Paulina DiFatta Won’t Stop Pushing as Professional Career Begins


Paulina DiFatta led the ACC in saves during the 2021 season.

If you asked goalie Paulina DiFatta two years ago whether she’d be playing professional lacrosse this summer, she probably wouldn’t have believed you. For one, opportunities were limited, as the WPLL announced it was folding. There was also the matter of the pandemic.

But the third problem? She had just torn her ACL for the third time in her life and second in her collegiate career.

“When I tore my ACLs, I was just hoping to get better and back on the field,” DiFatta said. “I never thought of long-term goals. I just wanted to get back to playing the sport I loved.”

The first tear happened in high school. DiFatta didn’t get many offers but wound up at Fairfield, where she tore her ACL again during fall ball of her freshman year. She transferred to Elon, where she started 17 of 18 games in 2019 before tearing her ACL in 2020.

DiFatta returned to Elon in 2021 as the starting goalie. But for her graduate year, she decided she wanted a taste of ACC lacrosse — and history. She transferred again to Pittsburgh to lead the Panthers in their first season of women’s lacrosse.

DiFatta led the ACC with 198 saves and 51 ground balls. On May 31, DiFatta was selected 11th in the 15-player Athletes Unlimited Draft. It’s a far cry from the trainer’s table, where she spent more time than she would have liked during her collegiate career. Still, she’s not a headliner compared to the likes of top pick Charlotte North or national champion goalie Taylor Moreno.

That’s cool by DiFatta.

“Growing up, I didn’t have much hype around me, so I found that love for the game,” DiFatta said. “That’s what kept me pushing.”

But DiFatta could make noise in the league. Last season, netminders Caylee Waters and Kady Glynn finished second and fourth on the leaderboard, respectively. But DiFatta isn’t too concerned about points.

“I have never thought about myself in this game,” DiFatta said. “I just want to be present in the moment and appreciate the moment I have on the field. … I really just want to be the best version of myself.”

The best version of DiFatta, at least on the field, isn’t a goalie who focuses on saves. Despite leading the ACC in the category, she relies on field vision to lift her teammates and tries to be an extra field defender.

“I can pick off passes and make that interception, clear the ball quickly and get that offense going,” DiFatta said.

And you may see DiFatta giving offense a try.

“I watched the league last year and saw how incredible the goalies were and their impact on the field,” DiFatta said. “I even saw Caylee Waters take shots. You don’t get to do that as a goalie in college. I’m going to push some boundaries and learn from others.”

DiFatta has been watching a ton of lacrosse lately. Pitt’s season ended in April, but she paid close attention to the Final Four and the recent World Lacrosse Women’s Championship. She’s ready to be a part of what’s been a summer of lacrosse.

“I watched the U.S. play, and I’m so proud of them,” DiFatta said. “Now, I am excited to leave for Maryland and hang around with some of the national champs and world champs and get their input.”

And DiFatta is excited to be reunited with one gold medalist: Sam Apuzzo. DiFatta, who played at Dix Hills (N.Y.), saw shots from Apuzzo during her days at West Babylon (N.Y.).  

“I have always looked up to her,” DiFatta said. “Being able to play against her at the professional level is something I am looking forward to.”

DiFatta didn’t have to look far for heroes playing lacrosse on Long Island. But she knows other young players haven’t had the same luxury. This summer, they’ll get that chance. Every game will air on ESPN platforms.

“I started playing lacrosse in fourth grade, and I was really hoping that one day little kids would be able to watch lacrosse on TV,” DiFatta said. “I grew up on Long Island where it was really popular, but now kids from Texas and the Midwest can watch professionals play.”

And DiFatta hopes to inspire those little girls to never give up.

“I wasn’t that big in high school,” DiFatta said. “I had a handful of offers. I tore my ACL three times. Keep pushing. Your time will come. Once you find that love for the game, it’s easy to keep going and moving forward.”

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