The girls 98 Red team from Eastside FC finished its season at the US Youth Soccer National Championships for the second straight season, bringing home a third place finish after winning the title in 2013.
Eastside FC won its first match, 2-1 over Alliance Academy 99 Black of Michigan, before falling 3-1 to YMS Premier Xplosion of Pennsylvania in a rematch of last year’s championship.
A 1-1 draw with Legends FC of California sent Eastside to the semifinals, before a 1-0 loss in the second overtime ended their hopes for a repeat national title.
Six players from Bellevue High School are on the team, including Jojo Harber, who earned a nod to the Best 11 roster for the tournament.
Harber, a key piece of the third place 3A state team for the Wolverines during the high school season, said entering the tournament as defending champs was a decidedly different feeling from their underdog role a year ago.
“We were kind of a team no one knew about,” she said of 2013. “This year, everyone knew who were were.”
The chance to get back to Nationals with a group of girls she has played with since elementary school was not lost on Harber, who said coach Tom Bialek does an exceptional job of keeping the team focused on a common goal.
“Our team is really close,” she said, adding she has taken that mentality to the high school pitch as well.
The Wolverines reached the state tournament for the first time, in large part to a strong class of freshmen led by Harber and her Eastside FC teammates.
She said the hope is to grow that mindset with the high school side, and get Bellevue back to the top of 3A KingCo.
“My biggest area of growth is my mentality and attitude,” she said. “I realize now it is super important.”
Sophie Butterfield, Katie Foster, Catie Buck, Maud Van der Kooi and Ellie Bryant and Harber were each part of the Bellevue varsity last year, and return to a team that lost only four seniors.