The final game last season was like a storybook. Deanna Knobloch and her husband, K.C., were the coaches, and their daughter, Kacey, was one of the senior stars on a Moorestown High School girls' lacrosse team that won the Tournament of Champions.
It was the perfect ending.
Still, Deanna Knobloch said it wasn't her plan to retire at the end of that season, at least not initially.
"We waited four months to make this decision. We weighed the pros and cons," said Knobloch, who announced to her team on Thursday that she was retiring as coach, ending a 27-year tenure that is among the most successful in the history of scholastic sports in the United States.
"In the end, it came down to dozens of reasons why we should stay, and only two reasons that would make us leave, and those two reasons happen to be Kacey and Shane Knobloch. And it's time to put family first," Deanna Knobloch said.
Both of Knobloch's children are set to embark on Division I lacrosse careers. Shane, a senior at Moorestown, recently committed to Rutgers. Kacey is about to start her freshman season at James Madison.
Even though she said she was comfortable with the decision, Knobloch was still moved to tears long after the announcement was made.
"When we brought the team in, I started crying, and there were a lot of tears among the players as well, and it was a very emotional moment for everybody," said Knobloch, who finished with a career record of 580-46-4, including a stretch from 2000-10 during which the team won 228 straight in-state games.
The Quakers' most recent Tournament of Champions title was the 15th outright state championship of Knobloch's career.
"It's the players and the parents who made us want to come back year after year," she said. "And that's why it's so hard to walk away. We absolutely love coaching. We love this program, and we love the kids."
Knobloch said she has been humbled and overwhelmed by the almost nonstop phone calls from former players, parents and fellow coaches wishing her luck and reminiscing about countless unforgettable moments.
Even more than wins, Knobloch helped create a culture inside the Moorestown program and fostered one of the most special atmospheres in South Jersey sports.
The team was known for its myriad traditions and slogans and for having a bench that was in near-constant song throughout every game. It was as energized as the players on the field.
"It's too hard to even sum up right now what being the coach of this program meant to me. I need time to reflect on it," Knobloch said. "This has been my life for 27 years. It has provided me with some of the most amazing and wonderful memories that I will have forever. To walk away from it all is so hard.
"Even though we know we're doing the right thing, there's a big part of us that is just going to miss this so much."
Knobloch sent scores of players to Division I programs, including future national championship winners. Twenty-seven former Quakers are currently playing Division I lacrosse.
She is also the head of a coaching tree that has spread nationwide. Six of her former players are coaching in college, including Kateri Linville, the head coach at Delaware, and Chelsea Gamble, the head coach at Oregon.
Nine of her former players are coaching in high school. In South Jersey, current head coaches who played for Knobloch include Williamstown's Brooke Cantwell, Rancocas Valley's Sara Shelley, Our Lady of Mercy Academy's Jen Valore, and Shawnee's Julie McGrory.
"I'm so grateful for the years that I've had with these teams and all of the assistant coaches I've been able to coach with. I know none of my success would be possible without all of them," said Knobloch, who was named national lacrosse coach of the year in 2012 by the National Federation of State High School Associations. "I'm extremely grateful for the lifelong friendships that I've been able to create through all of these years. Nothing can replace those experiences."
Knobloch had no information to offer on who her replacement might be or the search process involved.
She stressed that, with so many memories, she's bound to stay close to the program.