Paul Stankiewicz has been the head boys’ lacrosse coach at West Chester Henderson since the late 1960s. So when he says that Zack Antonucci is among the best all-around talents he’s coached, it carries a lot of weight.
“Zack is one of the most versatile players that I’ve seen. He can play just about any position on the field,” Stankiewicz said.
“It means a lot to hear coach say that,” Antonucci responded.
And that wasn’t the end of the kudos. Stankiewicz compared Antonucci to Mike Twohig, who starred for Henderson in the late 1980s and went on to be a captain at Drexel.
“Zack had the hardest shot on our team,” he pointed out. “With that long-stick, he was really something. The last player we had with the same skill-set was Twohig, who graduated in 1988.”
Antonucci remembers hearing the comparison, and he is well aware of the reverence that the Twohig name elicits at Henderson. Mike’s brother James is the namesake for a program award given annually to the ultimate team player.
“There is the award, and there have been lots of other Twohig’s that have gone to Henderson, including one a year older than me,” Antonucci said. “(Stankiewicz) always told me that my style of play resembled Mike Twohig. I was a little surprised that I reminded him of somebody from more than 30 years ago.”
A native of West Chester, Zack started playing organized lacrosse at age seven. His mom, Lisa, played lacrosse and field hockey at Lafayette.
“My mom had a stick in my hand going as far back as I can remember,” he said. “I played soccer and football growing up, but lacrosse has always been number one.”
As a high school freshman, Antonucci played sparingly as the Warriors advanced to the state title game in 2017. He became a defensive starter the next season, and followed it up with an outstanding junior year, where he was a first-team All-Ches-Mont pick.
“He’s the type of kid that just never came off the field,” Stankiewicz recalled. “He can play offense and defense and the game is going that way where you have two-way midfielders and defenders.”
In 2019, Antonucci forced 21 turnovers and scooped up 48 ground balls in 15 outings. He also served as a wing on face offs, where he teamed with Luke Wierman, who is now playing collegiately at Maryland.
“With Zack on the wing and Luke facing off, we knew we were going to get the ball,” Stankiewicz said.
His role as a senior was going to expand even further, but the coronavirus wound up forcing the cancellation of the 2020 season. In preseason workouts, Antonucci was in the man-up lineup, and stayed on the field after face off wins despite playing defense.
He was named a team captain and later received the 2020 Heart of a Warrior Award. Antonucci was so versatile, it was a challenge for Stankiewicz and his staff to figure out where best to utilize him.
“We weren’t really sure where we’d use Zack on defense because if you put him on somebody, he could shut that guy down,” he explained. “But on the inside, if (a teammate) was beaten and he slide over, you couldn’t get by him either.”
With 17 seniors, Henderson had the largest senior class of any team in the Ches-Mont for 2020. And like most spring sports athletes, Antonucci wonders what could have been.
“The whole team got along very well,” he said. “We had a couple weeks of practice before everything got shut down. We were moving the ball really well and it was so much fun. I really believe we had a chance to make this season special.”
Catholic University was the first NCAA Division I program to start recruiting Antonucci, and he later signed a national letter of intent to play for the Cardinals. It didn’t hurt that former teammates Archer Rymiszewski and Jack Micco are already on the team.
“For some reason I find it more satisfying playing defense than offense,” he explained. “There is something about stopping the opposing team in the final minutes with a one-goal lead. My personality is more geared toward playing defense.”
For the last several months, Antonucci makes it a point to get in some sort of lacrosse work every day. A bunch of his Henderson teammates have been playing on a field provided by West Chester Lacrosse Association coach, Bob Williams.
“Coach Bob has a field behind his house and he’s opening that up for us,” Antonucci said. “He’s been great, and we are more than welcome to go over there whenever we want. He has like 20 buckets of balls.”
And just like during previous seasons, Antonucci is still the guy who likes to joke around (when appropriate, of course) and lighten the mood with some fun energy.
“Zack’s personality is infectious,” Stankiewicz said. “He is a funny kid and people gravitated toward him. He would have been a great leader for this team.”
Antonucci’s quips and one-liners became a regular occurrence over the last four years.
“After team meetings, coach Stankiewicz would say: ‘Antonucci, you stay,’” he recalled.
“It became a classic line. Everyone else would leave the meeting, and then he would just start laughing.”
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