A lot of things changed for the Ocean City High School field hockey team this fall, but Jenn Staab and her teammates made sure the Red Raiders' level of excellence stayed the same.
Staab, a four-year starter, scored 23 goals and had 10 assists as she led Ocean City to a 21-1 record and the team's third straight South Jersey Group III championship.
Staab, a center midfielder, is The Press Field Hockey Player of the Year.
She'll play for Rutgers University next year on a full athletic scholarship.
"It (being the Player of the Year) feels great. It's exciting," said Staab, 17, a resident of Marmora in Upper Township. "I had a mindset that it was my goal for us to be as good as last year. We were able to do that because everyone stepped up, not just me."
Ocean City was 22-2 in 2009 and won the state Group III title, but then longtime coach Trish LeFever stepped down in May and seven starters graduated, including stars Danielle McNally, Colleen Slaughter and goalie Natalie Hunter.
Cory Terry moved up from an assistant to the head-coaching job.
"Jenn was the backbone of the team," Terry said. "She started since she was a freshman and had a ton of experience. She's incredibly skilled and she's a great part of the program. She really took the reins of the team. Her experience helped to uphold the tradition of Ocean City field hockey. She not only had varsity experience, but she was used to being in big games."
Staab, a two-way player, was the team leader as Ocean City won every game until losing to Wall 3-2 in double-overtime in the state semifinal. Though it didn't win the state title, O.C. maintained the same dominance of the Cape-Atlantic League American Conference and South Jersey Group III.
"I think we surprised people because most people thought we wouldn't be the same," Staab said. "I wasn't really nervous. I was ready to be the leader. I knew the girls and I was used to working with them."
Staab scored twice in a 6-0 win over Millville, and came up with hat tricks in a 4-0 victory against Oakcrest and a 5-0 win over Hammonton. She had a goal and two assists in O.C's 6-0 South Jersey quarterfinal win over Seneca. The senior also helped out a defense that had 15 shutouts.
"Being the center mid, she has to go from end line to end line," Terry said. "She was a huge scoring threat, plus she was the left trail on defensive corners. She has worked really hard on her shot to prepare for college, and she has improved her reverse shot."
Staab had 45 career goals, 16th on Ocean City's all-time list.
Team of the Year
Ocean City again was the area's top team and finished third in The Press Elite 11. The Red Raiders were again 16-0 in the CAL American Conference and were rarely challenged. O.C. won its third consecutive South Jersey Group III title (and 10th overall), beating Central Regional 3-1 in the final. Ocean City's other South Jersey playoff wins were 6-0 over Seneca and 7-0 against Hammonton.
Ocean City's other numbers were similar to past years. The Red Raiders scored 113 goals and allowed 11. The team had 15 shutouts, the same as last year.
One thing improved over 2009. Haddonfield upset O.C. 1-0 last year in the regular season, but Ocean City beat Haddonfield 4-3 this fall.