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AYER — Just what makes the very best high school student-athletes?

A willingness to meet all challenges with maximum effort and focus, a versatility that leads to excellence in a number of endeavors, a can-do attitude, an understanding of the importance of team vs. individual, and the dogged determination to continue to improve.

Ask anyone at Ayer High School and that description fits Amanda Carlson to a T.

The Lady Panthers’ three-sport standout has enjoyed a superb high school career both athletically and academically with a quiet, no-nonsense approach. Amanda has chosen to let her accomplishments do the talking. She has achieved without flair, gaining the admiration of teammates, coaches and opponents, as well as the teachers and administration of Ayer High School.

“Amanda is an impressive young lady in many ways,” said Ayer High Principal Don Parker. “She has a tremendous work ethic and she is not self-promotional at all. I have a world of respect for her and I will miss her when she is gone.”

Amanda’s resume is impressive. She has earned nine varsity letters and will add number ten in the spring when she competes in her fourth year of softball. She also played three years of volleyball and three years of basketball at the varsity level. She has found time to become a member of the National Honor Society, proving that her versatility extends into the classroom.

“I like to remain active,” said Amanda. “I have had to schedule my time well to do everything I have. I have learned how to do it as I went along.”

Versatility is certainly an attribute of the affable Ayer senior. She has been a setter for the Lady Panthers’ volleyball team for her three varsity seasons. She has played a different position in each of her three softball seasons – center field as a freshman, first base as a sophomore, and catcher as a junior.

“I’m not sure where I will end up this year,” Amanda said.

But clearly Amanda’s favorite sport is basketball and she just wrapped up a stellar career with an outstanding senior season. The Lady Panthers qualified for post-season play in all four seasons, and she has been a major reason in the resurgence. Amanda has accepted any and all challenges both offensively and defensively without question, and she’s been a leader with her work ethic, attitude and team-oriented style.

Her role on the basketball team has expanded with each season. As a sophomore she was mainly a defensive player who was willing to mix it up under the boards. As confidence grew in her offensive game, Amanda became the Lady Panthers’ primary scoring threat with a solid jump shot that complemented an ability to take the ball to the basket.

“Amanda is a very dedicated and special person,” said Ayer basketball coach Charlie Noonan. “She found something she liked and set out to be the best she can be. The rest was all hard work. She’s hit more courts to practice than you can imagine. She is absolutely the hardest working kid I have ever coached.”

Carlson has been forced to play against bigger opponents for much of her career and to combat that she has worked extremely hard to develop her jump shot.

“I started working on it as a sophomore,” said Amanda. “It makes it tougher to block my shot.”

That new-found offensive weapon added to her tough defensive play and willingness to mix it up inside the paint made Amanda a very well-rounded player. She earned MidWach D all-star honors as both a junior and a senior, giving her six league all-star berths in her high school career.”

“Amanda is an unassuming young woman,” said Noonan. “She shows up with a lunch box every day ready to play. She has missed zero practices and zero games, and she is totally deserving of all the success she has earned. She never needs to be told twice what has to be done and she’s a great role model for the younger kids. She is the epitome of a student-athlete.”

But despite all the points and runs she scored, and all the sets she made, Carlson’s intangibles are what have set her apart. No matter what the challenge was she accepted it.

“I am competitive in everything I do,” Amanda said. “I don’t like to lose. Losing creates incentive to work harder and win the next time.”

Amanda has been a captain on both the volleyball and basketball teams this season and has shown leadership in her own quiet manner.

“I feel I have led by example,” she said. “I have tried to keep playing hard no matter what the score was. I have cheered teammates on and let them know when they made good plays. But I could get vocal if I thought 100 percent effort wasn’t being given by telling them to step it up a little.”

How would Amanda like to be remembered at Ayer High School after she is gone?

“I would like to be remembered as a hard-working student-athlete who left it all out on the court and give it everything I had,” she said.

“What is her best memory at Ayer High School?

“I would say beating West Boylston when I was a junior,” she said. “Also, winning the Mount Wachusett Tournament was nice.”

Amanda would like to play basketball in college.

“I am working on my dribbling and footwork, and I need to get faster,” she said. “I can play off-guard or even point guard if I can improve my ballhandling.”

As she looks back, there are some people Amanda would like to thank.

“I would like to thank my mom Sue and my dad Billy for all the support they have given me and for always being there,” said Amanda. “I also would like to thank coach Noonan who has taught me so much about basketball. Also, thanks to all my friends for their support and making all this so much fun.”

As always, Amanda is ready to accept the next challenge.

“This senior year has really gone by fast,” she said. “But I am ready to move on to the next level. I’m not really sure what I want to take in college, but it is time to move on.”

There is no question that the Ayer sports teams will miss the numbers that Amanda Carlson put up during her high school career. But what may be impossible to replace is her presence on an every day basis, her unyielding desire to improve, and the positive attitude that was always in place. She has played without fear and has set the bench mark high for the younger girls in the program who have watched her. Her impact will be in place long after she has graduated.