OVERLAND PARK, Kans. (July 27, 2013) — Behind a strong defensive performance and goals from Joanna Harber and Ellie Bryant, Bellevue’s Eastside FC 98 Red girls soccer team handed Pennsylvania’s YMS Xplosion 98 a 2-1 defeat Saturday to win the Under-14 age group at the 2013 US Youth Soccer National Championships in Overland Park, Kans.
The US Youth Soccer National Championships is the most prestigious event in youth soccer in the United States, with thousands of teams nationwide competing for months at the state and regional level for the right to advance to this week’s national finals.
The national title won Saturday by Eastside FC 98 Red is the first by a Washington Youth Soccer team since 1996 – two years before any of Eastside FC 98 Red’s players were born.
"The girls were able to pull together against a really good team," said head coach Tom Bialek. "The secret to their success has been their ability to stay loose and have a lot of fun. They do not take it too seriously and know how to compete very hard when it is time."
Harber, who will be a freshman at Bellevue High School this fall, put Eastside FC on the board early, taking advantage of a mishandled back pass to the Xplosion goalkeeper to slot the ball home into an empty net. The Xplosion keeper made up for her miscue a few minutes later, however, when she was called upon to make a spectacular save on a Zoe Milburn penalty kick, awarded after Harber was fouled in the penalty box. The game went to halftime 1-0, but didn’t stay there long, as Bryant doubled the scoreline just minutes after the break, heading in a beautiful corner kick by Catie Buck..
YMS Xplosion, however, wasn’t going to go quietly, pulling one back with 30 minutes to play – the first goal allowed by Eastside FC since the semi-final round of June’s Far West Regional Championships, a span of more than 340 minutes. Explosion attacked the Eastside FC throughout the final half-hour, but a defense that had stood so strong throughout the tournament did so once again. Xplosion had a decided advantage in possession, with Eastside FC scoring its two goals on just three shots, while Xplosion fired eight shots at the Eastside FC net, requiring a remarkable five saves from goalkeeper Molly Monroe.
When the final whistle sounded, Eastside FC players stormed the field in celebration, to wild cheers from the family, friends and supporters among the 4,000-plus in the attendance.
"I am proud of the team and the accomplishment," said Harber, whose four goals in four games led all players in the tournament. "I am so happy to be a part of this team!"
Bialek says that it was that team-first humility, shared by all of Eastside FC’s players, that helped Harber -- known as "Jojo" by her teammates -- score as many goals as she did.
"The team created a lot of great opportunities and Jojo was able to be special when it was required," he said.
The team of 15 girls, who hail from Bellevue, Sammamish, Seattle, Issaquah, North Bend, Auburn and Maple Valley, received a surprise just before Friday's semi-final game, when former U.S. Soccer star and Washington Youth Soccer product Michelle French showed up to give the team a pre-game boost. French coached Eastside FC 98 Red’s players for several years before resigning her post in February to become the head coach of the U.S. Under-20 Women’s National team.
"[I’m so] proud of team and their accomplishment," French said. "The grit, determination and overall passion the team displayed throughout the entire tournament was outstanding. It is an incredible accomplishment for an incredible coach, team, and group of families."
In addition to their National Championship win, Eastside FC received the Sportsmanship Award for their fair play. Bialek says that it is a fitting honor for a team whose unity and humility were the driving force behind their win.
"I am proud we won and how we won. Winning the Sportsmanship award is something our club places great value in," he said.
Chance Fry, the Director of Operations for Eastside FC, summarized what the win meant to the players, parents, Club staff and volunteers who have worked with Eastside FC 98 Red’s players over the years.
"This is an amazing and historic day for the Club," Fry said. "On a personal level, I could not be more proud of my friend and colleague, Tom Bialek, the work put in by Michelle French over the years, the team of kids and their families. I speak for the Club when I say many tears of joy were shed today."
For more information on Washington Youth Soccer, visit www.washingtonyouthsoccer.org.
About Washington Youth Soccer
Washington Youth Soccer is the largest youth soccer organization in Washington. Washington Youth Soccer is the state's affiliate for US Youth Soccer, which is the largest sports organization in the United States and the most populous member of the United States Soccer Federation, the governing body for soccer in the United States. The Washington Youth Soccer is the sixth largest membership in the nation; our organization represents over 128,000 players (ages 4-19) and their families, 15,000 coaches on 12,000 teams and 6,500 referees in the state of Washington. Washington Youth Soccer’s mission is to foster the physical, mental and emotional growth and development of the State of Washington's youth through the sport of soccer at all levels of age and competition.
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