryanne Molenaar 65’
TBU: Audrey Shackelford 79’
NC Courage U23 took some time to warm up in this match, but once the team was firing on all cylinders it was impossible for FC Miami City to find a breakthrough.
The first 30 minutes of this match up was a barrage of chances for both teams and it looked like it could have been anybody's game to win. The breakthrough came when the Courage strung together a few great passes in the midfield, springing Izzy Brown forward to bury the shot.
The match was still within reach at halftime at 1-0 and Flint looked strong out of the locker room. Denise Mendoza was between the sticks for Miami and helped keep them in the game for most of the night.
The Courage would go on to double their lead after a great goal from Mackenzie Geigle and then the final dagger would come in the 83 minute when the Courage would bag their third goal of the night, putting a comeback out of reach for Miami.
NC: Izzy Brown 40'
NC: Mackenzie Geigle 62'
NC: Braelynn Francher 83'