May 2, 2012
EVANSTON, Ill. -- Northwestern received two of the top annual honors doled out by the American Lacrosse Conference on Wednesday. NU junior midfielder Taylor Thornton (Dallas, Texas/Hockaday School), one of the top all-around talents in collegiate women's lacrosse, earned the league's 2012 Player of the Year, while 11th-year head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller took home her seventh career ALC Coach of the Year honor.
Thornton, who becomes the fourth different Wildcat in program history to earn the league's top honor but the first who plays primarily on the defensive end, also earned her second straight first-team All-ALC recognition and her third overall. She joined two members of the Wildcat attack -- junior Erin Fitzgerald (Mt. Sinai, N.Y./Mt. Sinai) and senior Shannon Smith (West Babylon, N.Y/West Babylon) -- as Northwestern's representatives on the first team. Smith is a three-time first-team All-ALC selection while Fitzgerald picked up her first career all-conference laurel.
Along with Thornton, Northwestern also landed two more members of its defense on the second-team All-ALC roster, with senior Alex Frank (Westwood, Mass./Westwood) notching her fourth career all-league honor and fellow senior Lacey Vigmostad (Northport, N.Y./Northport) earning her first distinction.
Thornton's do-it-all mentality on the lacrosse field was a catalyst for the Wildcats' 16-1 regular season, filling the stat sheet with a career-best 23 goals and a conference-best 42 ground balls. The 2011 national defender of the year also is second on NU with 56 draw controls -- setting a single-game career high with nine in a dramatic 13-12 overtime win for the Wildcats against Ohio State on March 31 -- and also is second on the squad with 22 caused turnovers.
Thornton joins Kristen Kjellman (2005, 2006, 2007), Hannah Nielsen (2008, 2009) and Katrina Dowd (2010) as Wildcats who have been recognized as the league's top performer.
As she has done throughout her career, Amonte Hiller pushed all the right buttons for the Wildcats during the 2012 regular season, keeping NU at the top of the national rankings from wire-to-wire. Her squad ranks second in the country in scoring defense and fifth in scoring margin despite playing the nation's second-toughest schedule, posting a 7-1 record against top-10 opponents. NU was near impossible to beat in close games, going 2-0 in overtime contests and winning four out of five games in which it trailed or was tied at halftime.
The reigning Tewaaraton Award winner, Smith again paced the NU attack with 76 points and 56 goals while climbing into the top three all-time at Northwestern in both categories. Fitzgerald has been equally important to the Wildcats' offensive efforts, with a career-best 44 goals, including a 17-of-30 success rate on free position attempts.
Frank took on a defensive role during her senior season and executed her job to perfection, causing a team-best 29 turnovers -- moving into second in school history in that category -- and winning 32 ground balls. Vigmostad, a four-year starter on the NU defensive unit, has scored nine goals, scooped up 32 ground balls and caused 22 turnovers while providing lock-down one-on-one coverage for NU.
Penn State's Dana Cahill was named the ALC Goalie of the Year while Florida's Nora Barry was tabbed as the league's top newcomer.
The 2012 American Lacrosse Conference Tournament, hosted by the University of Florida, begins Thursday in Gainesville. Second-seeded Northwestern begins play in the semifinals against the winner of a first-round matchup between Penn State and Johns Hopkins.
ALC All-Conference Honors
Player of the Year: Taylor Thornton, Northwestern
Goalie of the Year: Dana Cahill, Penn State
Rookie of the Year: Nora Barry, Florida
Coach of the Year: Kelly Amonte Hiller, Northwestern
2012 ALC All-Conference Teams
Dana Cahill, Penn State
Gabby Capuzzi, Ohio State
Ally Carey, Vanderbilt
Lizzy Carney, Penn State
Kitty Cullen, Florida
Taylor D'Amore, Johns Hopkins
Brittany Dashiell, Florida
Sam Farrell, Florida
Erin Fitzgerald, Northwestern
Alayna Markwordt, Ohio State
Shannon Smith, Northwestern
Taylor Thornton, Northwestern
Nora Barry, Florida
Paige Cahill, Vanderbilt
Tatum Coffey, Penn State
Kirsten Donahue, Ohio State
Alex Frank, Northwestern
Alyssa Kildare, Johns Hopkins
Colleen McCaffrey, Johns Hopkins
Maggie McCormick, Penn State
Mikey Meagher, Florida
Lacey Vigmostad, Northwestern
Gabi Weigand, Florida
Theresa Zichelli, Penn State
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