The Columbus Eagles wrapped up the WPSL season last Saturday in Indianapolis, Indiana. They played for second place in the WPSL Valley division against FC Pride.
Unfortunately the game didn't end with the result the Eagles hoped to achieve, but they still had a franchise best finish. It was a special season for the team filled with growth and opportunity.
I began to recall what an amazing journey the team has experienced from my perspective.
Women's Soccer has held a very special place in my heart. I fell in love with the sport during the 2011 Women's World Cup in Germany.
I prefer watching USWNT games over the men's games because quite frankly the women are a blend of "flash and physicality." The same holds true for just about any level of women's soccer including the Columbus Eagles.
I joined the Columbus Eagles on May 20th, 2017. My news outlet Massive Report had long been interested in the club. I pounced on the assignment immediately.
My first game would feature the Eagles against Dayton Dutch Lions at Otterbein University in Westerville, Ohio.
Frankly, I was kind of nervous, but I was eager to accept the opportunity.
The Eagles play in the WPSL or better known as the Women's Premier Soccer League.
The WPSL is a league that is spread throughout United States and contains over 100 teams. The teams have a single mission; to bring a high level of women's soccer to the communities they represent.
The WPSL is recognized as a second division league to the National Women's Soccer League. Many WPSL players have gone on to play with the best college programs and some have played professionally.
It is considered a semi-professional league where teams carry around 30 players. 15 players stay on year-round and the other 15 are typically collegiate athletes available during the summer.
One of the famous products of the WPSL is Rose Lavelle. She played for the aforementioned Dayton Dutch Lions before finishing her senior season at the University of Wisconsin.
Lavelle would go on to be drafted first overall and play for the Boston Breakers. She has become known as an up and coming player for the United States Women's National Team and could be a star of the NWSL for years-to-come.
Prior to the match, I introduced myself to the Head Coach and Owner of the Columbus Eagles Mark Wise. From the very beginning he was incredibly welcoming to me. He introduced me to the rest of the staff and then I made my way upstairs where I was introduced to the Director of Media and voice of the Eagles Grant Burkhardt.
Burkhardt welcomed me and made the experience very enjoyable and I marveled in awe of how well the operation ran. Assistant Coach Daniel Seiffert had the women running world-class drills and warmups.
Columbus would win the game in a thrilling fashion by the score of 2-1. Midfielder Larissa Najjar found the back of the net in the closing moments of the match as Columbus notched the first victory of the 2017 season.
After the match I interviewed Head Coach Mark Wise and he was thrilled and frankly in disbelief of the performance.
I had a taste of what the Eagles were doing but I wanted more.
They generously opened the doors up to me for their training sessions and it was there I became part of the Eagles family.
I even volunteered to play goalkeeper in training for the team as they would rest their starters or they were dealing with injuries. This experience helped me truly understand how truly talented these ladies are.
One of the moments I recall was early on in my experience with the Eagles, defender Monique Hanayik came charging down the field and let go of a shot from close range.
Now, I've stopped a lot of shots in my time but Monique had a particular zest on her shot that I wasn't going to forget. She was a former all-Ohio player at Capital University in Columbus and scored numerous goals throughout her collegiate career. She could hit the ball with pace.
Hanayik's shot hit off my right hand and successfully jammed my right ring finger and my middle finger. I then invested in a new pair of gloves to protect my hands and I told the women it was for my indoor season.
That was a lie, I just wanted to make sure my hands didn't get destroyed. I call it a "business decision" as I really need my hands to write.
Before I knew it, friendships were formed, road trips were had and I was fully engulfed in the Eagles culture. Captain Mary Seiffert even presented me with my very own team shirt to wear while I traveled with the team and around town.
That really ment a lot.
I could tell these women's really appreciated me and I haven't felt a sense of warmth or community like that for a long time.
I cannot believe how quickly the season flew by. I joined the Eagles about two months in, but if we could have made the experience last a bit longer I would have been okay with that.
Now the season is over and it's time to build for 2018. The Columbus Eagles need your help. The team is dependent on sponsors and are always looking for assistance.
If you or someone that you know would like to sponsor this tremendous organization click here and learn how to becoming involved with this great team.
Thank you the team and staff for the warmth and hospitality. I can't wait to join you again in 2018.