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SJEB Rush Honored At New Jersey Senate As National Champions

By Michael Lewis, 02/07/19, 4:45PM EST


Several months after capturing a couple national championships last year, a pair of SJEB Rush teams are making a unique victory tour in New Jersey these days. The Girls 2002 and Boys 2001 teams were honored by the State Senate and New Jersey Youth Soccer in the past week. On Friday, they will be recognized at the club's annual banquet.
"It’s funny, we didn't get a chance to celebrate right after we had won because it was at the end of the "soccer season", if you want to call it that," said 2002 head coach David Barbour, whose girls team secured the US Youth National Championship. "It was the beginning of the high school season, so we never got an opportunity to celebrate. So, these have been our celebration moments. This week seems to be the celebration week for us.
"We'll enjoy this week, but we'll get back to work as soon as we're done."

The SJEB Rush '02 Girls team (above) and '01 Boys team (right) both received honors at the New Jersey Senate, with recommendations from Senator James Beach and Senate President Stephen Sweeney.

"Last season was probably the most spectacular season a boys team has had in the club to date," 2001 Boys Head Coach Ian Simmons described the current state of emotions at the club "with a state championship followed by a national championship. That was really something very special. It's a group of guys who've been with the club for many years, about 75% of the team have been there since the 11U days. I even had 4 or 5 players on the team who've been with me since they were eight years old. And so to succeed in that way, and to win a championship at that level, to do it as a group who have been with the club and bought into what the club does...To see the team work its way up to that level...its really tremendous"
Add to that, that fact that a trip to the state house in Trenton doesn't happen  to many teams. "It was a great experience," '02 Girls Head Coach Barbour explained after the Senate's recognition. "You don't get many opportunities to go into a place like that. To be amongst all of the senators, all of the representatives, that was a neat experience. The girls obviously were taken aback and obviously excited about the opportunity to be recognized and definitely deserved. That whole experience was awesome for myself and the team."
A resolution was read and then the senators approved it. The teams were called up. For the 2002 girls squad, there were seven representatives from the players, who all reside in the South Jersey area. For any youth soccer club, winning a national championship is a big deal, most likely a once-in-lifetime experience. Winning two in one year? Now, that can be placed into the incredible category.
"Winning a national championship is a big deal in youth soccer," Wiesmore said. "There's thousands of youth soccer teams throughout the country. To be able to progress ... and be able to make it all the way to the top and be No. 1 is a pretty special honor."
"It meant a lot," said Barbour, whose teams competes in the National League. Before Barbour took over the team three years ago, the Girls 2002 side had an earlier opportunity to reach the national championship but lost all three of its preliminary matches.
"They just wanted the opportunity to get back," he said. "Adding on the new players to the team obviously made the team a lot stronger and for them, all the hard work they had put in, with the training with me, three to four days a week and training on their own, I know it meant a tremendous amount to them. It's something that we had set our goal on from the end of the year when we lost in the regional semifinal, which took us out of contention to going to a national championship. That was in their mind up until the moment they won."
"For the club, it's just a tremendous opportunity to have these young women to represent the club and for the club to get the recognition it deserves. Having some of the best players in south Jersey playing for the club and myself and the coaching staff, we dedicate a lot of time and effort in order to help these players become better players and better citizens."
"It meant a lot for me just as a coach for the amount of time I had put in—the amount of time I missed away from my family. In the end, a great experience (given what we accomplished)."
Echoing the amount of pressure and strain on a team en route to a national championship game, Simmons described the conditions his 01 Boys team had to face. "The championship weekend they played five games in five days, in altitude, 95-100 degree weather," he explains, "(They) showed the kind of mental toughess and commitment is really remarkable...We at the club are super, super proud of this group of guys and what they managed to do."

Watch—The SJEB Rush 2002 Girls are called down to the Senate floor to receive their honors (above) and Coach Barbour (right) speaks on what it took to get his team to this point.

In the dramatic final at Toyota Soccer Park in Frisco, Texas, the SJEB Rush 02 Girls defeated La Roca FC (Utah), 2-1, in extratime. La Roca drew first blood on an eighth-minute goal. The Jersey side waited until the 78th minute to equalize—right back Alyssa Monti sent a cross to the far-side upper-90 and it hit off the inside of the post and found the back of the net. Mackenzie Clement then set up Erin Sullenberger, who tallied the game-winner for a 2-1 triumph. 
"It felt like I had no time left when we finally scored to tie it," Barbour said. "When we took the lead it felt like it was a year and a half before the game was going to end. I was very busy pacing up and down the sideline for the last 30-45 minutes of the match."
Barbour has been most impressed with how close-knit his team has been. The bulk of the squad have been playing together since they were 8U and 9U.
"When I came onto the team three years and took over as a coach, the coaches prior to me had instilled a really family-oriented type of atmosphere," he said. "But they played at a very high level, a very competitive level, which is unique. You don't usually get that. You usually get one or the other. You might get a high-level team that may not be as close-knit or you get a close team that is not very high level. This had the combination of both. I think that's what makes them very unique."
The SJEB Girls don't plan on resting on their laurels. They want to wear the national crown again. "Oh absolutely," Barbour said, noting that the team had qualified for a berth in the national championship in Florida, earlier this year.
"We got back to the hotel and we were talking...everybody said we've got to do this again. We have to go back, and we have do this again. I said, 'All right you guys, understand we have a huge target on our backs. Everybody who plays us knows they're playing a national champion. And it’s going to be 10 times harder to do, to repeat.' But the girls have stayed strong. They worked very hard with their high school teams. When we got back together in late October, early November, we set our mission. We said we're going to go back to repeat as national champions. We're excited about it and looking forward to competing with some great teams."
While national champions, the SJEB Rush 2002 squad still has some unfinished business. It wants to win a regional title as well.
"The only thing we haven’t won as a group since I've been with them is the regional championship," Barbour said. "We lost in the semifinals two years ago and lost in the finals last year. Our mission this year is hopefully to do the trifecta, get the state championship, the regional championship and hopefully another national championship."
When describing the mentality of his 2001 Boys side, Simmons paints the picture of a similar focus and drive, one thats necessary for winning at the highest level. "The secret to our success is just to understand that what you're doing is a marathon not a sprint, to work on your skill development, work hard on your game and not worry so much about how many wins you get, but how great of a player you can be, and if you stick with it you can achieve some remarkable things."
With talent and drive they have, SJEB Rush are certainly on course to do it all again.

To learn more about EDP and US Youth Soccer, follow the links below:

EDP Partners with US Youth Soccer — Full List of EDP Teams Qualified For 2018/2019

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