Abby Dahlkemper anchored North Carolina’s backline. (Andy Mead/YCJ Photo)

CHICAGO – North Carolina Courage’s Abby Dahlkemper was voted the National Women’s Soccer League defender of the year, the league announced Thursday.

Dahlkemper, 24, claimed the award in her third NWSL season and is the youngest player to earn the honor.

The U.S. international was one of just four outfield players in the NWSL to feature for every minute this season. She finished with two assists in 2,160 minutes, helping the Courage earn a 16-7-1 record and the NWSL Shield.

The 16 victories tied the 2014 Seattle Reign FC for the NWSL season record and included seven wins by a score of 1-0 that relied heavily on Dahlkemper and fellow Courage defenders Abby Erceg, Taylor Smith and Jaelene Hinkle as goalkeepers Katelyn Rowland and Sabrina D’Angelo.

The Lancaster, Pa. native also led North Carolina to an NWSL season record 12 shutouts during the campaign as she was the focal point of a defense that posted an 0.92 goals-against average – the fourth-best mark in NWSL history.

Dahlkemper and her teammates turned in one of the best road performances in league history with 1.83 points per game away from home – the third-best return in league history. The Courage also became just the fifth team in the existence of the NWSL with a goal difference of plus-five or greater on the road over the course of an entire season.

She is the second consecutive UCLA product to win the award, following in the footsteps of fellow Bruin and Seattle Reign FC defender Lauren Barnes.

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at