BANGOR, Maine — Soccer season usually has a three-month time window from the end of the summer to the chilly month of November. However, for 12-year-old Madisyn Neundorfer of Bangor, soccer season has routinely been a yearlong commitment.
Neundorfer, who attends James F. Doughty Middle School in Bangor and plays for the Seacoast United club team, was recently selected to the prestigious United States Youth Soccer Association’s Region 1 Olympic Development Program team as a goalkeeper.
The program is designed to calibrate some of the best young soccer players in the country and the United States Youth Soccer Association’s Region 1 includes 15 state associations from Maine to Virginia. Players can work toward earning a spot on a national team.
Josh Needle, who has been the head coach of the Seacoast United club team for six years, insists Neundorfer is a rare talent.
“I’ve coached a lot of players who have gone on to play in college and professionally,” he said. “Maddy has all the same tools those girls have.”
A player’s age level on a team is determined by birth year. Neundorfer, who was born in 2002, will compete as a 13-year-old as she turns 13 on Thursday. The Region 1 Olympic Development Program team will compete in games this summer in Rhode Island and Pennsylvania.
Neundorfer’s friend Emily Byrne of Bonny Eagle Soccer Club, a center midfielder who lives in Buxton, also was selected for the Olympic Development Program team.
Neundorfer said she started playing soccer when she was 3, when her family lived in Ohio and she took part in a recreational program for toddlers.
“I guess I started playing soccer because my older brother played soccer,” she said. “I started going to his practices, tourneys and games.”
She said she kept playing the sport because she liked doing the activity with her friends and then discovered she liked competing as well.
“My friends still like to do it, it’s competitive and I get to travel around and play high level teams,” she said.
She was playing a field position until she was 9, when her coach was rotating in players at the goalie position.
“I guess I did pretty well, so he put me in a lot more,” she added, saying that she enjoys the position.
“You can be sort of the leader on the team. There’s so much responsibility to save shots. You get to see the whole field and see what’s happening,” she said.
Neundorfer, a seventh-grader, is a top athlete at her school. Already an accomplished soccer player, she made the “A” teams in basketball and softball. She enjoys playing both, but soccer remains her true passion.
Despite living in Bangor, Neundorfer and her mother, Nicky Butterfield, travel three to four times per week to practice for Seacoast United which is based out of Portland, nearly two hours away. However, according to Needle, Neundorfer has rarely missed practice and notices her motivation to improve.
“She’s very dedicated. She pushes her teammates. She has a quiet confidence about her,” Needle said.
“Her attitude makes the travel worth it,” Butterfield added.
Neundorfer doesn’t mind the long travel time.
“I usually have an iPad and can listen to music, watch movies and do homework,” she said.
Neundorfer is trained by Martyn Keen and Will Pike, who are assistants on the Seacoast team but primarily focus on teaching technique and form for goalkeepers. They both have been vital to her progression as a player, according to Butterfield.
“I can’t speak more highly of a group of men,” she said. “They keep challenging her.”
As part of the Olympic Development Program, Neundorfer has had the opportunity to travel across the northeast and compete against the best players in her region. This June, she will travel to Washington for a clinic to sharpen her goalkeeper skills.
Her next goal is to make the Under-14 national team.
Needle believes Neundorfer will have the opportunity to play in college and perhaps even further.
“She’s 12 years old but plays like an 18-year-old goalie,” he said. “She will have the chance to play for a very long time.”
The confidence in Neundorfer is noticeable from her mother as well, but Butterfield insists her daughter has remained grounded throughout her playing career.
“Maddy is the most humble person you could meet. She’s confident in her abilities and doesn’t think she’s better than anyone,” added her mother, whose four children all have the unique spelling of sharing the letter “y” in their names (Bryan, 21; Madisyn, 12; Bradyn, 11; and Bryce, 10).
Butterfield’s brother’s name is Brian, but she decided on Bryan for her son and did the same for the rest of her children, including Madisyn, who is named for her father’s hometown of Madison, Ohio.