Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Can Cahill lead B-CC field hockey back to peak?

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Chris Rossi⁄The Gazette
April Cahill works out at practice at B-CC last week.
April Cahill spent just a handful of games on the Bethesda-Chevy Chase varsity field hockey team as a freshman, but it was likely the most memorable time of what has been a stellar career.

After completing a strong junior-varsity season that year, Cahill, now a senior, was moved up to Coach Amy Wood’s varsity squad in time for postseason play. Five matches later, Cahill celebrated the program’s 13th state title, a thrilling 2-1 double-overtime win over powerful Severna Park, the winners of a state-best 16 state championships, in the Class 3A championship game.

With the start of her final high-school field hockey season quickly approaching, Cahill, the only player on this year’s squad who played on that state championship team (B-CC’s last), hopes to end things on a similar high note — but this time as one of the team’s most pivotal contributors.

‘‘It would be great because I started my career with a championship and I’d love to finish with one,” Cahill said. ‘‘It would be the most amazing feeling ever to [finish] out strong. That would be really fun.”

Once a shoe-in to capture a state crown each year — the program won nine straight from 1994-2002 and then again in 2004 — the Barons failed to reach the state playoffs in 2005, and then dropped a 3-1 decision to Severna Park in last year’s 3A state championship.

But with Cahill running the show from her center midfield position, reserved annually for the team’s top player, and a strong group of returning starters (Cathy Mirsky, Annie Cohen, Samantha Locke and Kelsey Osterman) from last year’s state runner-up squad, a return to the winner’s circle is a good possibility.

‘‘I think that we always have a chance with Amy,” said Cahill of her coach, who has compiled a 207-25-13 career record with 10 state championships. ‘‘She always brings the team to a strong point. No matter how we start, it’s how we finish. It’s the way she coaches. I do think we have a chance.”

A chance is what Cahill gave the sport of field hockey as a sixth-grader while still living in the Towson area. At the behest of a friend, whose mother had played the sport in high school, Cahill, a rabid lacrosse player, decided to join a local recreation team.

‘‘My best friend’s mom played it in high school so we decided to try it and I loved it,” she said. ‘‘It was fall ball and it was really fun.”

Cahill became a quick study as evidenced by her late 2004 call-up to the varsity. She became an integral part of the Barons in 2005 and earned All-Gazette first-team honors a year ago as a junior, anchoring a defense that allowed just 10 goals in 20 games with 14 shutouts.

Cahill, a midfielder the past two years, also added six goals and four assists to a team that averaged nearly three goals per game, including a high of seven in its 7-0 thrashing of La Plata in the 3A state semifinals.

With top all-around player Shay Smith (9 goals, 11 assists) having graduated, Wood is expecting even more from Cahill this fall.

‘‘She knows how to distribute the ball. She knows what it takes and she’s so unselfish,” Wood said. ‘‘I watch her in lacrosse and she’s too unselfish. She’s a total team player. She’s just so coachable. I’ve loved every minute of it.

‘‘I’m going to miss a pure athlete that’s intense like that. She pushes the team in practice to pick up the intensity. She does not want to lose. It kind of pushes everyone. She’s the person on the field that people look to.”

That’s also been the case for Cahill on the lacrosse field where she has become a dangerous offensive weapon for the Barons, pouring 38 goals a year ago to earn second-team All-Gazette honors.

‘‘She’s very good,” said Quince Orchard field hockey⁄lacrosse coach Jenna Ries of Cahill. ‘‘She is great at both and she’s a versatile player. She can play with her heart and her mind on the field.”

Cahill, who began playing lacrosse at a young age, said lacrosse is ‘‘in her blood.” Her father James won a national lacrosse title with Johns Hopkins in the 1970s. Her brother Jim plays at St. Albans and her sister Maggie played at B-CC as recent as last year.

‘‘If I can, I’ll play field hockey and lacrosse [in college],” Cahill said. ‘‘But if I had to choose, I’d choose lacrosse. I really like it a lot. It’s in my family.”