May 10, 2012

Tewaaraton Award Favorites, Omissions and Prediction (Women)

by Clare Lochary | | Finalists Announced

Taylor Thornton made the Tewaaraton finalist list over teammate and reigning award winner Shannon Smith.
© Bill Danielewski

The race for the Tewaaraton Award, presented annually to the top player nationally in collegiate men's and women's lacrosse, is down to five players in each gender, as announced Thursday morning.

Now, the competition begins as the postseason gets going this weekend. We handicap the field, discuss a few omissions from the list and take a peek at trends that may predict the winners.

Handicapping the Field

5. Becky Lynch, North Carolina, Sr., A
Lynch became the Tar Heels' career assist leader this season (89), and currently has 18 assists on the season. Her total is actually down from 2011, when she finished with 32, because the versatile attacker has been going to goal more, with terrific success. Lynch has 37 goals and a dazzling .638 shooting percentage. The senior is also North Carolina's draw specialist, and has a team-high 37 draw controls. Lynch will need all those skills to lift the Tar Heels to their fourth consecutive final four and claim the program's first Tewaaraton Award. The Tar Heels have a tough path to the title game – likely through Syracuse and Florida – and every single women's Tewaaraton winner except for Duke's Katie Chrest (2005) played in the national championship.

4. Michelle Tumolo, Syracuse, Jr., A
Tumolo (43 goals, 40 assists) is the engine that powers Syracuse's crazy attack (14.89 goals per game). The Big East Attack Player of the Year is only the second player in Orange history to record 200 career points and 100 career assists. Tumolo's slippery crease moves and pinpoint passing have befuddled defenses all year, and they have the wow factor to impress the Tewaaraton committee. Still, the selectors generally go for midfielders, so it's always an uphill battle for attackers and low defenders. (No goalie has ever made the finalist list on the women's side.)

3. Katie Schwarzmann, Maryland, Jr., M
The ACC Player of the Year is only repeater on the 2012 Tewaaraton finalist list. (Of the 2011 Tewaaraton finalists, Loyola's Grace Gavin and Maryland's Sarah Mollison graduated, and Northwestern's Shannon Smith and Duke's Emma Hamm did not make the final cut.) Schwarzmann, the speedy midfielder, is a threat between the lines, rules the fast break and shoots lights out. No goalie likes to see Schwarzmann charging at her with a full head of steam. The Terps (17-3) have had some hiccups, but Schwarzmann and her team are getting hot at the right time. They're currently on a six-game winning streak in which she's scored 26 combined points.

2. Brittany Dashiell, Florida, Jr., M
The Gators' first ever Tewaaraton finalist is exactly the kind of player the selection committee likes: a midfielder who does work at both ends of the field and can finish. Dashiell, a two-year team captain, leads the team in caused turnovers (15) and is second in assists (23) and tied for second in draw controls (42). She doesn't shoot that often (36g) but when she does she hits her mark (.610 percent). Florida has beaten Northwestern twice this season, most recently by seven goals in the ALC title game on Saturday. If the top seeded Gators go all the way, Dashiell will have this award locked down.

1. Taylor Thornton, Northwestern, Jr., M/D
Thornton won NCAA Defender of the Year in 2011, but she's always been a presence at midfield too. Like Dashiell, she is the team leader in only one category (44 ground balls), but she contributes steadily across the board and is a monster in transition. It's telling that Thornton has a modest goal total (27) and still won ALC Player of the Year over both Dashiell and teammate (and defending Tewaaraton winner) Shannon Smith. She can play lock down defense on opponents' top players, and still take it end-to-end if the opportunity arises. She's the most complete player in the game today, and the Wildcats have gone to seven straight national championships, and won six of them.

Surprise Omissions

For the first time ever, a returning Tewaaraton winner, Shannon Smith, has been left off the finalist list. (Chrest won in 2005 and lost to Northwestern's Kristen Kjellman in 2006, but she was still a finalist. Smith, a senior midfielder/attacker who leads Northwestern in goals (60) and points (80), is an extraordinary player, but her numbers are down from last year (128 points). Additionally, she's been more of a pure attacker than a two-way player and she draws a faceguard in almost every game. That defensive attention has limited her, even if it has opened up opportunities for others and ultimately benefitted the team.

Hamm was also a finalist last year, and was left off this year's list. Her points total dropped from 76 in 2011 to 37 thus far in 2012.

Most to Gain

If Thornton prevails, she will break the Tewaaraton mold several times over. She'd be the first winner from Texas, and the first American winner who does not hail from the East Coast. Two Australians, Jen Adams (Maryland) and Hannah Nielsen (Northwestern), have won the award, but all of the American winners (men and women) have been from the East Coast. Thornton would also be the first African-American woman to win the Tewaaraton Award; Johns Hopkins midfielder Kyle Harrison was the first African-American to win it in 2005.

History Says...

Seven of the last eight winners have been midfielders, so Dashiell, Schwarzmann and Thornton have an advantage over Lynch and Tumolo. The ALC has said Thornton is better than Dashiell, and if you factor in postseason experience, both Schwarzmann and Thornton have won titles before whereas Dashiell has not. K-Schwarz versus T-Square? Maryland lost to Northwestern the last time they met, and the team's ultimate finish tends to carry a lot of weight with the Tewaaraton selectors. It's a new year with new teams, but I say it's Thornton's to lose.

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