Life in the bubble has been good to Durango’s Lauren Milliet.
A second-year pro in the National Women’s Soccer League, Milliet and the North Carolina Courage have stormed out to three wins in three matches in the NWSL Challenge Cup, a month-long tournament featuring eight of the nine NWSL clubs.
The entire tournament is being played at Zions Bank Stadium in Herriman, Utah, where the clubs undergo regular COVID-19 testing and must follow strict health protocols.
“Life in the bubble is interesting,” Milliet said during a rest day Tuesday after her team’s 1-0 win Sunday against the Chicago Red Stars. “We have been playing tons of card games. But I think there are things that we are still getting used to, the food especially. I think once I got into a routine, though, it was pretty easy to adjust to.”
The NWSL was the first team sports league to resume after the COVID-19 pandemic shut down sports in early March. The Orlando Pride were forced to withdraw from the tournament after several players tested positive for the virus.
The Courage, the two-time defending NWSL champions, haven’t been slowed down despite having played three matches in eight days to begin the four-game qualification round.
The Courage (3-0-0) lead the table with nine points and have scored five times to only one allowed for a commanding edge in goal differential. A win Monday night in the qualification round finale against Sky Blue FC (0-1-1) will give the Courage the top seed for the knockout rounds. A draw could also lead the Courage to the top seed depending on how the rest of the week plays out. North Carolina, led by three goals this tournament from Lynn Williams, will play the final qualification round game of the tournament and will know exactly where it stands going into Monday night’s match.
Milliet, a 2015 Durango High School graduate, has appeared in all three games for the Courage so far, including her first-career start a week ago against the Washington Spirit.
As a rookie drafted out of Colorado College in 2019, Milliet totaled 46 total minutes in two matches. After a strong offseason of work and solid performances in preseason training, Milliet showed head coach Paul Riley she was ready for more time on the field and has already earned 113 minutes.
She has been on the field for all five of the Courage goals in this Challenge Cup, including Abby Erceg’s game-winning header Sunday in the 81st minute against the Red Stars in the rematch of last year’s NWSL championship game. Milliet checked in for U.S. Women’s National Team star Crystal Dunn in the 70th minute.
This tournament, Milliet has completed 30 of 38 attempted passes (78.9%) and has completed 80% of her long passes. She has not yet attempted a shot but has routinely been involved in her team’s attacking play. She has had two key passes – a pass that would have warranted an assist but a goal was not scored.
“I feel good,” she said. “The team is feeling good. I think we are really focusing on our performance game to game and continuing to work on the little things to improve each day.”
Coming off a full week rest, the Courage will wrap up qualification round play at 8 p.m. Monday.