The key to coaching your younger sister, Veronica McGinnis said, is to treat her as just another player.

That philosophy becomes especially interesting after McGinnis describes her relationship with her team.

"It really was like one big family," she said.

McGinnis, this season's Inquirer Coach of the Year in South Jersey girls' soccer, led West Deptford to a 17-5-1 record and a South Jersey Group 2 title in her fourth year at the helm. To win the title, the Eagles toppled Haddonfield, the archival they'd been waiting years to beat.

Before its 3-0 win in the sectional final, West Deptford had lost its previous seven meetings with the Bulldogs, including two during this regular season by a combined score of 4-1.

"She helped us never stop believing that we could beat Haddonfield," said McGinnis' sister, Payton, a senior defender for West Deptford. "It was amazing having her as my coach, but the whole team was really close this year.

"There were a lot of team dinners; the seniors were all friends. And that closeness really brought the team together on the field."

Payton McGinnis talked about how her relationship with her sister, a 1998 West Deptford graduate, necessarily changed between time on the field and time at home.

"It was hard on me in the beginning because people would think that I was only playing because my sister was the coach," Payton McGinnis said. "But she's a great coach, and she coached me the same as she coached anyone."

For Veronica McGinnis, coaching her sister was a unique opportunity she'll always cherish.

"It gave me a chance to be there for her and watch her grow in ways I never would have otherwise," she said.

But that's just part of what both sisters will remember from what they describe as an unforgettable season.

"To get to know each of these girls personally and watch the season end on a high note was a really cool experience," Veronica McGinnis said. "We just had a phenomenal group. And the seniors were the first class I've coached from freshman through senior year. So it was an amazing season.

"I've always had the confidence in them, and to finally see it happen for them was awesome."