Amonte Hiller's Accolades
Nine-time NCAA Champion (seven as coach, two as player)
Five-time IWLCA National Coach of the Year
Seven-time American Lacrosse Conference Coach of the Year
Record-holder, NCAA Tournament wins and winning percentage (32-2, .941)
2012 U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Inductee
2009 Italian-American Hall of Fame Inductee
18 former players or assistants coaching in Division I women's lacrosse
Two-time NCAA National Player of the Year (1995, 1996)
1996 ACC Female Athlete of the Year
Three-time participant in IFWLA World Cup
2005 All-World Team selection
Back in May of 2005, Kelly Amonte Hiller etched her name in the annals of college athletics when she guided her upstart Northwestern team to an undefeated season and the first lacrosse NCAA Championship ever won by a team outside the Eastern time zone.
Since then, Amonte Hiller has turned what was an etching in the NCAA record books into one of the most stunning, compelling and awe-inspiring chapters ever written on the topic.
After resurrecting a Northwestern program that had not competed at the varsity level in more than 10 years, Amonte Hiller has led the Wildcats to a remarkable seven women's lacrosse national championships in the last eight years, tying an NCAA record with eight straight title game appearances in the process. Northwestern's dominance since its breakthrough 2004 season has been nothing short of legendary: a 183-12 (.938) overall record, eight American Lacrosse Conference championships and a 32-2 (.942) record in NCAA Tournament play, making Amonte Hiller the winningest coach in Tournament history.
Along the way, Amonte Hiller has produced the nation's Tewaaraton Award winner in five different seasons as well as the Honda Sports Award recipient on seven occasions. Northwestern has featured 41 IWLCA All-Americans in Amonte Hiller's tenure and won a total of 11 IWLCA positional Player of the Year awards (two attacker, five midfielder and four defender) in the last eight seasons.
Amonte Hiller's stunning success as the architect of the Northwestern Lacrosse program comes on the heels of one of the most outstanding playing careers the sport has ever seen. The Massachusetts native won back-to-back national player of the year awards while starring for the University of Maryland, and continued her career as a standout for the United States National Team for nearly a decade. In 2012, Amonte Hiller reached the pinnacle of her sport when she was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame in recognition of her achievements as a player.
Northwestern's rapid rise to national prominence under Amonte Hiller -- particularly in an area of the country that had never before seen such success in women's lacrosse -- has caught the eyes of many, in and out of lacrosse. In 2011, ESPN The Magazine named Amonte Hiller one of the 20 best recruiters across all college sports, joining the likes of other multiple-time NCAA champion coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (men's basketball) and Anson Dorrance of North Carolina (women's soccer). In 2012, the Big Ten Network profiled the NU head coach as one of 12 Big Ten coaching icons in the conference's history, putting her in the company of Big Ten legends such as Bobby Knight (Indiana), Bo Schembechler (Michigan) and Dan Gable (Iowa).
The 2011 and 2012 seasons each encapsulated all that Amonte Hiller brings to the table as head coach: strong recruiting, tireless preparation, in-season motivation and in-game strategy.
In 2011 -- a year in which it began the season without the title of defending national champion for the first time since 2005 -- Northwestern reeled off 12-straight victories to open its schedule, including five against top-10-ranked foes. After suffering two midseason losses, Amonte Hiller reinvented her team as the 'Cats went on to capture the ALC Tournament by avenging one of those losses against top-seeded Florida, 10-9, in the title game.
NU continued to peak at the right time, winning two of the most exciting games to be played on championship weekend in recent memory. The 'Cats used a Shannon Smith goal with 18 seconds remaining to down No. 3 North Carolina in the semifinals, 11-10, and then used a flawless defensive game plan to hold off top-ranked Maryland in the championship game, 8-7, avenging its 2010 title game loss to the Terps and bringing the trophy back to Evanston.
Following the season, Shannon Smith became the third different player under Amonte Hiller to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as well as the Lacrosse Honda Sports award as the nation's top player. Additionally, Amonte Hiller coached freshman Alyssa Leonard -- who was in just her third year playing lacrosse -- to ALC Rookie of the Year honors and sophomore Taylor Thornton to IWLCA Defender of the Year laurels.
With a strong cast of returners in 2012, the Wildcats again played their best lacrosse down the stretch, rallying from a defeat to Florida in the ALC Championship game thanks to a renewed emphasis on the draw circle. NU edged Maryland and Syracuse on championship weekend in a pair of two-goal victories, keeping the trophy in Evanston for the seventh time in eight years.
Amonte Hiller took home her fifth IWLCA National Coach of the Year honor and seventh such recognition from the American Lacrosse Conference, while Thornton -- who in 2012 added a consistent scoring threat to her already impenetrable defense -- collected the Honda Sports Award as the nation's top player as well as ALC Player of the Year accolades.
Amonte Hiller came to Evanston to resurrect a program that was one of the nation's best during its initial existence (1982-92). Though the 2002 season was NU's first as a varsity program, Amonte Hiller got a bit of a head start in 2001 when she handled the Wildcat club program for a year while setting about on the recruiting trail. Under her guidance, Northwestern's club team went 19-1 during the regular-season, won the Women's Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL) tournament title for the first time, and advanced to the United States Lacrosse Intercollegiate Association (USLIA) Women's Club Championships in St. Louis.
Once NU's varsity odyssey began in earnest in 2002, Amonte Hiller's roster featured 15 freshmen and four sophomores -- two of whom had never played lacrosse -- but fought its way to a 5-10 record in their first varsity season since 1992. In addition to their two conference wins, the women also put a scare into Johns Hopkins and Penn State, teams that were ranked nationally at the time of their meeting with NU.
The 2003 season saw more improvement, both in record and on the field. Despite the unexpected loss of the top returning scorer from the previous year due to injury, the 'Cats jumped out to a 5-0 start en route to an 8-8 campaign. Along the way, they collected their first win over a ranked opponent (8-6 over No. 19 Connecticut on April 6) and even earned a spot in the Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll themselves.
Northwestern went 15-3 in 2004 making it the perfect compliment to a program that made a quantum leap from its second year to its third. The Wildcats posted a then-school-record 13-game winning streak, ranked as high as sixth in the IWLCA national coaches poll, and advanced to the NCAA tournament. Northwestern hosted a first-round game against Notre Dame, beating the Irish 10-8 for their second win of the season over their rivals from South Bend. Following that, the 'Cats traveled to Virginia to meet the second-seeded Cavaliers in a quarterfinal-round game. NU hung tight throughout, but Virginia, who would eventually win the national title, pulled away from an 8-8 tie to gain a 15-11 victory.
Following the 2004 season Amonte Hiller was named National Coach of the Year by both Inside Lacrosse and WomensLacrosse.com, as well as Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year by the IWLCA in what proved to be just a foreshadowing of what was to come.
In addition to its success nationally, Northwestern also made a huge step in the ALC. Picked to finish fifth in a preseason poll of the conference coaches, the Wildcats instead went 5-1, with the only loss coming in the regular-season finale to Vanderbilt (10-9 in overtime) which forced the two teams to share the conference crown. NU led the ALC in scoring offense and scoring defense, and Kristen Kjellman was named ALC Rookie of the Year and joined by five teammates on the All-ALC teams. For the team's collective success, Amonte Hiller was named the ALC Coach of the Year.
Then came the magical 2005 season which sent her original recruits out as seniors exactly the way they wanted to: as national champions. Arguably the most amazing story in women's lacrosse history, the Wildcats became the first team outside the Eastern time zone to earn a No. 1 ranking in the IWLCA poll in late March, and a little more than two months later they justified that ranking in the NCAA Championship by defeating Mount St. Mary's, Princeton, Dartmouth and Virginia en route to the first NCAA lacrosse title at any level, male or female, by a team outside the Eastern Time Zone. In the end, Northwestern finished 21-0 overall and was the only undefeated team in NCAA Division I in 2005.
As a further sign of their dominance, the 'Cats led the nation in scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin and draw controls per game. As a result, Amonte Hiller was named the IWLCA National Coach of the Year as well as the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year.
In American Lacrosse Conference play, NU not only went 6-0 in rolling to its first outright title, but the Wildcats also set the record for conference goals in a season (98) while shattering the conference mark for fewest goals allowed (28). At the end of the ALC season, Northwestern was honored with the Player of the Year (Kjellman) and the Goalie of the Year (Ashley Gersuk), and Amonte Hiller was named Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Entering 2006 as defending national champions, the Wildcats went 20-1 en route to their second straight title. The 'Cats won the ALC again and Kjellman became the first player from a non-East Coast school to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation's top player. The Wildcats then entered the 2007 season, undoubtedly, with a target on their backs. But Amonte Hiller's squad was up to the task, going 21-1, winning their fourth-straight ALC crown and third NCAA title in the process. Kristen Kjellman took home her second Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation's top player, becoming the first player to win the award twice.
The Wildcats shattered several school and NCAA records in the process with 361 goals, 168 assists, 529 points and a 16.4 goals-per-game average. Amonte Hiller picked up her fourth-straight ALC Coach of the Year honor in the process while Kjellman took home Player of the Year and Morgan Lathrop won Goalie of the Year. She had six players receive All-America status, the most of any school and tying the program record for the most All-Americans in a single season.
2008 simply added to Amonte Hiller's reputation after guiding her Wildcats to a 21-1 record, a fifth-straight American Lacrosse Conference title and solidifying Northwestern's status as a dynasty with its fourth-straight NCAA national championship. She also eclipsed the 100-victory mark in just her 123rd game on the Wildcat sideline.
She watched as Nielsen became the second Wildcat to take home the Tewaaraton Trophy, keeping the sport's most prestigious award in Evanston for the then-third straight year. Amonte Hiller then saw four of her players earn All-American honors, bringing the total to 12 Wildcats with 22 All-American honors.
But even after the season ended, the accolades continued to pour in for Amonte Hiller. She was named the IWLCA National Coach of the Year for the second time, and was named Lacrosse Magazine's Person of the Year. Amonte Hiller earned induction into the Maryland Athletics and Italian-American Sports Halls of Fame, and earned the Bob Voigts Coach of the Year award for the third time, given annually to the top head coach at Northwestern University (which she won for the fourth time in 2009). She was even the focus of a Sports Illustrated feature story chronicling the Wildcats' rise to the top of the collegiate lacrosse world.
Any doubts as to the impact Amonte Hiller has had on the national lacrosse scene were wiped away in 2009 as her Wildcats ran undefeated through their 23-game schedule, culminating with a 21-7 rout of North Carolina in the NCAA championship game. Northwestern set NCAA records for points (570) and goals (407) in a season, while leading the nation in scoring offense (17.6 goals per game), scoring margin (10.83 goals per game) and draw controls (16.91 per game) while also finishing the year with the nation's second-ranked defense (6.83 goals per game).
Another successful season brought in a handful of accolades for the Wildcats. Hannah Nielsen was named the Tewaaraton Trophy winner for the second-straight season, marking the fourth consecutive year the award has resided in Evanston. She was also named the Lacrosse Honda Sports Award winner for the second time as well as the Player of the Year by a handful of organizations. Six of her Wildcats were honored as IWLCA All-Americans, bringing the total to 28, with Amonte Hiller being named the IWLCA Coach of the Year for the second-straight year and third time in her career.
In 2010, Amonte Hiller coached the Wildcats to another 20-win season, finishing the year 20-2 with a sixth-consecutive trip to the NCAA championship game. Despite coming up short in the title game, the accomplishments of the 2010 Wildcats cannot be overlooked, including a seventh-straight American Lacrosse Conference championship. Northwestern also established itself as the top offensive team in the country once again, leading the nation in points (488), goals per game (16.59), scoring margin (7.77 goals per game) and draw controls (17.27). Amonte Hiller received ALC Coach of the Year honors for the sixth time.
While at Maryland, Amonte Hiller was a four-time All-America in lacrosse under former NU head coach Cindy Timchal, ending her career as the school's all-time record holder for career goals (187), assists (132) and points (319, 70 more than second place). In addition, Amonte Hiller also earned All-America accolades in soccer for the Terrapins and was named the ACC Female Athlete of the Year in 1996 for all sports. She graduated from Maryland in 1996 with a bachelor's degree in speech communication.
In 2002, Amonte Hiller was named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary Women's Lacrosse Team. In 2006, she was named to the NCAA Division I 25th Anniversary Women's Lacrosse Team. In 2000, Amonte Hiller was ranked 21st by Sports Illustrated on its list of Massachusetts' Greatest Sports Figures of the 20th century, a list that included names such as Rocky Marciano, Doug Flutie and Patrick Ewing.
Amonte Hiller's Hall-of-Fame playing legacy extends to the national program as well. She was a member of the national team for more than a decade, including the U.S. Women's Elite Team beginning in 1997, and won IFWLA World Cup titles with the Elite Team in 1997 and 2001. Her last appearance in the World Cup in 2005 saw her garner All-World Team recognition in Annapolis, Md., where the U.S. finished second to Australia.
In the four years before her arrival at Northwestern, Amonte Hiller held three different assistant coaching posts at the collegiate level. During the 1997 and 1998 seasons, she served as the assistant women's lacrosse coach at Brown. In 1999, Amonte Hiller served in a similar capacity at the University of Massachusetts. In 2000, again as an assistant, she helped guide Boston University to its first top-10 ranking and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Amonte Hiller has three siblings, including Tony who was a former captain of the Chicago Blackhawks in the National Hockey League. He also played the silver medal-winning United States team at the 2002 Olympic Games. Amonte Hiller's husband, Scott, holds a law degree from Suffolk (Mass.). A lacrosse standout during his playing days at the University of Massachusetts, he served as the general manager of the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse three years after serving as head coach of the Boston Cannons the four seasons prior.
Kelly resides in Evanston with her husband, Scott, and daughters Harlee and Lew.