When the Bellevue Blue 7/8 lacrosse team traveled to Philadelphia last week, they were able to taste some authentic Philadelphia cuisine in addition to the competition of a large East Coast lacrosse tournament.
In return, their East Coast competition got a taste of how strong the sport of lacrosse is in Washington.
Surprising their opponents and themselves, Bellevue Blue rolled through the Upper Atlantic Lacrosse Tournament in Philadelphia June 19-23, finishing in second place out of 24 teams in their age group.
The team, made up of seventh and eighth graders, came up short in the tournament’s championship game, losing 11-4 to the Long Island Outlaws. Although they didn’t win, they showed their East Coast opponents that the Washington lacrosse is a force to be reckoned with, said Bellevue Blue coach Chris Bergin.
“People were definitely not expecting us to perform well enough to win,” Bergin said. “They were really surprised we even had a team.”
Bellevue Blue was the only West Coast team out of all the teams in five different age groups in the tournament, Bergin said.
“To be honest, we had no idea what to expect,” Bergin said. “I thought we had a good team and I was hoping we could perform. This would be a measuring stick for us, to see where we compared to an East Coast hotbed of lacrosse.”
But before this team would even start the tournament, Bergin, a Philadelphia native, organized a warm-up match; Bellevue Blue took on Springfield Middle School, where the coach had attended 22 years ago. Bellevue won that match 10-4.
“That was very cool,” Bergin said. “After the game, their coach set up a social on the field, so the boys got to try a bunch of Philadelphia food. It was all pretty neat.”
The next day, Bellevue Blue got down to business in its first game of the official tournament, defeating the Roughriders out of the Baltimore-area 11-3. Bellevue continued its strong play later in the day, defeating the South Florida Select Blue 11-5, completing a sweep of day one.
Day two of the tournament saw Bellevue win 11-1 against SV Lax from Sun Valley, near the Pittsburgh area of Pennsylvania. That victory placed Bellevue only one win away from the championship game.
The team didn’t disappoint, as Bellevue scored twice in the final minutes, including a game-winning goal from Billy Stinson, and defeated Bucks Select from Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 4-2.
“The first two days we dominated play; we were playing against select teams and we felt we had the stick skills and athleticism to compete,” Bergin said. “It wasn’t until we played Long Island in the championship that we saw a level of play above ours.”
The Long Island Outlaws, Bergin said, combined stick skills and a passing attack to create offense, something his team had not encountered before.
“They made it very difficult on our defense,” Bergin said. “Their attack was something that our defense had not seen previously.”
Long Island beat Bellevue 11-4 to win the tournament.
“Even though we lost, I wouldn’t change it,” Bergin said. “I think it inspired our all of our kids to see their level here is another level, but we’re not too far off.”
Bellevue Blue awarded three game balls during the tournament to Austin Boyd, Ryan Long and Clayton Federspiel, as well as named two tournament MVPs. Those awards went to Stinson and Sam Leggett.
“Billy scored a lot of goals for us and Sam was the anchor for our defense,” Bergin said. “Both kids were all over the field every game we played.”
Bergin said he and his team were both very happy with the tournament experience, adding that he was “extremely proud” of the way his squad played, especially given the fact that every team Bellevue played was considered a select team, meaning players on the teams were from all over their respective areas. Every Bellevue player will attend Bellevue High School.
“Not only did we fare well against East Coast teams, but East Coast select teams,” he said. “It was a great trip.”
Joel Willits can be reached at 425-453-4270 ext. 5060 or at email@example.com.