A Northwestern University student and women’s lacrosse player from West Babylon has won the Tewaaraton Award, the NCAA’s prestigious honor for Division I Lacrosse Player of the Year as awarded by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance.
Legendary football and lacrosse star Jim Brown, also a Long Islander, presented junior attacker Shannon Smith with the award Thursday evening at the Warner Theatre in Washington, D.C.
Smith led the Wildcats in most offensive categories this season. She started all 23 games and recorded 128 points (86 goals, 42 assists), which led all Division I women’s lacrosse players and is the seventh highest point mark in NCAA history. The 86 goals set the new single-season Wildcats record.
In Evanston, Ill.-based Northwestern’s 8-7 victory Saturday over the No. 1 seeded Maryland Terrapins in the NCAA Championship game at Stony Brook University’s Kenneth P. Lavalle Stadium, Smith scored a game-high four goals. For her efforts, she was named NCAA Tournament MVP.
“I love my coaching staff, I love my teammates, I love Evanston and I love Northwestern,” said Smith in a news conference after the game and prior to the Tewaaraton Award ceremony.
Earlier this week, the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association also voted Smith as a first team All-American for the second straight year.
Last season, Northwestern was on the losing end of a 13-11 contest against Maryland in the National Championship. Smith vowed to avenge that loss by any means necessary.
“Ever since last season, I told myself that I never want to see hurt in my teammates’ eyes again,” said Smith. “I was going to do whatever it took to win this National Championship, and I knew that I had to keep stepping up no matter what happened.”
In addition to Smith, Northwestern relied on contributions from several Long Island-born players. In fact, Long Islanders scored all eight goals in the championship game.
Freshman Kara Mupo of Miller Place found the back of the net twice against Maryland, while sophomore Erin Fitzgerald of Mt. Sinai added one goal for her 40th of the season—second on the team to Smith. St. Anthony’s High School graduate Jessica Russo also scored a goal.
Wildcats goalie, Brianne LoManto of Miller Place, picked up her 21st win of the season in the title game. With Northwestern clinging to a one-goal lead with 11:52 to play, LoManto made back-to-back clutch saves to preserve the lead and eventually the victory.
“Long Island is obviously a Mecca of lacrosse, and I just think that the type of kid that comes out of here tends to like what we have to offer at Northwestern University,” said Kelly Amonte Hiller, head women’s lacrosse coach at Northwestern. “That’s why we’ve been able to attract a lot of top athletes from the area.”
Amonte Hiller runs a camp on Long Island each year, and that’s where she found Smith, who attended the camp at age eight.
“She can just take over a game and make plays and make things happen,” said Amonte Hiller. “I knew she had this will to win that made her an extremely attractive recruit, and luckily I got a few other of her best friends to come along with her.”
Smith and her teammates were honored Tuesday night by the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field for their achievements this season. Before the game, Smith threw the ceremonial first pitch—with her lacrosse stick, of course.
She has also been nominated for the 2011 Honda Sports Award for Women’s Lacrosse—the winner of which will be announced June 6. If selected, Smith will be a finalist for the 2010-2011 Honda Broderick Cup, which honors the top athlete in all Division I women’s sports.
Though topping her 2011 campaign may be difficult, Smith will return to Northwestern for her senior season in hopes of winning her third national championship and continuing to add hardware to her trophy case.