(Apr 16, 2014) Girls' U15 National Team Coach B.J. Snow was on the sidelines watching national champions Eastside FC's G98 Red play their first National League game against Pennsylvannia's Beadling Bulldogs at the Vegas Player Showcase in March. It was there he saw EFC's forward, Jojo Harber. "Our team was playing really well together and everyone contributed to a great win (2-0). I had a volley goal that was one of my favorites," says Jojo. "When coaches are watching, it can be stressful, but I’ve found it motivates me, and I just try to play hard and play for my team."
You won't hear it from Jojo, but she got both goals that game, chalking up three goals and an assist for three matches over three days. Instead, you'll hear her talk about her team's performance, "Our team is super close, on and off the field.... In big games we all come together and play for each other. This helps us to never give up as we all encourage each other to push through the rough times and come out of the game victorious." Her team, in fact, shut out all three opponents during the tournament to win the top spot in their National League bracket and clinch a berth to return to the US Youth Soccer National Championships in July.
Coach Snow must've liked what he saw in Vegas, as Jojo was amongst five players from Washington state who got the call this week to join the Under-15 Girls' National Team for training camp at the US Soccer National Training Center in Carson, California, April 19-26. She was named as a defender. Altogether, there were thirty-six players called. The camp will be the last for this group at the U-15 age level before they transition to U-17 in June. Those who make it through the next hurdle will form the core of the team that will attempt to qualify for the 2016 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup.
Jojo has participated in three national-level training camps so far. "I come back from every one of them loving soccer more and wanting to go back," she says. Coaches and trainers work with players on skills, fitness, tactics, strategies and mental preparedness at the camps. "I think the area I have most changed in is the mental side... Now, every time I step on the field I have to prove why I belong at that level... and through that I try to work my hardest and never give up." Jojo is clear about what she hopes to get out of the last U15 national camp, "I want to continue to develop my game mentally, physically and tactically. I want to work hard from start to finish, and hopefully make it to the next cycle which will begin training for the U17 World Cup."
"Jojo is very deserving of this honor," say's her coach at Eastside FC, Tom Bialek. "She has really worked hard and dedicated herself to becoming the best player she can be. She is also a great teammate and carries herself with humility. I am very proud of her, and so are all of her teammates."
Chance Fry, Director of Operations at Eastside FC, who himself had a dozen CAPs for the US National and US Youth National Teams, agrees. "I have known Jojo since she was very young. It is so fun to see her developing into such a great player, but, more importantly, into a great person. We hope she keeps getting these amazing opportunities to travel and showcase her talents. It’s a very exciting time for her and for Eastside FC."
It is obvious Jojo loves the journey she's on. "Through soccer I have learned so much about who I am as a player and as a person. Growing up playing soccer and being on Eastside FC has truly been amazing, and I’m so blessed to have my teammates as best friends and the coaches as mentors along the way." Her Eastside FC family wishes her well deserved and continued success.
Click here to see press release from US Soccer about the US GU15 National Team roster.