The opponent, at one point this year, was the top-ranked team in the nation.

The Moorestown girls' soccer team, on the other hand, wasn't even the top seed in South Jersey Group 3.

And when talking about how special the Quakers were this year, coach Bill Mulvihill didn't point to what observers were saying — he pointed to what they weren't saying.

"We were never on anyone's radar, yet here we are, one of the last teams standing," the veteran coach said after his team put up a valiant fight in a 1-0 loss to Northern Highlands in the Group 3 state championship Sunday night at Kean University. "We just battled, all year," Mulvihill added. "Tonight, we took one of the best teams in the country down to the last second. I couldn't be prouder of this team."

Northern Highlands was a familiar foe for Moorestown, having beaten the Quakers in the state title game in back-to-back years in 2011-12.

Just like in those years, Moorestown was a heavy underdog to the perennial power on Sunday night.

Also just like in those years, the Quakers hung with Northern Highlands perhaps longer than most expected.

"We had a lot of heart — we always have, we always will. It's what makes this team so special," said junior goalkeeper Nicole Quintero. "We wanted to show people that we deserved to be here.

"It's hard to lose, but when you have a team that's this special and you love each and every one of them, you lose but you're still proud."

Northern Highlands established control early and Reagan Klarmann knocked in her the sixth goal of season off a corner kick by Claudia Dipasupil just six minutes into the game.

From there, the play was more even in the first half and Moorestown had several solid looks, including a near-goal by Emily Bielawski.

Moorestown (20-5) continued to build momentum, and by early in the second half, Northern Highlands (22-1) was on its heels. Moorestown was winning more 50-50 balls, pushing the tempo, and nearly converted on several opportunities.

"This team did not quit," Mulvihill said. "All year, we didn't quit. We won our league — no one gave us a chance. We won South Jersey — no one gave us a chance. No one gave us a chance to get here.

"I don't need a trophy to tell me that [the Quakers] are champions."

Quintero stopped four shots in an all-out team effort to keep the game close. It continued a stretch of quality play for a defense that allowed just one postseason goal entering the state championship.

The Moorestown defense recorded 13 shutouts this year.

Even as the team is set to graduate a strong senior class, Quintero feels optimism about the future.

"This game was a taste that we haven't had for a few years — and it's unforgettable. I'll never forget this year, this game especially," Quintero said. "It just makes us want to work that much harder to come back next year."

Moorestown 0 0 — 0

Northern Highlands 1 0 — 1

Goals: NH: Reagan Klarmann.

Saves: M- Nicole Quintero 4; NH- Sara Ghorashi 3.