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S. Jersey girls' soccer player of year

As far as debuts go, Chelsea Duffy didn't dazzle anybody in the beginning of her soccer career at Gloucester Catholic.

As far as debuts go, Chelsea Duffy didn't dazzle anybody in the beginning of her soccer career at Gloucester Catholic.

When she was a freshman, the coaches saw potential in Duffy, but when she played scrimmages with the varsity, she couldn't relax.

"I didn't have a lot of confidence back then," Duffy said.

Gloucester Catholic co-coach Courtney Murnane suggested having Duffy play a few games on JV, which proved to be the best solution.

Duffy learned to relax more, and after four games, she was back on the varsity to stay.

She held her own as a freshman and came into her own as a sophomore, the beginning of three dominating seasons.

It all culminated with a memorable farewell when Duffy scored both goals in the Rams' 2-0 win over Villa Walsh Academy during this year's nonpublic state title game.

That ended a senior season in which the midfielder scored 21 goals and added 15 assists for the 18-1-2 Rams, whose only defeat was 2-1 in a Coaches Tournament semifinal to Group 4 state champion and The Inquirer's No. 1 team Lenape.

For leading the Rams to a state title, the Tri-County Diamond Division championship, and The Inquirer's No. 4 ranking, Duffy has been named The Inquirer's South Jersey girls' soccer player of the year.

While Duffy wasn't an immediate hit that freshman year, co-coach Kate Ormsby saw the potential and wasn't surprised at her production throughout her career.

"You could see her ability as a freshman, but she needed to get some confidence," Ormsby said. "From the time we pulled her up to JV, she kept getting better and better."

Duffy gained a reputation for playing her best when the stakes were highest. As a sophomore, she scored two goals as Gloucester Catholic upset Immaculate Heart Academy, 3-0, in the Non-Public A state championship game. At the time, Immaculate Heart was unbeaten and ranked No. 1 nationally in one poll.

In review, Duffy played in two state title games, had four goals, and came out with two victories.

"She is the type of player who rises to the occasion," Ormsby said.

Despite her big-game reputation, Duffy also was a dominant performer in many other contests, as her statistics show.

"I don't save myself for the big games," she said. "I try to do my best in all games."

Before this season started, Duffy had her college choice taken care of. She has accepted a soccer scholarship to the University of Delaware. Duffy also entered the season as a returning Inquirer first-team all-South Jersey selection, so there was no shortage of buildup, but she refused to get caught up in the hype.

"She is humble about her ability and doesn't get what all the fuss is about and goes out and plays," Ormsby said. "She doesn't realize that other people look at her and are amazed at what she can do."

In Duffy's mind, she is just a regular player, although her performance suggests otherwise.

The only thing that did impress Duffy was to be able to win her final game to earn a second state title in three years. If was the fitting conclusion to an exemplary career.

"Winning the state title as a senior is an amazing feeling," she said. "As sophomores we wanted to win it for the seniors, and now as seniors we did it, and it's something I'll always remember."