The only accomplishment that pales in comparison to coach Kelly Amonte Hiller’s national championships is the number of coach of the year awards she has won. She made up some of the ground on Monday, securing the National Coach of the Year award for the fifth time in her career.
The honor, given by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association, is Amonte Hiller’s fourth recognition in five years. The Maryland graduate also won the award in 2005.
Amonte Hiller’s win comes off the Wildcats’ seventh national championship in the 2012 season. The Cats, playing in their eighth straight title game, defeated Syracuse 8-6 in a thrilling final in Stony Brook, N.Y.
NU’s season started with a staggering 14-game winning streak. The Cats finished the regular season with a 16-1 record, beating 12 ranked teams. The season included classic matches against North Carolina and Johns Hopkins, and a contest with Ohio State at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.
The 2012 season did not come without adversity, with NU losing twice to conference rival Florida, once at home and once in Gainesville, Fla. The Gators’ second win over the Cats in the American Lacrosse Conference championship game handed Amonte Hiller her first loss in the conference tournament.
But the Cats’ growth after the ALC loss proved a testament to Amonte Hiller’s coaching. NU defeated four top-ten teams en route to the national championship, and did not lose the draw control battle in any game along the way after Amonte Hiller famously made the scoreboard operators at Lakeside Field put 18-5 on the scoreboard during practice — the margin by which Florida won draw controls in the ALC title game.
NU also almost owned the distinction of producing two different Tewaaraton Award winners in back-to-back seasons. After Shannon Smith won in 2011, junior defender Taylor Thornton ended the season as a finalist for the award in 2012.