June 21, 2011

Smith Named Big Ten's Top Female Athlete

from press release

CHICAGO -- Already the national player of the year in NCAA women's lacrosse, Northwestern junior Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y./West Babylon) was recognized as the 2011 Suzy Favor Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year.

Smith is the fourth Northwestern student-athlete to receive the prestigious distinction, following the likes of her former teammate on the lacrosse team Hannah Nielsen in 2008 as well as two-sport athlete Jennifer Averill in 1987 and softball's Lisa Ishikawa in 1984. Smith joins Nielsen as the only two recipients in the 31-year history of the award to play a sport not sponsored by the Big Ten Conference.

After a vote was conducted by a panel of conference media members, the Big Ten Network announced Smith as this year's recipient during its year-end awards show Monday evening. David Boudia of Purdue men's diving was tabbed the Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year in the conference.

"Shannon has an incredible will to win, to improve every day and to make her teammates better," said head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. "She proved this year game-in and game-out that no matter what people throw at her, she can break through. Her abilities as a player and as a leader make her very deserving of winning this award."

After leading Division I women's lacrosse in points from wire to wire in the regular season, Smith raised her game to another level in the postseason as she willed Northwestern to a seventh-straight ALC championship and eventually its sixth NCAA championship in seven years. She scored at least four goals in all six postseason games for NU -- including five in each of the first four -- and came up with the game-winning goals in an 11-10 semifinal win over North Carolina as well as in a thrilling 8-7 victory over No. 1 Maryland for the national title.

Her 18 goals during the NCAA tournament -- second-most all-time for one player in the national tournament -- netted her NCAA Championship MVP honors and allowed her to break the Northwestern single-season goals record with 86. Her 128 points on the year rank as the second-best total ever by a Wildcat and seventh-best in Division I women's lacrosse history.

Winner of the Tewaaraton Award and Lacrosse Honda Sports Award, Smith's season included the sixth 10-point game (5g, 5a) in Northwestern history (March 5 vs. Georgetown) as well as a seven-goal effort in a 12-11 victory against seventh-ranked Stanford. The first-team IWLCA All-American, who scored at least three goals in 17 of NU's 22 games, also set career highs with 39 draw controls and 25 ground balls.

Smith will begin her senior year in 2012 tied for fifth in career assists at NU (80), sixth in points (268) and seventh in goals (188).

The Big Ten has recognized a Jesse Owens Male Athlete of the Year since 1982 when Indiana's Jim Spivey earned the inaugural award. The following year, a women's award was created. In 1991-92, as part of the celebration of the 10th anniversary of women's athletics in the conference, the women's award was renamed in honor of former Wisconsin track standout and three-time recipient Suzy Favor.

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