Heading into this weekend’s state championship game, Moorestown girls soccer coach Bill Mulvihill is exactly where he wants to be.
His team is peaking at the right time and he’s facing an opponent he and his girls know very well.
“If someone had told me at the beginning of the year we’d be back in the final again, I’d have wanted to play Northern Highlands,” said Mulvihill, recalling the strong performance the Quakers had against Northern Highlands in last year’s Group 3 championship—a game that went scoreless until the final 7 minutes thanks to the Quakers’ suffocating defense.
Then again, not many people would have picked Moorestown to make it back to the finals this year after the team’s disappointing 0-3 start.
The Quakers (17-4-1) gave up eight goals in those first three games—though they’ve only given up eight more in the last 19—and Mulivihill chalked some of that up to how green the team was and the fact that they lost some good players at the end of last year.
Still, the girls persevered and they’re back in the thick of things after vanquishing Princeton 2-0 in the state Group 3 semifinal earlier this week. But as elated as the team is, they’re not just going along for the ride.
“We’re not just happy that we’re here,” said Mulvihill, who is seeking his third state championship in 16 years. “We’re going in to win the game … and these girls are enjoying every minute of it.”
To win though, they’ll have to take down a Northern Highlands team that has been near flawless the last two years. The Highlanders (23-0) are riding a 47-game winning streak after going undefeated again this year. They’ve only given up four goals all year, Mulvihill said.
The Highlanders come into Sunday’s game against the Quakers armed with a “very, very dangerous weapon” in defensive player Jackie Reyneke, who possesses “the most amazing throw-in you’ll ever see,” according to Mulvihill.
It was that very throw-in that put the Highlanders up 1-0 with only seven minutes left in last year’s final. The ball went off the hands of Quakers goalkeeper Rebecca Schultz and into the back of the net.
“Seventy-five percent of their offense comes off this girl’s throw-in,” said Mulvihill. “We’re just going to change our approach on this throw-in, and we’re going to try not to give them any space … The best offense is a good defense, and our defense has been playing incredible.
"If you want to be the best, you've got to beat the best."
The Quakers will face off against Northern Highlands in the final at 3 p.m. Sunday at The College of New Jersey.
Check back with Moorestown Patch later in the day Sunday to find out who won.