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Columbus Eagles get dress rehearsal prior to MAPFRE clash

Fringe players get a chance to make a name for themselves.

Ken Tishenkel

Saturday marks an opportunity for the Columbus Eagles. The local Women’s Premier Soccer League team.

While the team typically plays its home games at Memorial Stadium on the campus of Otterbein University in Westerville, this weekend the women are headed to MAPFRE Stadium as the first part of a double header with Columbus Crew SC

Ahead of this match, the Eagles looked to work on their tactics and polish up their play. Columbus last played in WPSL action against Dayton Dutch Lions on June 10th, losing by a score of 2-1. Head coach Mark Wise scheduled a friendly to keep his ladies sharp and focused leading up to their clash with the Cincinnati Sirens.

Wise and his staff have invited new players into training throughout the season and this was his opportunity to see what these players could do in a game situation.

“I need to see these players in a game situation so I can really evaluate them,” he said.

This has been a time of transition for the Eagles. The team said goodbye to starting goalkeeper Shauni Kerkhoff, who is headed to Washington DC to join the Capitol Police and their incoming goalkeeper Shannon Flower isn’t expected to be ready until this Saturday’s match at MAPFRE. Thus, Wise and his staff were in a predicament.

He invited in 19-year-old Hannah Sargent, who just graduated high school and is headed to Western Michigan University, to play with his team. She fit right into the Eagles system and their style of play and Wise was pleased with the young keeper’s performance.

“You know it’s one thing when you put a new person in, if you are nervous the whole time it tells you something about them,” he said. “I even forgot that she was new. To me that says a lot as a coach.”

Another star on the rise for the Eagles is Jordan Helinski who began showing up to Eagles training a couple of weeks ago and really got the coaches attention.

“This is what I like about a friendly,” Wise said. “I can insert a player without worrying about my league record and what can you do for me.”

Helinski did a lot for the Eagles in the friendly. Numerous times, the forward was right on the door step of goal and combined with Eagles starting midfielder Kelly DeNiro to almost put the Eagles on the board. Wise even hinted this may not be the last time we see Helinski.

“Jordan is one who came up really strong and I think she has real opportunities to help us solve some of our scoring issues,” he said.

With an injury to midfielder Dani Gunderson, the Eagles offense has rested squarely on the shoulders of forward Lisa Nouanesengsy. She scored against her former club in the previous match and was really looking to get on the score sheet in the friendly where portion of the proceeds were donated to her charity, Strive Soccer.

Nouanesengsy almost accomplished the feat as she let a rocket go that rattled the post and got a shot just over the crossbar.

Her coach was thrilled, but also remained optimistic that she would be rewarded for her efforts.

“It would have been sweet [for Nouanesengsy to score] and she had two excellent opportunities,” he said. “Soccer is a harsh game sometimes. You do everything right, you put it right there and it’s just a little touch, or it hits the bar. She’s doing all the right things. She’s a great player.”

You can catch Nouanesengsy and the rest of the Columbus Eagles this Saturday at 2 p.m. at of MAPFRE Stadium. Tickets are still available and you can get in for free if you are a Crew SC season-ticket member.

You can read more about Strive Soccer and the work they do here.