The Montclair State women’s soccer team had a phenomenal regular season that ended in heartbreak in the New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) semifinals versus Rowan University. This is similar to the early years of the Chicago Bulls when Michael Jordan first joined the team. Jordan as a young shooting guard carried the Bulls to the playoffs almost every year, but they would still always miss out on that championship gold.
Sophomore midfielder Aileen Cahill embodies the same spirit that Jordan carried in his first years with the Bulls. Her seven goals and five assists have helped the offense flourish against any opponent they face. With 33 shots, 17 of those being at the net, she has an over 50% shot on goal percentage. All of this eventually led her to win NJAC Offensive Player of the Year.
But while Jordan preached his personal performance as to why his team was so successful, Cahill has a completely different philosophy.
“I couldn’t have done it without my team and all of the players and the coaches,” Cahill said. “Everybody put in all of their efforts and [was] on it during every game; that helps me do well and be better too.”
As it has been said multiple times, one of the main reasons why the Montclair State women’s soccer team has been so successful in recent years is the bond the teammates create with each other, and the chemistry that develops on the field from that connection. Cahill is a big believer that this notion is what helped her be so dominant on offense this season.
“I think [team chemistry] is all of it, [which means] being able to play with everybody, know each other and being able to connect,” Cahill said. “Just being able to have good relationships on and off the field made it so much easier to play for each other and leave it all out on the field.”
Along with Cahill tearing it up on the field, many other players received honors from the conference, like freshman Emmi DeNovellis and seniors Laura Noseworthy and Catherine Carnevale, who all received All-NJAC Second-Team honors. Another senior player who made this team was Emily DeGeyter. She had a feeling Cahill would add something special to the Red Hawks.
“I think before she got Rookie of the Year her freshman year, [we knew] she was going to be a key player [on the team],” DeGeyter said. “She’s really technical and works very hard, and that’s something I noticed and liked. Freshman year to sophomore year, she would stay true [to her game], no matter what game it is or who we are playing [against]. She always comes to practice [and] works hard.”
One of Cahill’s best moments this fall was early on in the second game of the season in the match against Marywood University, where the Red Hawks squeaked out a victory and won 2-1. Cahill scored early in the game, and right before the end of the half, Marywood tied it up. Head coach Patrick Naughter had to adjust the game plan if they wanted to win.
“I think that was one of the big moments of the year,” Naughter said. “[When Cahill] got that first goal, [it] felt like we were in control of the game, and then we had a defensive lapse. We had a corner kick late in the game, [which] was a great ball in, and she executed, [getting] in front of her marker. She doesn’t make a mistake when she has an opportunity to put the ball on target.”
While Cahill was fundamental in her methods of goal scoring, another sophomore shined this season as well, notching three goals and three assists, too. Defender Tara Lambert was named as an Honorable Mention by the NJAC, and as someone who is mainly focused on the other side of the ball, Cahill provides a huge relief for her and the rest of the defense.
“[Cahill] has been a big help because she comes back defensively and works really hard to get the ball back,” Lambert said. “So, I know that she’ll always be able to help me offensively and defensively.”
Going into the next season, Cahill is focused on becoming the best player she can possibly be.
“I want to try and get better in every aspect,” Cahill said. “[I want to] keep playing soccer all the time, get fit and go to the gym. I want to work on everything.”
One thing Naughter says Cahill does not do very often is verbally communicate. However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as Cahill usually just lets her game do the talking. It may even be how she won this prestigious award from the conference.
“[Cahill] is a lead-by-example kid,” Naughter said. “She’s not the kid who’s going to make a [verbal] statement, but her work rate and her love of the game is contagious. She makes you want to coach harder, play harder and compete better. She’s [going to] show what we should be about.”