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Moorestown falls in Group 3 final

EWING - Tears are the norm for losing teams at this time of the girls' soccer season.

Moorestown's Katie Verela holds her head as she and teammates leave the field after their loss. (Photo: Curt Hudson)
Moorestown's Katie Verela holds her head as she and teammates leave the field after their loss. (Photo: Curt Hudson)Read more

EWING - Tears are the norm for losing teams at this time of the girls' soccer season.

But walking off the field after falling in Saturday's Group 3 state championship game, the Moorestown players had surprisingly dry eyes. Instead, it was their coach, Bill Mulvihill, whose voice cracked, whose eyes welled up while reflecting on this season.

Mulvihill talked about how, just a year ago, the Quakers' season was long over, their final record below .500, and how remarkable it was for them just to make it to this point.

The teary-eyed coach couldn't seem to get past how special his team was - and how hard it was going to be to replace his senior class.

"This team, I can't say enough about them," Mulvihill said after Moorestown's 2-0 loss to Northern Highlands on Saturday at the College of New Jersey. "They gave it everything they had.

"The senior class has been amazing, absolutely amazing. It's just a great bunch of girls."

Moorestown (15-4-2) was a heavy underdog in the game. Northern Highland (25-0) featured one of the best offenses in the state, as evidenced by its 121 goals this season.

But in a truly inspired effort, the Quakers defense held the Highlanders at bay until allowing an own goal on a throw-in that slipped through the hands of keeper Rebecca Schultz with 7 minutes, 25 seconds left in regulation.

It was one of the few mistakes in an otherwise solid game for Schultz, who recorded 11 saves.

Moorestown spent, easily, 80 percent of the game on defense, denying chance after chance without a break.

"Our game plan was just to come out and play as hard as we could," said Moorestown sweeper Haleigh Dalmass, who stood out in a tireless effort. "We just wanted to shut them down and get the ball out as far as we could. And I thought we did a good job for most of the game."

Most of Moorestown's best chances came in transition, and the Quakers nearly took a 1-0 lead with nine minutes left when Megan Kelly just missed on a breakaway.

Northern Highland's greatest strength was an almost unbelievable throw-in from 6-foot-3 junior Jackie Reyneke. When she had the space, her throw could easily sail 40 yards in the air. In a tight space, the throw was a bullet that proved nearly impossible to defend.

It was the kind of throw-ins you would expect from a men's college soccer game, but Moorestown contained almost 50 of them until the Highlanders' first goal.

"Their throw-in was unbelievable," Mulvihill said. "You can't do much about that."

Two minutes after the first goal, Northern Highlands forward Hana Kerner escaped for a 40-yard breakaway and beat Schultz on a one-on-one look.

Still, the Quakers walked off the field with their heads held high, quick to reflect on their improbable run to the state final. The same attributes that had their coach's eyes welling up are what kept the Quakers eyes dry. They were quick to point to the significance of their accomplishments and how special their season was.

"No one expected us to be here," Schultz said. "Most of our team didn't expect to be here, even though our coach did. So it was a great season."

Moorestown   0 0 – 0

Northern Highlands   0 2 – 2

Goals: NH-own goal, Hana Kerner.

Saves: M-Rebecca Schultz 11; NH-Brooke Holle 3.