June 2, 2011

Smith Brings Tewaaraton Award Back to Evanston

by Corey McLaughlin | LaxMagazine.com

Shannon Smith accepts the Tewaaraton Award. Hall of Famer Jim Brown (right), on hand to accept the first Tewaaraton Legends honor, helps present the award to Smith on Thursday.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Shannon Smith took Northwestern's midseason two-game losing streak personally. Now, after leading the Wildcats to their sixth national championship in seven years, she has earned the sport's highest individual honor.

Smith, the junior attacker, won the women's Tewaaraton Award Thursday night at the Warner Theatre, beating out finalists Grace Gavin (Loyola), Emma Hamm (Duke), Sarah Mollison (Maryland) and Katie Schwarzmann (Maryland).

"It is my honor to be this year's Tewaaraton Award recipient among such talented and well-respected lacrosse players," Smith said on stage after receiving the award. "This award could have gone to anyone. It's my pleasure to be sitting in the same room as you."

Smith finished the season leading the nation in points per game (5.57), and played a central role in Northwestern's charge to the national title that ended with an 8-7 win over reigning champion Maryland at Stony Brook's LaValle Stadium on Long Island Sunday.

Smith, a West Babylon, N.Y., native, scored four goals, including the eventual game-winner with 4:36 remaining in the final to help the Wildcats avenge a dynasty-ending loss to Maryland in the title game a year earlier. Smith also had four goals and the winner with 18 seconds left in an 11-10 victory over North Carolina in the semifinal round Friday night.

The championship weekend performance was typical of how Smith performed all season.

She finished with 86 goals and 42 assists, and shot 54 percent in 23 games. She was directly involved in 30 percent of Northwestern's scoring plays (either a goal or assist), and was also fourth on the team in draw controls (39).

Smith added 25 ground balls. Smith's 128 points were the second most in a single season by a Northwestern player, only behind the 142 amassed by Hannah Nielsen in 2009.

Northwestern began the season winning 12 straight, but dropped back-to-back games during a weekend road trip to Florida and Johns Hopkins in mid-April.

Smith was limited to four goals and two assists combined in the two games, but vowed it would never happen again.

"I took those two losses really personally," Smith later told LaxMagazine.com after a win over Stanford.

The next weekend she had four goals and two assists in a win against Ohio State and carried the Wildcats offense with seven goals in that 12-11 win over Stanford two days later.

In the American Lacrosse Conference championship game against Florida, Smith scored three of Northwestern's final five goals as it erased a three-goal, second-half deficit to win 10-9.

Northwestern finished 21-2.

From left, Tewaaraton finalists Shannon Smith, Katie Schwarzmann, Sarah Mollison, Emma Hamm and Grace Gavin pose for a photograph during Thursday's ceremony.

© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

"The biggest thing for me is I don't like losing," Smith said before the awards ceremony Thursday. "I don't take it well, and I think I knew our team had a lot more potential than what we were playing with, and we had to play more like a team. I thought that I had to put everything out there every day at practice, I had to put everything on the line out there, to show my teammates that I'm putting everything out there, and it's OK for them to do the same."

Northwestern players have now won the Tewaaraton — presented to the top collegiate player across all three NCAA divisions — five times since its inception in 2001. Kristen Kjellman won in 2006 and 2007 followed by Nielsen's back-to-back awards in 2008-09. Smith is the third Northwestern junior to win the award, and fourth junior overall, joining Virginia's Amy Appelt (2004), Kjellman and Nielsen.

Smith accepted the award from National Hall of Famer and NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who was present at the ceremony to accept the first-ever Tewaaraton Legends award. Going forward, this award will be presented to one recipient each year that played collegiate lacrosse prior to 2001 and whose performance would have earned him or her a Tewaaraton Award had the preeminent honor existed.

"It would be an unbelievable accomplishment with the other finalists that are here," Smith said before the ceremony. "Everybody here is very talented and are great lacrosse players. It would be great, and I would have to give it to all my teammates and the coaching staff. They're the reason why I'm here today."

The string of individual Northwestern honors has coincided with the Wildcats propensity for winning national championships (2005-09, 2011). The dynasty may have been reborn this season with Smith leading the way.

"Ever since last season, I've told myself that I never want to see the hurt in my teammates eyes again," Smith told reporters after Northwestern beat Maryland in the championship game. "I was going to do everything it took to win this national championship."

The University Club Foundation also presented the 2011 Outstanding Native American High School Scholarships to Kristiana Ferguson of the Tuscarora Nation and Christopher White of the Oneida Nation. Ferguson will attend Syracuse University, and White plans to play lacrosse at Sienna College in the fall.

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