By Phil Anastasia
Eastern sophomore Austyn Cuneo, the two-time Inquirer Player of the Year in South Jersey field hockey, has committed to attend the University of North Carolina.
Eastern coach Danyle Heilig said Wednesday that Cuneo, who is on pace to shatter the national record for career goals, has drawn "very strong interest" from virtually every top college program in the country.
Heilig said Cuneo has made several visits to North Carolina and decided to end the recruiting process halfway through her high school career.
"Why wait?" Heilig said. "She commited to one of the best if not the best programs in the country. She fell in love with the institution, the players, the coaching staff, what their intentions are for her."
Cuneo, who recently was named to the USA U-17 National team, scored 137 goals in helping Eastern to Group 4 state titles in each of her first two seasons. She is on pace to break the national record of 191 goals, set last fall by Florence senior Lexi Smith, near the end of her junior season.
"She has a chance to just blow asway the national record for goals in a career," Heilig said. "She's a tremendous ball handler and she understands the game at a level that most 15-year-olds don't understand the game. As an athlete, she's tremendously gifted. And she just has a a great ability to score goals."
In attending North Carolina, Cuneo will be following in the footsteps of three former Eastern players, all Dawson sisters. Rachel Dawson, a member of the US National Team, and Meghan Dawson graduated from North Carolina, and Melanie Dawson is a sophomore for the Tar Heels.
Heilig said Cuneo has aspirations of "wearing the red, white and blue" as a member of the national team and that playing for North Carolina will help in her development. But Heilig also stressed that Cuneo still has two seasons of high school hockey ahead of her.
"We have to keep her healthy and keep going in her development," Heilig said. "There are a lot of things that still have to grow in Austyn's game."
Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at firstname.lastname@example.org or @PhilAnastasia on Twitter.