Veteran Coach ‘Misses Players More Than Softball’ Right Now

Local Sports

EUREKA, Ill. — This was supposed to be the year for Debi Neff.

Her Eureka College softball team was picked to win its conference and was a favorite to make it second straight NCAA Tournament. She brought just about every player back from the 2019 team that won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championship.

“This year was going to be pretty special,” the EC head coach said. “I was so excited, they wanted to get back to that NCAA and do better than last year.”

The Red Devils opened the season with a week long trip to Myrtle Beach. The players had fun in the sand, went 8-2 on their spring break trip and came home with momentum. Two days later their season was cancelled amidst the COVID-19 outbreak.

“It was all such a shock. We didn’t know how to react,” Neff said. “I think it’s how a lot of coaches felt. We were lost.”

The shortened season leaves Neff with 199 career wins at EC. She says she’s not so concerned with missing out on a milestone 200th win this spring.

She’s more concerned with missing her players.

“Two hundred (wins) will come soon enough,” said Neff. “I don’t care about that , only about the relationships with my kids.”

So for now the games, championships and milestones are on hold. But Neff’s relationship with her players continue.

They aren’t in school or on campus but the veteran coach regularly has group texts and computer chats with them. Most days they don’t even talk about softball.

“I want to stay in contact in contact with them,” said Neff. “They are my second family. I miss them way more than I miss softball.”

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