Don’t look now, but it appears that the Neenah boys’ soccer team has regained some of its mojo at just the right time.
The Rockets have rebounded from a slow start to the season and have been one of the hottest teams in the state over the last month. Neenah kept that momentum going in a 6-1 victory over Appleton East in a Fox Valley Association match at Pickett Field on Tuesday.
Neenah had won 10 games in a row following its sluggish start, but saw that streak come to an end in a 1-1 tie against Kettle Moraine at the Kettle Moraine Invitational this past weekend. The Rockets also upended seventh-ranked Brookfield East 3-1 in that tournament.
Call it confidence. Call it swagger. Whatever it is, the Rockets look like a completely different team than the one that struggled in late August, including a humbling 6-1 home loss to Kimberly.
“After Kimberly, we got back to practice and (Neenah coach Harry Kelderman) said it’s not going to happen again,” Neenah junior midfielder Adam Pohlman said. “He said, ‘We’re not going to lose that bad again.’
“We just regrouped and now we’re playing better. We beat Brookfield East and tied Kettle Moraine. We’re just playing good soccer right now.”
The Rockets (11-3-2, 6-1 FVA) have a relatively young team, including a few freshmen who start and play significant minutes. Neenah lost 13 seniors from 2011, including eight starters, which meant the Rockets had to take on some growing pains as some of the inexperienced players adjusted to varsity play.
“I think what we’ve had to do is take it a step at a time,” Kelderman said. “We would bring it up two rungs on the ladder and come back one, bring it up two and bring it down one. But we’re moving in the right direction. It’s coming together at the right time. They’re getting a little more confidence in each other.”
Pohlman scored two goals against East and teammate Tylor Rosera also scored twice. Taylor Hoffman and Tyler Speakes also scored for the Rockets.
Brennan Vicker scored a second-half goal for East (7-10-1, 2-5-0), which was outshot by Neenah 29-5.
“We had some tough games early on and this is the one tough game we have in the last part of our schedule,” Patriots coach Tom Wanamaker said. “Neenah is a good team with great skill and athleticism all across the board. We knew we would have a hard time with these guys. They did a lot of nice, different attacks against us. I give them credit. They did a good job.”
Pohlman thinks the Rockets are primed to make some noise the rest of the FVA season and into the playoffs. The Rockets have a showdown with FVA rival Appleton North on Thursday.
“I actually think we’re playing a little above what my expectations were,” Pohlman said. “Coming into the season, we lost a lot of guys and it would take a little bit of time and by the playoffs, we’d start getting some of it back.”
Goals: Tyler Speakes N (Taylor Hoffman) 9:00; Tylor Rosera N 17:00; Adam Pohlman N 34:00; Adam Pohlman N (David Bacon); Tylor Rosera N (Jeff Christensen) 42:00; Brennan Vicker AE (Kevin Hash) 59:00; Taylor Hoffman N 68:00. Shots: N 29, AE 5. Saves: Luis Vargas AE 3, Ian Murphy-Pociask AE 20, Hunter Alderton N 1, Tyler Schwalbach N 3.
— Ricardo Arguello: 920-993-1000, ext. 558, or email@example.com; On Twitter @PCRicardo