Summer 2012

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Shannon Smith surges toward the net against Massachusetts. She scored six goals in the Wildcats’ 19-7 win. The senior attacker led Northwestern to its second consecutive national title. Photo by Stephen J. Carrera.

Father Knows Best

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Tough love taught Shannon Smith the value of perseverance.

Shannon Smith’s junior year was something special. Last season the senior women’s lacrosse star set the Northwestern record for most goals in a single season with 86 and, in doing so, won the Tewaaraton Award, the highest honor in women’s lacrosse. (A Wildcat has won the Tewaaraton in five of the past six seasons.) She was also Academic All–Big Ten for the second year in a row and received the Suzy Favor Big Ten Female Athlete of the Year Award.

But her greatest accomplishment was in leading the Wildcats back to the mountaintop, as Northwestern avenged its national championship loss from the previous year by defeating Maryland 8-7 to win the team’s sixth title in seven seasons.

Of all her accomplishments, coming back from defeat was the most important to Smith. “I didn’t want to lose again,” she said. “I hate losing.”

That hatred for losing began on the basketball court with her father, Bill, who refused to ever let Shannon beat him when the two played.

“I always made (Shannon) work a little harder to try to get her to understand that nothing’s given to you just because someone feels sorry for you,” he said. “Just work harder, and one day it will pay off.”

After a lifetime of losses, Shannon made her breakthrough upon entering high school. She finally beat her dad at one-on-one, showing her perseverance at a young age.

“It was good to share that,” her father said. “She never had any quit in her. She would always drive for perfection.”

Her drive for perfection was on full display in the 2011 championship game, when Shannon scored four goals, including the eventual game winner with under five minutes to play. If she needed added incentive, her father was in attendance. The game took place at Stony Brook University, less than an hour from her hometown of West Babylon, N.Y.

“It made it that much sweeter to play in front of my family,” Smith said.

This spring Smith and her teammates returned to Stony Brook to claim Northwestern's second consecutive NCAA national championship and seventh title in eight years. For her part, the senior attacker put together another special campaign. With a team-leading 66 goals in 2012, she set the all-time Northwestern scoring mark with 256 career goals, a record held by Kristen Kjellman (C07) since 2007. Smith took home her second straight NCAA tournament MVP honor after a two-goal, two-assist performance in the championship game. Smith moved into second all-time in NCAA history with 58 points scored in NCAA tournament play.