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Girls soccer

South Hunterdon focuses on bright spots as young team battles growing pains


Jeff Neumann has been around New Jersey soccer circles for a while. He had a recent stint as an assistant coach at Hopewell Valley and spent 20 years in the program.
When South Hunterdon’s head girls soccer position became available, Neumann couldn’t have asked for a better fit. Eve Durkee-Neumann, his daughter, is a junior on the team.
Like any transition, Neumann understands how difficult it could be. Through their first seven games, the Eagles were off to a 0-7 start.
“This is a really unique situation,” said Neumann. “The timing was good for me with my daughter in the program. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to coach my daughter.
“We have a great group of girls. They are fun to work with, and they certainly can’t be blamed for lack of effort.”
Neumann has cited his team’s slow start to the lack of scrimmages and numbers.
“During the summer, we had 12 or 13 girls in the program,” he said. “We just added a girl that would give us 16. It’s hard when you’re going against some schools who have 32 or 33 girls.
“We also got hurt when we didn’t have a preseason because both of our scrimmages got canceled. We came into the season without having any game experience.”
Neumann has looked to senior midfielder Annie Spreen and senior back Emma Coffey along with his daughter – who has scored all of the team’s five goals in her role as a forward – to spearhead the team. Durkee-Neumann scored 18 goals last year and began the year fourth overall in the program with 29 goals.
Junior goalie Julia Voorhees recorded 85 saves through the first seven games. Spreen is the team’s co-captain along with fellow senior Sam Silverman.
“Annie is our field general,” said Neumann about Spreen, who will continue her career at Smith College next fall. “She enjoys running the show, and she is an unheralded player. Everything we do runs through her.
“Emma also provides leadership for us, and she runs the show on defense. We’re looking for Eve to score for us. Julia Voorhees has withstood a ton of pressure and has done a great job for us.”

Durkee-Neumann and her teammates are simply looking at the numbers.
“I do not believe the outcomes and scores have reflected how hard everyone works both in practices and games,” she offered. “We have a young and somewhat inexperienced team, but each day we learn more and want to improve for the second half of the season.
“The team has a lot of fun, and we have such an amazing group of girls.”
She also has enjoyed the experience with her father.
“Playing for my dad this season has been very fun, and while working hard and improving, I can joke around with him. I think he is doing a good job with this team, creating a positive environment for everyone to learn and grow.”
Neumann also has seen promise for freshmen midfielder Olivia Nemeth and back Ava Duggan.
“They are two bright spots who are helping to contribute,” said Neumann of his rising freshman. “They are happy to compete.”
Neumann is confident his team can find its identity in the season’s final weeks.
“We’re starting a lot of kids who haven’t started before,” stressed Neumann. “We’re putting five or six kids who are still pretty green as far as their experience.
“We’re excited for the rest of the season because we will face teams that we can compete with. These kids will keep working and have some positive results.”