Tuckerton Leader

Though Quiet, Cahill’s Presence on Soccer Field Is Seismic

Pinelands Senior Adding to Goal Record
By DAVID BIGGY | Oct 04, 2019
Photo by: David Biggy TO 70 AND BEYOND: Pinelands senior forward Aileen Cahill has used a fantastic knowledge of the game to become the girls soccer program career scoring leader, with 68 through September.

Little Egg Harbor — When Aileen Cahill joined the Pinelands Regional High School girls soccer program as a freshman, head coach Dawn Paget was quite pleased. At the time, she mentioned Cahill would be “an exciting player,” somebody with potential to change the program dynamics for years.

“Her knowledge and vision is like no other,” Paget said. “She’s a remarkable player, young athlete and young woman. She does a lot of little things on the field that have made her successful, and she makes everybody around her better. Her presence on the field is unbelievable and she gets better every game.”

At this stage of her career – she’s a senior now – every opponent knows her number, knows what she can do with the ball, and does the best to stop her or, at the minimum, slow her down. But even double-teamed, that’s not an easy task.

“She’s the best player I’ve worked with on a team,” said teammate Sunni DiElmo, who shares with Cahill the Wildcats’ primary function as offensive generators, whether it be by scoring goals or distributing the ball, often to each other. “We all joke about it, how she and I can read each other’s minds, but that’s the way we play together. I never have to say to her, ‘make this run,’ because she just does it without me having to say anything. She’s always in a place where I can get her the ball.”

And when Aileen has the ball, opposing goalkeepers need to be aware, because she can change the momentum of a game with one strike.

“I just try to make small plays and work hard without the ball, to make myself available for my teammates to get it to me,” she said. “Once I have the ball, I don’t think too much, because if I thought too long, I’d mess up. Everything happens really fast out there. I just look for a corner of the goal to hit the ball to and hope it goes in.”

Which is a lot, apparently. Cahill isn’t just a prolific goal scorer. She’s the best in the program’s history, to date.

About midway through last season, she broke the team’s career scoring mark, once held by former standout Tori Angelus, and has increased it every time she’s put the ball in the back of the net. She ended her junior season with 59 career goals.

“When I was getting closer to the record, Erin Pomponio was always telling me how many more I needed to break it,” she said. “It was always in the back of my mind, but my focus was to just play and do the best I could every game. When it happened, it was really cool for my teammates to be a part of it.

“The truth is, if it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t be close to the player I am.”

By the end of September, Aileen – the fourth in a family of six soccer-playing siblings, and playing the game since age 4 – had added nine goals during Pinelands’ first eight games to push her total to 68. And with still half the season left, a final career tally of 75 to 80 isn’t unrealistic.

Not surprising, given her quiet presence on the field, she doesn’t call for the ball much.

“When she came in as a freshman, she didn’t say a word,” said Paget, who almost finds it comical how her star forward manages to get the ball without saying much. “Now, as a senior, she’s finally doing that a little more. Now, we hear two words out of her in a game.”

Cahill says it’s not a necessity that she be more vocal.

“Most of the time, I’m aware of where I am in relation to the defense and where I need to be so my teammates can find me,” she said. “I might call for the ball sometimes, but I trust them to know what they’re doing with the ball and get it to me, wherever I am. But they don’t always have to pass it to me.”

Hence, the beauty of having another big scoring option up front in DiElmo, who, like Cahill, can bury the ball into the goal from just about any spot on the field at a reasonable distance.

“Teams are calling out our numbers all the time,” DiElmo said. “But even if she’s marked, it doesn’t really matter because she’s going to get by them. With Aileen, if I don’t have a shot, getting the ball to her is easy and always a good option, because she can do so much with the ball. Playing alongside her makes things comfortable for me because I know where she’s going to be and what she can do. Her presence takes a lot of pressure off me.”

Dealing with the two of them is a headache for defenses, and Cahill knows it.

“We know that when we’re both attacking, it’s 10 times harder for them and a little easier for us,” she said. “They can’t just focus on me, and if they do, Sunni or another girl on the team is going to put the ball in the net. And I’m OK with giving the ball to one of them when defenses are focused on me.”

She’s also OK with doing whatever the team needs, Paget said.

“Just recently, I needed her to play defense for 10 or 15 minutes, and her response was, ‘Sure, coach. No problem!’ That’s the kind of player she is. She’s great, but she’s a total team player,” Paget said. “She’s a leader on and off the field, and even though she’s not too vocal, everybody respects her.”

Soon enough, Cahill expects to be playing at Montclair State University, where she plans to major in education and, possibly, play alongside another of her favorite players: club soccer teammate and Southern Regional senior Megan Lockwood.

“I’ll be so excited if Megan goes to Montclair,” she said. “Ever since we were little, we always had a great connection on the field. She’s one of the best distributors of the ball I’ve played with, and a really fun player on the field, too.”

But first, there’s more to accomplish at Pinelands, such as winning a second straight Shore Conference Class B South division championship, and then making a run at a NJSIAA South Jersey Group II title.

“Winning the division for the first time in program history last year was awesome,” she said. “And we definitely have a good chance to win it again, so to go from never winning it to doing it twice in a row would be really cool.

“With the boys going to the sectional championship last year, we want some of that, too. So, playing for a section title is one of the goals, and it would be really awesome if we could be the first Pinelands soccer team to do it. But we’ll worry more about that as it gets closer. The first priority is B South.”

biggy@thesandpaper.net

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