St Anthony's junior defender Amanda Paci has committed to Duke.

St Anthony's junior defender Amanda Paci has committed to Duke. Credit: Bob Sorensen

It’s the energy that gets Amanda Paci, every time.

The St. Anthony’s junior defenseman may not be the one putting the ball in the net, but she feels just as much of a rush when it happens. That goal started with her unit making a big play on the defensive end, and that’s good enough for her.

“It’s a whole energy turn in the game,” Paci said of causing a turnover. “When each team is on their game, ready to go, and the ball’s being turned over, it’s one of the best feelings ever.”

Paci, one of the best lacrosse defenders on Long Island and a Duke-commit, is Newsday’s Athlete of the Week.

“Her field vision is impeccable,” St. Anthony’s coach Summer Koepplin said. “A lot of her caused turnovers aren’t just her checking the ball out of someone else’s stick, they’re interceptions from the middle of the field.”

But, it’s not just the turnovers. Paci picks up ground balls like a vacuum, feeds them to her teammates, who then fly up the field to set up another Friars attack.

Paci’s ground ball ability is so good that Koepplin recently moved her into the faceoff circle.

“She will do absolutely everything she has to to get in front of you and get possession,” Koepplin said. “She’s incredibly tenacious and athletic. Her motivation and work ethic is unmatched. If you’re going for a 50/50 ground ball against her, chances are she’s going to win.”

Paci, a natural basketball player, said she played lacrosse in a town league as a child, but left the sport to shift her attention to the hardwood. As her middle school years dawned, Paci took a friend’s advice and tried out for the Long Island Yellow Jackets, an elite travel lacrosse program. Her opinion on the sport changed almost instantly.

“Maybe it was because I was more focused on basketball at the time, but I felt like at the Yellow Jackets, I had more catching up to do and (had to) work to be at the same level as all the other girls,” she said. “Where, in PAL, it was more just fun. There were people on that team who just did it for fun, not that that was a bad thing at all, I just felt that (travel) was more of a competitive game.”

That’s what Paci loves, the idea of working hard, seeing the results, and getting better. It’s one of the things she’s looking forward to as she prepares to play at Duke in a year and a half. She wants playing time there, and she’s willing to work for it.

“Overall, strength and speed,” she said of what she needs to work on to get to an ACC level. “Right now, I’m doing a lot of lifting during the week. I would (also) say, keeping my stick skills at a very high level, and getting better at those too.”

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