It’s been a season of change for the Columbus Eagles. The team is playing in an arena league for the first time in its seven-year history, welcoming a set of new players after an 18-month COVID-19 fueled hiatus from competitive play and playing with an interim coach, founder/CEO Mark Wise, instead of Matt Ogden, who is leading the Capital University women’s team in their fall-turned-spring regular season.
Those are just the changes the team had to adjust to before the start of their Premier Arena Soccer League season in February. In the past week, it was announced that the Eagles will move conferences in the Women’s Premier Soccer League outdoor season and there would be no WPSL national championship game due to COVID-19 protocols. Then, after a weekend that saw Columbus win two out of three matches in an in-season tournament, the Eagles’ March 6 opponent was changed. Instead of welcoming the newly-founded Grand Rapids Wanderers, who they beat 16-3 in last weekend’s PASL tournament in Cincinnati, Columbus welcomes the Chicago Mustangs on Saturday afternoon.
The Eagles look to make up for a 9-2 loss suffered at the hands of the Mustangs on Feb. 20. While part of the reason for the Eagles joining the PASL is to get more games before they take part in the outdoor season, Wise also wants the Eagles to win.
“It will be a tough match, but if we want to stay in second or move to first place in the division, we need to find a way to win this game,” said Wise. “We have a solid lineup and the ladies are learning how to play with each other.”
Saturday’s 3 p.m. ET kickoff is going to have a vastly different side than who traveled to Chicago for the 9-2 loss. The Mustangs had field availability issues and the originally scheduled trip on Feb. 13 was moved back a week, causing many Eagles regulars to miss the game. Columbus fared well in the loss considering the team only had seven field players make the trip, which is not easy to overcome when the indoor game is fast, intense and involves frequent substitutions to conserve player energy.
Only three players from that Chicago trip will be on the roster for Saturday’s game., goalkeeper Lauren Demarchi and midfielders Morgan Wilcoxon and Deijah Swihart. Demarchi is slated to be the only Eagle to play in every 2021 PASL match. Wilcoxon joined the Eagles for the Chicago trip and will make her third appearance in a row for Columbus. Swihart wasn’t available for the three-match trip to Cincinnati but has three goals in the two matches in which she’s played.
Overall, there are nine players on the Columbus roster who didn’t make the Chicago trip last month, which makes Saturday’s contest a bit unpredictable. Team captain and midfielder Ashley Gogolin is one of those nine and will lead a squad that includes defender Summer Bourcier for the first time in 2021. Bourcier is a veteran, who has played in WPSL outdoor seasons in the past.
Monique Reventlow, who started the first match of the season against the Cincinnati Sirens returns to the squad after missing last weekend with a tendinitis injury. Having Reventlow and Bourcier available on the defensive end will allow former Ohio State defender Morgan Wolcott to find more space in the offensive end, something that Wise did for the second and third matches over the weekend tournament, both resulting in victories for the Eagles.
For supporters streaming the match, one thing to look out for is how Columbus is able to use the arena walls to the team’s advantage. The Eagles are a side of college standouts but lack experience with the indoor game. Watch for indirect shots off the back walls, and in the run of play up the sidelines. If Columbus can continue to adapt the teams game in the arena, they’ll have a strong chance against a team that will travel in from the Windy City.
The match can be streamed for free on the Columbus Eagles’ website. Supporters can also purchase a raffle ticket for $10 that gives them the chance to win prizes from the team and team sponsors.
After this weekend, the Eagles finish their PASL season against the Chicago Brujas on March 13 and against the league-leading Sirens. All matches will be at home, at the Stars Indoor Sports.