Outside midfielder Hannah Keane scored just four goals during her senior season, but the finally tally of her career may have been the biggest in Ocean City girls soccer program history. During the first half of the Group 3 state championship — the Red Raiders’ first appearance in a title game ever — Keane got past Ramapo’s goalie then beat two other defenders and found the back of the net to give her team a 1-0 lead on a cold, blustery day at Kean University’s Alumni Field in mid-November.

Sophomore Summer Reimet added a pair of goals and Ocean City beat Ramapo, the No. 5 team in the state at the time, 3-0, to capture the state championship. To win a state championship, a high school team in any sport needs players like Keane — someone who is willing to work her tail off, play her role, and do whatever she can to contribute to a winning program.

That goal against Ramapo epitomized Keane’s never-give-up approach to soccer.

“I was really nervous before that game. Since we made it that far, I wanted to help us win it all to make the whole season worth it. We came that far so we might as well go all the way. Even though people didn’t take us seriously we knew we could go against a good team and beat them,” Keane said. “It was crazy. I just wanted it so bad. I wanted us to get that first goal so we could settle down and relax. It was hard trying to get past the goalie and their defense. It was definitely a challenge to get past their back line, but I guess I just wanted it so badly. I’ve scored in other games, but that was definitely the most memorable because that was the biggest game I’ll ever play in.”

“Hannah is honestly my hype girl. She’s so hyped up every game and every practice. I know she had some big goals, but she was also a big part of our season. She was a great role model for the younger kids. She’s not playing college soccer, she’s just out here doing the best she can and she exceeded our expectations,” said Ocean City coach Kelly Halliday. “During her four years she progressed, but even this season she progressed. She would get minutes here and there, subbing in and out, but then she became a person I couldn’t take off the field. I knew she could come up with big plays. She didn’t have a ton of goals or stats, but she was always dependable. She had a big goal against Clearview, and that goal in the state final was just pure grit. She willed that goal in.”

Junior striker Faith Slimmer collected nearly 30 assists this season, and many of those came on corner kicks that were directly set up by Keane making a hustle play near the end line.

“That goes to each player doing their job. Hannah knows she has to get a crossing pass off, or get a corner kick. She knew she had to do something positive,” Halliday said. “To her and Paige (Panico) I would say, ‘you do all this work, you’re an outside midfielder and you’re running 40 or 50 yards at a time, so to kick it out of bounds and have it go the other way is tough.’ We really worked on that with her throughout the season, just doing positive things.”

Keane wasn’t a star at the start of her high school career and she doesn’t plan on playing soccer in college. She took the more traveled route that most high school athletes take, working her way up through the junior varsity level, getting some spot minutes as a sophomore, then coming off the bench as a junior. It wasn’t until a few games into her senior year that she became an everyday starter.

“I was just hoping I would start, because I’m a senior. I just hoped I would play a lot since this is my last year. I would sub with some of the outside mids, and a couple games into the season I fully started to play and that’s when I became comfortable playing every game. I trained more on my own (in the offseason) just trying to be more ready, more fully prepared going into the preseason,” she said. “I wanted to make this the best year and finish strong. We had good chemistry this year and were working better as a team, and also hanging out together more off the field. We were much closer and we all wanted this year to be the best year, and we wanted to make it all the way.”

What kept her in the lineup was her dependability. Coach Halliday wasn’t about to take a player out of the lineup who kept on making positive plays and putting the team in position to score goals. And score goals they did. The Red Raiders finished 24-1-1 and scored 122 goals while allowing just nine.

“(Being dependable) was really important. The more games we won, the more important it became for me to go out there and do my job, and for us to work together as a team,” Keane said. “I wanted to do better myself because I wanted to stay on the field. Every other year I would come in, then go off again, so this year I wanted to have a spot (in the starting lineup).”

These days, Keane is focused on finishing out her senior year and hopefully getting into a college to study nursing, but no matter where the future takes her she’ll always have that state championship ring and a bunch of great memories to carry with her.

“Winning it all was the best feeling. Just being able to be on a team that can go that far, our coaches played a big role in supporting us, doing everything they can to make us the best team we can be,” she said. “I was really happy, but on the ride home it was a little sad because (the seniors) knew that was going to be the last game we’ll play together. But winning the last game was definitely the best way to go out.”

Contact Dave O’Sullivan: sully@acglorydays.com; on Twitter @GDsullysays

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