Northwestern's Smith finishes strong
Wildcat attacker finishes collegiate career with three NCAA titles
STONY BROOK, N.Y. – From one end of the table to the other, they shared sentiments they had shared about Shannon Smith even before the final acts of her brilliant collegiate career at Northwestern ended with the Wildcats adding another national championship to their collection.
In the press conference after celebrating their second consecutive title and seventh in eight seasons courtesy of an 8-6 victory against Syracuse in Sunday night's NCAA Division I Women's Lacrosse Championship at Stony Brook's Kenneth P. Lavalle Stadium, head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller took the first attempt at describing the depth of Smith's excellence across the last four years.
“She's like part of my family,” Amonte Hiller said, smiling. “She'll always be a part of my family.”
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Amonte Hiller knew Smith since her childhood days growing up in West Babylon, N.Y., some 27 miles from Stony Brook. After recruiting her, she molded the senior attacker into a great collegiate career, a player who's graceful gifts were on display one last time under the bright lights Sunday night.
From being bottled up for much of the first half, a four-minute span provided a fitting snapshot of Smith's four years at Northwestern (21-2). After a quick pass off a free-position play that led to a tying goal, she used a brilliant move after appearing stalled by a Syracuse (19-4) defender – juking left, then right, then left again, before stepping right and firing a wicked one-hopper off the turf -- to snap a 4-4 deadlock just 2:31 before intermission.
All told, it was just another night of excellence for Smith, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player to no one's surprise. Following a four-assist performance in the semifinals against Maryland, she contributed two goals and two assists to the Wildcats' latest championship victory.
After Amonte Hiller finished, junior Taylor Thornton and sophomore Alyssa Leonard echoed their coach's sentiments.
“She's a phenomenal leader,” Thornton said.
Added Leonard: “To get to play two years with her is truly an honor.”
Although Thornton and Erin Fitzgerald ultimately produced the scores that snapped a 6-6 tie and ensured Northwestern's latest national championship, ultimately the story was Smith's final hour as a collegiate star.
As it is, Smith ended her career as the Wildcats' leader in goals scored (254) while ranking second in points (360) and third in assists (108).
On the NCAA all-time leaderboard, the senior star ranked eighth in points and ninth in goals. Her best work clearly came in championship games, as she wrapped her career rated second in points (58) and third in goals (39) in tournament contests.
Best of all, she will depart with three national championship wins .
“Right now, I'm probably on Cloud Nine. It won't hit me I'm not playing lacrosse anymore until September when I'm not going back to Northwestern with these girls sitting next to me,” Smith said. “To end my career where it started back here on Long Island, not a lot of people get to do that.”
Then again, not many people get to enjoy the career Shannon Smith enjoyed at Northwestern.