Carli Lloyd scored Sky Blue FC’s lone goal, but had a penalty kick saved. (Jeffrey Auger Photo)

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Sky Blue FC continued to dig a deep hole for itself at the bottom of the National Women’s Soccer League as it lost to the North Carolina Courage, 2-1, at Yurcak Field Saturday night.

In a battle of teams going in different directions, winless Sky Blue FC (1 point) dropped to 0-5-1 while the unbeaten Courage (7-0-2, 23) tied a league record for the best nine-game start to the season. The mark had been held by Seattle Reign FC since 2014.

“We started pretty well in the first half and created some dangerous opportunities,” Sky Blue FC head coach Denise Reddy said. “North Carolina is a team that is so good in transition, and they will punish you when you give the ball away. The two goals they scored were preventable, but they were able to capitalize on the situations. I do feel that we deserved a point, and I am very proud of the effort that our players gave tonight.”
North Carolina goalkeeper Katelyn Rowland was called to duty early when Sky Blue FC’s Shea Groom launched a shot from outside the 18-yard box in the sixth minute of play. Rowland, in her third start this season, made a leaping save to prevent the home team from taking the quick lead.

The Courage was on the board soon after Rowland’s heroics when Debinha forced a turnover in the midfield and found the feet of Jessica McDonald on the right flank. McDonald played a clinical ball to Rockville Centre, N.Y. native Crystal Dunn, who who was inside the box in perfect position to put the first goal of the game away in the 16th minute.

In the 27th minute, North Carolina increased its lead as midfielder Samantha Mewis scored her first goal this season. Traffic in the box forced Sky Blue FC goalkeeper Kailen Sheridan to give up a dangerous deflection, and Mewis capitalized on her rebound to extend the lead to 2-0.

Rowland continued her stand-out performance into the second half when in the 72nd minute, the keeper snuffed Carli Lloyd’s penaltykick attempt and then made a follow up save to deny a shot off the rebound.

It was Lloyd who eventually found the back of the net for the Jersey side off of a set play in the fourth minute of added time. The midfielder ripped a shot into the top corner past Rowland to deny the Courage a shutout.

Though the visitors did not see a goal in the second 45 minutes, the team continued to create opportunities, increasing their first-half stat of 16 shots to 28 by the final whistle.