Colleen Slaughter lifted a penalty shot past Warren Hills goalkeeper Sammie Rimback for a 2-1 overtime decision and the state Group 3 crown Nov. 15 at Toms River East, and the Ocean City bench went wild.

Coach Trish LeFever was aglow afterward and told a story about the center forward and her senior peers.

"When we got home on the bus last year after losing to Wall in the state group semis . . . all of a sudden I see my older group [present seniors] up on the boardwalk running - kind of the first day of next year," said LeFever, The Inquirer's field hockey coach of the year in South Jersey.

"That's been their attitude since last year, the day they lost. They literally came home, got off the bus and started to run together and said, 'This is the start of next year.'

"I am incredibly proud of them."

The feeling is mutual.

Slaughter said the team is proud of LeFever because of the effort she put into making the Red Raiders better.

"We got to where we were because of her," Slaughter said.

Senior keeper Natalie Hunter said, "We're proud of her, because she is a great coach, probably the first coach a majority of the seniors have had since sixth grade."

LeFever brought home the school's seventh overall state group trophy in her 28 years at the helm. Ocean City advanced further into the playoffs than any other area team except Eastern, which defeated the Red Raiders, 9-1, in a Tournament of Champions semifinal.

Named coach of the year in 2006 by the National Federation of State High School Associations and a member of the New Jersey Coaches Hall of Fame, LeFever has a career coaching record of 486-76-53.

Contact staff writer Bill Iezzi

at 856-779-3826

or biezzi@phillynews.com