The Columbus Eagles only needed a draw against the Cincinnati Sirens to capture the Premier Arena Soccer League Great Lakes Conference Championship. After going down 1-0 early in the first quarter, the Eagles equalized and never looked back. In their previous two meetings with their rivals from down I-71, the Eagles scored a combined 13 goals. Saturday afternoon, they demolished Cincy 19-2. Securing the Great Lakes Conference title beyond a shadow of a doubt.
While the scoreline will not reflect it, Cincinnati did represent themselves with pace and opportunities despite a short bench and some tough chances. But a smothering defense and some class saves by keeper Lauren Demarchi, the Eagles were able to withstand Cincinnati’s test.
On the other side of the ball, Columbus had three players earn hat tricks, with newcomer Sheryl Shope netting four to lead a scoring onslaught that featured eight different Eagles on the score sheet. Columbus put an exclamation point on a season that tested all teams, especially this group that had lineup insecurity and games canceled at the last moment.
Early on, the Eagles controlled the play, creating chance after chance. But it was Cincinnati who broke onto the board first, putting away a bobbled Demarchi save to go ahead early 1-0. The Sirens held their only lead for less than 60 seconds, however.
Within a minute of play, Alivia Milesky put back a great chance deflected to equalize 1-1. Forward, Donavan Wahl followed up quickly to put the Eagles ahead when she slotted a goal in on the counter attack towards the end of the first quarter. Captain, Ashley Gogolin started the pile on to put the Eagles up 3-1.
The Sirens rebounded by putting the last of their two goals in towards the end of the first quarter. While Cincy never gave up testing Columbus’ defense, the visitors were never able to get the ball in the net after the opening stanza.
While the Sirens were done scoring, the Eagles were just getting started. In the closing minutes of the first quarter, Madison Costner unleashed a rocket from downtown to put Columbus up 4-2. With under a minute left in the first, Mariah Whitaker redirected a Morgan Wolcott shot to put the Eagles up 5-2 going into the first break.
In the second quarter, Columbus picked right up where the team left off. Micaela Powers put her name on the score sheet to continue the route. The counter attack was not kind to the Sirens, as costly turnovers were converted to several goals.
The seventh goal of the game for Columbus came off the counter as Costner slotted in the ninth goal of the game. The scoring didn’t stop there. A quick give-and-go passing clinic opened up the goal for Donavan Wahl to put the Eagles ahead 8-2.
Columbus did not let off the pedal, creating onslaughts of offensive chances throughout the game. After the Sirens were able to rebuff multiple shots, Whitaker put in her second finish in to make it 9-2. Sheryl Shope, new to the Eagles lineup for this game, scored her first of four as halftime loomed. With just 18 seconds left in the first half, Gogolin put the Eagles up 11-2
The second half started off relatively quietly. Cincinnati came out trying to claw back into an impossible situation, but Columbus repelled the early onslaught and Shope pushed it further out of reach when she tapped in a bank off the wall. Shope netted her hat trick minutes later by putting away a feed from the captain.
Even in a high-scoring indoor soccer league, the Eagles made an impression at 13-2. Wahl beat the entire defense herself for the final goal of quarter three, and scored her second, ending the third quarter 14-2.
With just one quarter left, Columbus could easily have sat back and absorbed the Sirens attack and bled out the clock. Instead, the Eagles continued to show pace and attack and challenge Cincinnati on both sides of the ball, with goal totals quickly piling up.
Milesky scored her second in the opening minutes of the final quarter and Shope put the final touches on her master class after taking a beautiful feed from Costner. Shope netted her fourth and the Eagles' 16th goal. Costner joined in on the hat trick parade after bringing the ball in from the halfway line into the goal herself to make the score 17-2.
When things are going right, things are going right. Morgan Wilcoxon netted her first when the ball bounced away from the keeper and into the back of the goal. The midfielder capped off scoring with a tap in for her second, the well overdue final nail in the Sirens’ coffin.
In a 19-2 thrashing, the majority of attention is directed to the offense. But the Eagle defense, headed by Wolcott and Demarchi withstood continual quality Siren attacks that could have easily turned the tide of the game. This was a complete game victory for Columbus and a well-deserved championship.
The Eagles now look ahead to the team’s outdoor season, in hopes of mirroring their indoor success. A foundation that looks promising as champions.