RBC girls soccer roaring once again

The Red Bank Catholic girls soccer team runs onto the field to celebrate their Shore Conference Tournament win Oct. 23 as the coaches prepare to share a celebratory hug in the background. Rich Hundley photo


By Rich Fisher | Contributing Editor

Coming into the season, many observers looked at Red Bank Catholic as a girls soccer team that graduated 11 seniors, including six who are now playing for Division I college teams.

In other words, a rebuilding team.

But in looking at who the Caseys lost, people may have overlooked who was coming back – two seniors who have rejoined each other as Casey teammates for the first time since their freshman year. 

Forward Reagan Pauwels sat out the previous two seasons with RBC as she played on the Players Development Academy (PDA) club team in order to showcase her talents to college recruiters. That paid off, as she will continue her education and playing career at Cornell. Midfielder Paige Theobald missed last year after tearing her right ACL while playing in a scrimmage with her club team in January of her sophomore year. She, too, has returned, and good friends are together again.

“I’ve known Reagan since I was 12,” said Theobald, a Tinton Falls resident who belongs to Holy Innocence Parish, Neptune. “We played travel soccer together forever. We have good chemistry. We work very well in combination passes and moving the ball up the field.”

Pauwels, who prays privately before every game, agreed, saying, “We’re like best friends.”

Their return, along with the fact that a sturdy group of sophomores and freshmen have stepped up to fill in the blanks, has RBC enjoying another outstanding season. After winning a Shore Conference division title, the Caseys defeated Toms River North, 2-0, on Oct. 23 in the Shore Conference Tournament finals. It was RBC’s seventh SCT title and first since 2013.

“This means everything,” Pauwels said. “These girls deserve it. We’ve been working so hard, training so hard. It’s great.”

A huge key to RBC’s 15-1-1 record and 12-game unbeaten streak has been the emergence of young players such as sophomores Morgan Cupo, Abby Nadjzinowicz and Cleo Grignard, and freshmen Kelsey Peduto, Gianna Romeo and Noel Pauwels. Cupo was the team’s leading scorer with 19 goals and 7 assists heading into the Caseys’ second-round NJSIAA Non-Public A tournament game Oct. 31. Noel is Reagan’s sister and part of the reason she returned.

“They’re playing great,” Theobald said. “They really stepped up this year, which is great for being sophomores and freshmen. I’m very proud of them.”

And while youth has served Red Bank Catholic well, the intangibles and skills provided by the returning seniors is invaluable. Pauwels spent two years in PDA playing with “girls that are going pro.” Her team won the national title last year, and exposure to such competition honed Pauwels’ game.

“PDA is a whole different thing, everything is a one-touch or two-touch,” said Pauwels, who has 14 goals and 12 assists. “It definitely helped. You feel like you have a lot more time [to make on-field decisions] when you’re in high school, so I had more time to turn or know what I wanted to do.

“It’s great being back. This is one of the closest teams I’ve ever been on. Everyone does their job, everyone works together. You can see when we score, everyone’s happy.  We’re all looking for the best person to get the shot. We don’t have any selfishness,” she said.

Which is what happened in the SCT final against a Toms River North team that defeated RBC in last year’s championship game. Theobald, who is still deciding on what Division I college to attend, was forced to sit and watch that game as her knee healed.

“It was really hard sitting out,” said Paige, who has 2 goals and 10 assists this season. “I’ve always played forever, so it was hard to set on the bench. But it was good to cheer my teammates on. I got to be part of something.”

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