Feb. 22, 2013
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern seniors Taylor Thornton (Dallas, Texas/Hockaday School) and Erin Fitzgerald (Mt. Sinai, N.Y./Mt. Sinai) and junior Alyssa Leonard (Bay Shore, N.Y./Bay Shore) were named Friday to the preseason watch list for the prestigious Tewaaraton Award, presented annually to the nation's top female and male lacrosse players.
A 2012 finalist for the honor, Thornton appears on the Tewaaraton Award watch list for the third straight year while Fitzgerald and Leonard each earned the award's preseason recognition for the first time in their respective careers.
A total of 50 players from across Division I women's lacrosse were named to the watch list. Now in its 13th year, the Tewaaraton Award will narrow its list of candidates to 25 in late April and, before the start of the NCAA Tournament, announce five finalists on both the men's and women's sides.
"The national reach of quality players is evident in this list, with players from all regions of the country, along with a strong group of eight former winners and finalists," said Jeff Harvey, chairman of The Tewaaraton Foundation. "As the season unfolds, we are excited for another deserving group of Tewaaraton Award candidates to emerge."
Thornton earned a place among the five Tewaaraton finalists a year ago thanks to extraordinary performances at both ends of the field, scoring 33 goals to more than double her output from the 2011 season, tying the NU single-season record with 58 ground balls and ranking second on the team with 71 draw controls. Thornton, the 2012 Lacrosse Honda Sports Award winner and ALC Player of the Year, scored the game-winning goal in the 2012 NCAA championship game and already has found the back of the net four times in two games this season.
Fitzgerald earned first-team IWLCA All-American distinction as a junior, scoring a career-best 56 goals and 65 points to help drive the Wildcats attack. She converted on better than 47 percent of shot attempts and tallied nine goals in Northwestern's four NCAA Tournament games, giving her 135 career goals entering her senior campaign.
One of the nation's leading draw control specialists, Leonard has consistently swayed games in NU's favor and was a force during the 2012 NCAA Tournament with 26 draw controls in four games. Leonard has since begun her junior campaign in impressive fashion, matching an NCAA single-game record with 15 draw controls at USC on Feb. 9 to move into second place all-time at Northwestern (205) and join the NCAA's career leaders.
Northwestern has had three players win the coveted Tewaaraton Award a total of five times under head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller: Kristen Kjellman (2006, 2007), Hannah Nielsen (2008, 2009) and Shannon Smith (2011).
The top-ranked Wildcats continue their season tonight (Friday) at 6 p.m. when they face No. 5 North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
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