This Saturday, the Columbus Eagles face their biggest test of the young 2021 season. They travel to Cincinnati to play in the Premier Arena Soccer League Great Lakes Region Tournament. It’s an event designed to get teams a low-cost way of playing multiple matches in a small timeframe. Instead of having teams travel for eight Saturdays throughout the winter, teams converge on one city to help fill the PASL schedule.
The Eagles will be playing three matches, back-to-back-to-back on Saturday night. First, a familiar foe in the Cincinnati Sirens. This will be the first match for Cincinnati since Columbus fought back for a 6-6 draw in the Eagles PASL opener on Feb. 6. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. ET. Columbus looks for its first victory against the team’s rivals across leagues since May 19, 2018, when they beat the Sirens 5-0 in Cincinnati.
Just under two hours later, at 8:10, the Eagles play the Grand Rapids Wanderers. The Wanderers are new to the PASL this season and haven’t played a league game in 2021. They’re a relatively unknown entity to Columbus supporters as they organized into a competitive arena team in 2020. Prior to last year, the Wanderers played in an annual charity exhibition match that blossomed into a regularly competing side.
If the Wanderers are relatively unknown, then the Eagles’ final match of the tournament is against a completely unknown side in the Chicago Brujas. According to a response from the PASL, “they are making their first foray into women’s soccer.” On the men’s side, the Chicago Brujos have a history of playing exhibition matches against the men’s teams of the league.
While the Eagles and Sirens match may look different since both teams have a couple of games in them and one being against each other, the matches against the Wanderers and Brujas will show a lot about this Eagles side. Mainly, how they can adapt to teams where there is no experience against each other?
Last week, the Eagles had to take a smaller roster to Chicago to face off against the Mustangs. Due to a Chicago field availability issue, the original match date of March 13 was changed to March 20 and that meant not all Columbus players were available, even the team’s coach. The match ended with a 9-2 Eagles loss with Jordan Fike scoring in her first 2021 match with the Eagles. Deijah Swihart also extended her team lead in goals with her third, following a two-goal performance in the season opener against Cincinnati.
Goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi returns for her third match. Coach Mark Wise was concerned that Demarchi wasn’t going to be able to play this weekend, but she’ll make the trip. The Eagles will need to look for goalkeeping depth in the future, in case Demarchi misses time as she is currently the only goalkeeper on the roster.
Also playing for the second week in a row will be Fike, Morgan Wilcoxon and last week’s player/coach Amberly Knox. Knox has appeared in both matches in the 2021 season.
Columbus brings a roster with needed depth to Cincinnati. Five players return from the season opener in team captain Ashley Gogolin, midfielders Alivia Milesky and Mellonee Hall, defender Maggie Bunker and forward Madison Costner after missing last weekend’s loss in the Windy City.
There will be three players making their 2021 Eagles debut Saturday. Midfielder Micaela Powers is an Eagle veteran, who has featured for the team during their past Women’s Premier Soccer League outdoor campaigns. Another veteran returns in attack with Erin Brockway joining Fike and Costner in the forward position.
Making her Columbus Eagles debut will be a former Big Ten Defender of the Year at Ohio State, Morgan Wolcott. She took home the award and was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2017 and second-team All-Big Ten in 2016. Adding to her on-field ability, Wolcott was also a five-time Academic All-Big Ten recipient until the end of her senior season in 2017. She fills a defensive void left by Monique Reventlow being unavailable for the second week.
Reventlow was added to the injured reserve list, alongside game-tying goal scorer from the first match of 2021, Susan D’Isidoro. Also missing this weekend is Swihart, who is unavailable.
The Sirens confirmed that their match with the Eagles will be streamed on the team’s Facebook page. Looking past the tournament, the Eagles will finish their PASL season with three straight home matches in March against the Wanderers on March 6, the Chicago Mustangs on March 13 and end the winter season against the Sirens on March 20. All home matches are available to stream live on the Columbus Eagles team site.