07/03/2018 4:36 AM
Will Puccio has never had to go far to work on his game, but to do so, he's had to pay a steep price.
Having a brother older than him by two years meant that Puccio, a '19 attackman and midfielder from Garden City and Team 91 White, always had someone to test himself against. It's always great to have someone older, too, because if you can get around him, you're in a good spot against kids your age. The down side to it, though, is that older brothers tend to be very merciful against their younger siblings.
"Phil played for Coach (Jim) Mule's 2017 team with Team 91 and he plays at Bucknell now," Puccio explained. "In the backyard, he played defense on me without pads, and it definitely taught me how to dodge with my head up and it also taught me how to take a check to the arm or the head. It made me that much tougher, and the fact that he was bigger, faster and stronger helped a lot, too."
Those 1v1 slugfests paid major dividends for the younger Puccio. As a midfielder this spring, he helped Garden City to an 18-3 record and a New York Class B state championship. This summer, he's back to his natural attack spot for the '19 White team, where he thrives as an inside scorer off the ball, and he's got a few more tournaments to go before his 91 career comes to an end. Recently, Puccio also locked up his post-high school career plans by committing to Division III Trinity in Connecticut, a top academic school that competes in the rigorous NESCAC.
"Trinity checked all of the boxes that I was looking for in a school," Puccio said. "The academics, lacrosse and location are all awesome, and I fell in love with the coaching staff. They're awesome. I visited in the fall when I had some Division I looks, but I wasn't too interested in them. It really made the most sense for me to go to Trinity. It offered everything that I was looking for, and after I saw it, it was the only place I wanted to go to school."
Puccio only joined the 91 family last year, but his game hit an upward trajectory ever since. Playing midfield in high school helps him show off his athleticism and provided the Trojans a boost out of the midfield, but he's always been at his best when he's patrolling the crease. Working with 91 coach Brian O'Keefe, a former professional box lacrosse player, has helped Puccio gain a finer appreciation for the box game, which helped polish his offensive talents.
"Phil made the transition to 91 three or four years ago, and I saw how much they cared about his recruitment process," Puccio said. "It made sense to play for Coach O'Keefe and and Coach (Darren) MacGilvray, and it's one of the best decisions I've ever made. It's made me play at a much faster pace and develop my left hand, plus they've incorporated a lot of the indoor game, like pick downs, slips and skip passes and, from a bigger perspective, it's made me more creative."
Seeing Puccio's evolution has been enjoyable for O'Keefe, who can regularly count on his pupil to find the back of the cage.
"Will's a very skilled dodger from all angles of the field," O'Keefe said. "He has great off-ball awareness and finds shooting spots. He's an unselfish player and isn't afraid to get to the middle off the dodge. He's our No. 1 dodging option at attack. We're excited that he's found a home where he'll thrive both on the field and in the classroom."
Puccio is eyeing up an economics major, and Trinity's lineage of economics majors who have done well after graduation wasn't lost on him, either.
"I've been interested in economics since I was a little kid," Puccio explained. "My dad is in that, too, and (Trinity head coach) Coach (Jason) Tarnow told me the guys who major in economics there do well when they graduate."
Before that happens, though, Puccio will have a chance to shine on the field for Trinity.
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