High school field hockey

Lion foursome plan to stick with field hockey in college

Belfast Area High School seniors enjoyed remarkable success over four years
By Mark Haskell | Dec 07, 2018
Courtesy of: Todd Jackson From left, Belfast's Lindsay Bruns, Cassie Jackson, Maya Cunningham and Amy Gaiero.

Belfast — The impact that Lindsay Bruns, Cassie Jackson, Amy Gaiero and Maya Cunningham made on the Belfast field hockey team in the fall — or the past four years for that matter — could not be measured by the length and width of the fields themselves.

That fact is difficult to ignore as not only were the quartet team captains this season and led the Lions to yet another impressive campaign, but finished with a 52-11 overall record (.825 winning percentage) with a regional championship the last four seasons.

And while all four have played their final game together as Lions, each will take the next step together — in different directions — as they prepare to play college field hockey in 2019.

Cunningham and Gaiero have signed their respective national letters of intent to play collegiate field hockey as Cunningham will attend Wagner University in Staten Island, N.Y. and Gaiero will attend the University of Iowa.

Wagner and the University of Iowa are Division I programs.

The University of Iowa has one of the top-ranked teams in the country in terms of field hockey, while Wagner will compete in DI for the first time after a year of club status in 2018. Wagner added field hockey as a varsity sport in January.

Bruns and Jackson also have each verbally committed to play collegiate field hockey as Bruns will attend the University of New England in Biddeford and Jackson Husson University in Bangor.

UNE and Husson are Division III programs.

Bruns led the team in scoring this season and ended her high school career as the team’s second all-time leading scorer with 57 goals, while also logging 24 assists over four years. She also was named the team’s “outstanding offensive player.” She played forward this year for the Lions and also plays club field hockey for Black Bear Elite in Orono.

“Lindsay has played for me all four years, was a three-year starter and always played very aggressive, especially on offense,” said Belfast coach Jan Holmes-Jackson. “She was a big part of our offensive penalty corners on shooting or passing and she stepped up with leadership this season. She’s very quick and has great stick work.”

Bruns said, “it’s very exciting” thinking about the next step of her playing career with the Nor’Easters.

“I have participated in several recruitment tournaments out of state, attended spring clinics, and personally contacted college coaches to get myself known,” said Bruns. “Before making my final decision, I narrowed my schools down to Bowdoin [College in Brunswick] and UNE. After touring both schools I fell in love with the environment and the overall campus at the University of New England. I am very excited to be attending this school next fall.”

Cunningham ended her high school career with 11 goals, eight assists and 24 defensive player-saves, the latter of which was the most in school history. Cunningham also was an All-State selection this season and named “outstanding defensive player” by her team. She played center back for the Lions and also plays for Maine Majestix.

Cunningham said she is "very excited to be able to keep playing field hockey" and "I think there is a lot of potential to have a successful team."

"My club coach Kelly Terwilliger put me in contact with the head coach [at Wagner]," said Cunningham. "I was invited to go down to Staten Island and participate in a clinic and check out the campus. I really liked the coach, Jill Disanti, and things moved pretty fast after I got home as far as recruiting. But what I really appreciated is that coach Disanti worked really hard to keep me first like going through the financial side of things and my parents' questions and concerns. I think it was then that I really knew that Wagner is the place for me."

“She’s one of the best flyers on defensive corners in the state,” said Holmes-Jackson of Cunningham. “She’s broken up countless corners. Not too many people score on corners off us. She’s fearless. Very good leader, very confident and takes charge on the field.”

Gaiero, who was named All-State for the second straight year, ended her high school career with three goals, seven assists and 23 defensive saves, and was voted “most valuable player” by teammates. She played as a back for most of her career at Belfast and also played for Maine Majestix "and a USA field hockey program called 'Futures' in the spring."

“For me, having the opportunity to continue to play in college is great,” said Gaiero. “I have played almost all of my life and I couldn’t really imagine what I’d do without it, and what I’d do with all my free time. So being able to go and be a part of such a great team is wonderful.”

“She takes a beating and just keeps going," said Holmes-Jackson of Gaiero. "She’s very positive with her teammates and she’s a great leader on and off the field. She’s all about perfection. She’s hard on herself and just works 100 percent all the time trying to improve.”

Jackson racked up five goals, 24 assists and 12 defensive player-saves, in addition to leading the team in defensive player-saves this season (10). She was given the “outstanding determination award” by her teammates. Jackson played right back this season for Belfast and also plays club field hockey for Black Bear Elite in Orono.

Jackson said she knew Husson “was a good choice.”

“I chose Husson University over many other schools because of its business program and location,” she said. “I was recruited by the coach Sabrina Smith [at] the beginning of this year [and] we had kept in touch off and on throughout my season. I felt Husson was the right fit for me because of its location [since] it’s very close to home. I also wanted to play field hockey and had really liked the team.”

Holmes-Jackson said that Jackson, who is her daughter, “had great mental toughness, lots of leadership on the field and off and she’s one of the best passers on the team and she’s great at setting people up.”

“I am very proud of her as a player of mine and as my daughter,” the coach said. “We try to keep those things separate on the field and I think we did pretty good with that. She would take criticism and direction very well and she’s a really great player. I’ll miss her, but I’m excited she’s going on to play at Husson and that she’s close so I can go watch her.”

All four players look back on their days with the Lions — and with each other — fondly as they prepare for the next chapter of their playing careers.

“I am defiantly going to miss it,” said Gaiero. “As we have all been playing together for as long as I can remember, we have stuck together through all these years and I’m going to miss it and be sad about saying goodbye to so many of them as I make my way to the Midwest."

“My experience at Belfast was a very good one,” said Cunningham. “We have all been pretty close all the way up through, some of us since we were close to four years old. Even some girls who I never really even knew before high school became my best friends through this team. I’m sad it’s over but it was a great run. I’ll miss my seniors and I think we had something really special as a group that’s going to be really hard to replace.”

“Playing at Belfast on the field hockey team for four years certainly has taught me a few things, especially not to take things for granted,” said Jackson. “One minute I was at tryouts freshman year, then the next playing my senior game. Time went by very quickly, and so many memories were created with this team. I’m sad to see my high school career gone, but I’m looking forward to starting the next chapter of my life in college.”

“This past season was sort of an emotional one,” said Bruns. “We started off our season with a loss and ended our season a lot sooner than we had hoped. We’ve been close and playing together since we were five and now just about 12 years later we played our last games together. It’s definitely sad to see my four years playing at BAHS come to an end but I’m very excited to see what opportunities UNE brings me next year.”

From left, Belfast's Amy Gaiero, Maya Cunningham, Lindsay Bruns and Cassie Jackson. (Courtesy of: Liz Bruns)
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Mark Haskell
Associate Sports Director
594-4401, ext. 116
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Mark has been covering local sports throughout Knox, Waldo and part of Lincoln county since 2007. Haskell has a bachelor's degree in Mass Communication from the University of Maine and is also a 2000 graduate of Rockland District High School. He has won multiple Maine Press Association awards for writing and photography.

Mark loves iced coffee, cargo shorts, spending time with friends and family and suffers no longer after his beloved Philadelphia Eagles beat the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.

He resides in Thomaston with his wife Jenn, his sons Beckett and Austin and daughter Lila.

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