With no time left on the clock in the state championship game, Ocean City High School's Kelly Hanna scored one of the greatest goals in Red Raiders' field hockey history.
Kelly's goal off a corner at the end of double-overtime gave Ocean City a 1-0 win over Warren Hills Regional on Nov. 16 and the state Group III championship at Toms River East High School.
When a corner is called just before time expires, the play is held even if the clock runs out.
"It still feels pretty unreal, but it was exciting to be able to come back (at the end of the season) after losing games," said Hanna, a 16-year-old resident of Seaville in Upper Township.
Hanna, a junior midfielder, is The Press Field Hockey Player of the Year.
"It feels great," Hanna said of her selection. "It makes me feel like all my hard work paid off."
Her winning goal was the crowning moment of her season of playmaking and scoring. She finished with 21 goals and 15 assists, tied for the team lead in both.
"My main job is to distribute the ball and pass," Hanna said. "Distributing the ball is all about knowing what to do before you get the ball and seeing what's open. Part of being a midfielder is you work give-and-gos and stay in the play, and the ball comes back."
Hanna also scored the only goal of the state semifinal game as Ocean City edged Allentown 1-0 on Nov. 14 at Robbinsville High School.
The state title, Ocean City's second in a row, was the ninth in the history of the program. The Red Raiders (19-6) also tied for the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference title with Mainland Regional and Egg Harbor Township, splitting two games with both.
Ocean City has won the American Conference each year starting in 1997, and hasn't shared the crown since 2000.
Another highlight for Hanna was scoring two goals and assisting on the other four in a 6-0 win over Mainland Regional, which kept the Mustangs from clinching the conference title outright.
"Kelly is extremely smart. She's always thinking a step ahead," Ocean City coach Cory Terry said. "She's always trying to make herself better. She's intense, passionate and skilled, and she has great leadership qualities along with her skills."
The Group III state title is always the main goal for the Red Raiders.
"The state championship wouldn't have felt so good without a couple of losses earlier," Hanna said. "Last year (a 21-1 season) was awesome, but in the beginning this year people were saying, 'Ocean City field hockey is not doing it this year.' To prove people wrong and do it, was awesome."
Team of the year
Ocean City (19-6) had an uncharacteristic up-and-down season, but ended up the state Group III champion and finished at No. 2 in The Press Elite 11. The Red Raiders lost early games to Mainland and Egg Harbor Township, but beat both teams in return matches.
"I think the team had moments where we struggled individually and as a team," Terry said. "But they pulled it together when it mattered at the end. They were very adaptive. We made lineup changes and other changes, and the girls took it in stride. They kept their faith in each other, and in the end it really paid off for them."
Ocean City regained its momentum at mid-season, and won five straight playoff games to win the state Group III title. O.C. edged Mainland 1-0 in a thrilling South Jersey title game on Nov. 11, a throwback to 1997 and 1998 when the Red Raiders beat Mainland 1-0 and 2-1 for that crown.
Hanna and Leah Davies each had 21 goals, and versatile defender Lauren McNally had 15 goals and 15 assists. Rialee Allen added 13 goals and 12 assists. Ocean City totaled 106 goals and gave up 36. Goalie Sarita Charap, in her first season as a starter, had 14 shutouts.
Coach of the Year
Mainland Regional's Jill Hatz, in her fifth year as coach, guided the Mustangs to a 16-4-2 mark, a share of the CAL American Conference title and their first trip to the South Jersey final since 1998. Mainland got its first win over Ocean City since 1993 and handed the Red Raiders their first CAL loss since 2007. Mainland also won and lost against Egg Harbor Township and tied St. Joseph 0-0. The Mustangs were 12-8-1 in 2012.
"It's amazing to receive this honor," Hatz said. "I've worked very hard the last five years to make the team better. We were 100 percent drama-free this year, that's part of the recipe. They were very self-motivating and always worked together."
Contact Guy Gargan:
The Press Elite 11
1. Eastern (1) 26-0-1
2. Ocean City (5) 19-6
3. St. Joseph (6) 19-1-3
4. Bishop Eustace (2) 18-2
5. Collingswood (4) 20-3-1
6. Moorestown (3) 16-2-1
7. Camden Catholic (7) 16-5
8. Mainland Regional (8) 16-4-2
9. Washington Township (9) 12-9
10. Egg Harbor Township (10) 17-3
11. Clearview Regional (11) 16-2
A look ahead
Ocean City will be strong again in the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference with some of its leading players back, and Mainland Regional will also have several good returnees. Egg Harbor Township must rebuild but will be competitive. St. Joseph also faces a rebuilding task and could get challenges in the CAL National Conference from Hammonton, Middle Township, Lower Cape May and Lower Cape May. In the Shore Conference, Southern Regional, Pinelands and Lacey must rebuild but should still do well. Cumberland Regional should continue to do well in the Tri-County Conference.