The first time Austyn Cuneo visited Eastern High School, she was a second-grader attending the Competitive Edge field hockey camp held on the brand new turf at McAleer Stadium.
Little did she know that she would be on that same turf seven years later, making history. The ninth-grader scored the second-most goals in a field hockey season in recorded National Federation history; her 69 goals in 2011 tied her with 1996 Olympian Michelle Vizzuso and 2010 Eastern graduate Kelsey Mitchell for the New Jersey state record.
The prodigy has seemingly come out of nowhere, but she is noticeable because of her abilities with the ball, to accelerate, change pace, and shift direction. Furthermore, she has a devil-may-care attitude inside the scoring circle; her finishes strike the goalboard with purpose, piercing the air with a signature report.
“You don’t expect a freshman to come out here and play like this, but the girls really welcomed me in and the team helped me to do that,” Cuneo said. “I don’t want to disappoint them, so I had to capitalize on the opportunities to score.”
Cuneo is your national scoring champion for 2011, which, fairly or not, will put all sorts of pressure on her the next three years of high school.
The questions will undoubtedly start coming: how many games before she will break the record for goal-scoring in a career? Can she reach the seemingly unreachable mark of 82 goals in a season, set in 1983 by current Northwestern head coach Tracey Fuchs? Which national powerhouse will she commit to for college? What if USA Field Hockey’s Terry Walsh and Lee Bodimeade come calling for high-performance duty? Or what if it turns out that lacrosse is her best sport?
“First and foremost,” says Eastern head coach Danyle Heilig, “she’s a great kid. It’s not about Austyn; it’s about Eastern. She’s focused on the team, which makes her even more special. She’s coming up with the ball at the defensive end as our flyer and transitioning the ball. Her play is crazy; that is a tremendous, tremendous player. And you have to appreciate that; her understanding of the game and her willingness to leave it on the field is just awesome.”
And there is going to also be a certain amount of scrutiny regarding Cuneo’s presence at Eastern. Her parents reside in a neighboring school district, and pay tuition for her to go nine miles away from Atco Winslow Township (N.J.). New Jersey law allows school districts to admit non-resident students on a tuition basis, through policies adopted by local school boards.
While she is not the first student from a tuition-paying family to have a major impact on an athletics program, there aren’t as many who have had her impact on a program which is at an elite level already.
“She’s 14 years old,” Heilig says, “and there are professional athletes who don’t handle the pressure like she does. Phenomenal; what can you say?”
“This is a whole new world,” Cuneo said. “The team has supported me all the way.”
Austyn Cuneo joins a list of other national scoring champions from years past, making it three years in a row that the national scoring champion is from New Jersey. Let us know if there are any additions or corrections that need to be made to the list below:
2011: Austyn Cuneo, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2010: Danielle Allan, Pompton Lakes (N.J.) 56
2009: Kelsey Mitchell, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) 69
2008: Lucas Long, Allentown William Allen (Pa.) 43
2007: Lauren Gonsalves, Harwich (Mass.) 56
2006: Kaitlyn Hiltz, Virginia Beach Frank W. Cox (Va.) 50
2005: Kelly Fitzpatrick, Palmyra (Pa.), 66
2004: Amie Survilla, Mountain Top Crestwood (Pa.), 64
2003: Anne Marie Janus, Kingston Wyoming Seminary (Pa.), 44
2002: Shauna Banta, Voorhees Eastern (N.J.) and Amanda Arnold, West Long Branch Shore Regional (N.J.) 49
2001: Tiffany Marsh, Marathon (N.Y.), 57
2000: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 54
1999: Rebecca Hooven, Plumsteadville Plumstead Christian (Pa.) 48
1998: Kelli Hill, Manasquan (N.J.) 43
1997: Tiffany Serbanica, Madison (N.J.) Borough 43
1996: Carla Tagliente, Marathon (N.Y.), 51
1995: Kim Miller, Frank W. Cox (Va.) 63
1994: Michelle Vizzuso, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.) 69
1993: Melissa Pasnaci, Miller Place (N.Y.), 60
1992: Diane DeMiro, North Caldwell West Essex (N.J.), 56
1991: Denise Nasca, Centereach (N.Y.), 56
1990: Shelley Parsons, Waterfall Forbes Road (Pa.), 50
1989: Christine McGinley, Medford Lakes Shawnee (N.J.) 40
1987: Kris Fillat, San Diego Serra (Calif.), 53
1986: Dana Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.), 57
1985: Hope Sanborn, Walpole (Mass.) and Sharon Landau, Mamaroneck Rye Neck (N.Y.), 53
1984: Michelle Vowell, Garden Grove Santiago (N.Y.), 56
1983: Tracey Fuchs, Centereach (N.Y.) 82
1982: Mare Chung, San Diego Serra (Calif.) 48