Eastern's Cuneo: S.J. Player of Year

Austyn Cuneo, a North Carolina recruit, scored 96 goals for Eastern this fall.
Austyn Cuneo, a North Carolina recruit, scored 96 goals for Eastern this fall. (   ELIZABETH ROBERTSON / Staff)
Posted: December 12, 2013

Danyle Heilig forgets sometimes.

The Eastern field hockey coach will watch Austyn Cuneo make an incredible move in practice and stare at her assistants in amazement, or notice the way Cuneo handles national attention with humility and grace.

That's not even considering Cuneo's unmatched achievements on the field. Cuneo, a University of North Carolina recruit, set national records with 233 career goals and 96 this season, helping her team to a 15th straight state championship and a Tournament of Champions title.

So, it's easy for Heilig to forget that Cuneo is a 16-year-old junior still with another year remaining in her illustrious high school career.

"I think a lot of people lose perspective because she's a very athletic, physical specimen on the field," Heilig said. "The way she has handled herself and her success over the last three years, I couldn't honestly be more proud of the way she's handled it.

"It's an important thing to remember. She's not a college athlete. She's not a professional athlete. She's a 16-year-old kid who's having an immense career, one that I don't think people will ever catch."

Cuneo, The Inquirer's South Jersey player of the year for the third straight season, continues to work on her game, but she focuses on Eastern's success without focusing on the numbers.

Cuneo went to Florida for the National Hockey Festival over Thanksgiving weekend after Eastern's season had ended.

When she returned the following week, she started working for next season. She has club-team practices, national-team practices, personal-trainer sessions, and gym time in her recently renovated basement.

"I never think about it like my own accolades," said Cuneo, who won't turn 17 until June. "Next year, we have to win another state championship and hopefully another T o C championship. That's really all that matters to me.

"As I keep scoring, the record is just going to keep building. Whatever it settles on, it's not something I focus on."

The offseason work paid off for Cuneo in 2013. She worked on her shooting inside the circle from different angles, adding different types of shots to her repertoire.

"Her goal-scoring ability is second to none right now," Heilig said. "So many high school players shoot to shoot. She shoots to score."

Now, all that's left is to enjoy the end of a celebrated high school career.

"Next year is just going to be a fun ride," Heilig said. "There are no records next year.

"It'll just be a fun, enjoyable ride, and we're going to make sure we enjoy all of it before she moves on to become a Tar Heel."


ncarroll@phillynews.com

@NickJCarroll

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