Columbus Eagles players were greeted with tremendous fanfare from fans that watched them defeat Cincinnati by the score of 6-5. The reception the women received after the match was inspiring.
Something was different this time.
2018 marks the fifth year the Eagles are been in business, and Chief Executive Officer Mark Wise has made it his goal to get a successful women's franchise up-and-running in the city of Columbus.
“I have always been about women’s soccer. Especially after 1999 when the Fab Five and the 99ers were playing in front of 100,000 people in the Rose Bowl," Wise told Columbus Underground in 2014. “It sent chills up and down your spine to see that many people watching a women’s sport. And then where are we today?
It’s like that never happened in a lot of cases because professional teams are not drawing the numbers that they should. They’re not being supported as much as the men are. It’s time for us to step up and make it happen. And wouldn’t it be sweet if it was right here in Columbus, Ohio?”
It seems Wise may have finally broken through to the City of Columbus.
Over the past few months fans of Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew SC have felt disenfranchised as inventor-operator Anthony Precourt announced that he may relocate the club if he doesn't get a downtown stadium by 2019.
Since that announcement in October, many facts have surfaced, and myths have been debunked.
No matter how you shake it, Precourt Sports Ventures and MLS don't have a good look in Columbus or on a global scale. So fans are putting an emphasis on supporting local soccer in Central Ohio.
Enter the Columbus Eagles.
The Eagles have always been great partners in the community. Last season the team partnered with the City of Westerville to put on a soccer exhibition for young fans.
This year the Eagles are keeping the emphasis on community outreach as they are partnering with Central Ohio charity Moms2B.
Targeting Central Ohio zip codes with the highest infant mortality rates, Moms2B provides weekly education and support sessions to high-risk pregnant women to promote healthier lifestyle choices and link them with social support resources.
As the Eagles continue to become a positive community influence, fans begin to flock to their games. A record-breaking crowd was on hand to witness the Eagles victory, including several young fans who attended a youth clinic hours earlier.
Eagles players Monique Hanayik, Alexa Cheripko, Kate Prewitt, and Summer Bourcier were the instuctors for the clinic and were instantly greeted by young fans following the victory.
Cheripko even kept an earlier promise and applied Black & Yellow "war paint" in addition to signing autographs with the other players. Players even had requests to sign autographs from adult fans.
Columbus is a tremendous soccer hotbed and witnessing the transformation of the Eagles in the short time is inspiring.
One can't help but think some of these children that met this current generation of Eagles could work their way onto the team someday.
Precourt Sports Ventures and Major League Soccer need to take a hint from teams like the Columbus Eagles.
Properly integrate yourself into the community and you will create bonds that will last a lifetime.