Team comes first for Player of the Year Cuneo

Sophomore Austyn Cuneo tallied 68 goals for the Vikings, one shy of the state record she matched last season. What she did achieve was helping Eastern win a 14th state title in a row.
Sophomore Austyn Cuneo tallied 68 goals for the Vikings, one shy of the state record she matched last season. What she did achieve was helping Eastern win a 14th state title in a row. (CURT HUDSON / For The Inquirer)
Posted: November 25, 2012

There are no questions about Austyn Cuneo's priorities.

As Eastern pursued a state field hockey title, Cuneo chased history - New Jersey's single-season scoring record, which she matched as a freshman last year.

But from Cuneo's reactions after Eastern's 14th straight state championship, which left her a goal shy of the record, it was clear what mattered.

"It wasn't really the main focus of this year," the 15-year-old sophomore said about the scoring record. "All I wanted to do was get a state title with this team."

Cuneo, the Inquirer's South Jersey field hockey player of the year for the second straight season, finished with two goals in the Group 4 championship game to give her 68 for the season, one shy of the state record.

"It doesn't really bother me," Cuneo said. "This season turned out to be a great season and I loved being with my team. If I didn't get the record, it doesn't really matter."

Along with being a profilic goal scorer, Cuneo is a selfless teammate. She dished out three assists in the title game, and her coach, Danyle Heilig, said her ability to be a team player "makes her so special."

Although Cuneo's high school season ended with a state title, her field hockey season continues. She plays year round with club programs and the national futures program.

Her hard work proved fruitful this season, as it helped her overcome some new challenges.

During her freshman season, Cuneo was able to surprise opposing teams, Heilig said. But this season they were ready for her. Often, she found herself in double and even triple teams.

"Teams were physically moving her off the ball if they needed to - and she still scored 68 goals, and we had two less games this year," Heilig said.

Adding to the impressive nature of Cuneo's historic accomplishments, Eastern continues to play a team game.

"Many of Austyn's goals come through the field of play," Heilig said. "I don't think we've ever talked about it during practice, getting Austyn the ball.

"Austyn just has great ability. Despite the fact we are not setting her up, she ended up scoring 68 goals for us."

Cuneo may have missed out on the state's single-season scoring record, but she's in great position to capture the national career scoring record (191 goals) set just this season by Florence's Lexi Smith.

Cuneo is already the only high school player to post two seasons of 60 or more goals in National Federation of State High School Associations history, according to topofthecircle.com.

But the sophomore sees her success as a result of her teammates.

"I would not be able to do a lot of the things I do without my entire team," she said. "The goals come as they come. It's because I have great teammates."

Heilig said, "As much as they have made her a better player, she has made them better players."

"I love having her as a teammate," senior Erin Hoag said. "She works hard for her teammates. There's not much more you could ask from someone."


Contact Nick Carroll

at ncarroll@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @NickJCarroll.

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