Columbus has a lot to offer sports fans who love to root, root, root for the home team. There’s a team for just about every season— the Blue Jackets, the Clippers, the Crew, and of course, the Buckeyes. But we’d like to add another name to that list: The Columbus Eagles women’s soccer team, now in its third season, is a member of the Women’s Premier Soccer League (WPSL). As an amateur club with professional ambition, the Eagles team is building its own legacy in Columbus by offering a way for female postgrads to remain on the competitive pitch. We met up with third-year Eagles player Jessica Witzky at SportsOhio in Dublin to discuss the team’s history, the WPSL national championships, and the status of women’s soccer in America.
Is it the opportunity to keep playing soccer that keeps players coming back to the Eagles? Once you graduate, there’s nowhere to play. The WPSL is unique in that it has over 70 teams, all across the country. The league is based out of California, but they have teams everywhere. I went to school in North Carolina, we had the Charlotte Eagles, but if you wanted to come back to Ohio, for the first couple years I was here I would drive to Cleveland with a couple girls to be able to play with the Internationals. Well, the Internationals ended up folding their team, and then there was nowhere to go. So it’s nice now that Columbus is able to offer that opportunity.
What is it about women’s soccer that makes it competitively different from men’s, what sets it apart? I think the women’s game is more possession-oriented; it’s not so flashy. One thing I appreciate about the women’s game is that you don’t see a bunch of women diving on the ground and acting like they have a broken leg, the other team gets a card and then they’re up and perfectly fine. It is a slower game, but I think there is more of a composure about it versus the men’s side. The women’s game is more tactically driven because of the slower pace as opposed to the men’s where you can expose yourself with speed.
Do you have any advice for young, female soccer players who might be interested in taking a path similar to yours? I think, first and foremost, you need to follow your passion and not feel pressured to go to certain teams or leagues because you feel like you have to. Put yourself in an environment where people are going to support you and push you, challenge you and share your goals and dreams as if they were their own. I think it’s really easy to lose yourself and forget why you enjoy the sport. We’ve developed this ideology that the game, at the younger levels, is about winning. And it’s not. It’s about development, and I would encourage all young players in particular to find yourself with a ball at your feet at all times and develop those individual technical skills, because that’s really what’s going to allow you to thrive as you get older because you’ll have the footwork to succeed in a more tactically-driven game. But ultimately, just have fun. You don’t have to play Division 1 in a top school to be able to play in the national league. It might help with exposure but there’s a ton of incredibly talented players who will play Division 2 or 3 that easily could have played D1, but you have to follow where your heart is going to take you.
The Columbus Eagles play several friendly matches in central Ohio this month, with league play beginning at the end of May. For more, visit columbuseaglesfc.com.