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posted 06.06.2011 at 4.50 p.m. by Corey McLaughlin

Q-and-A: Tewaaraton Winner Shannon Smith

Before Shannon Smith took the Tewaaraton trophy back to Evanston, LaxMagazine.com caught up with the Northwestern junior attacker prior to the Tewaaraton ceremony at the Warner Theatre in downtown Washington, D.C., last Thursday night. The 10 Tewaaraton finalists — five men's and five women's — had just finished a dress rehearsal for the evening's events, and Smith was nice enough to take some time to talk about the Wildcats national championship season, and the team's future.

It's been a few days ... has it sunk in yet, winning the national title in front of your hometown crowd?

Not really. Every day me and my teammates talk about it, 'We just won the national championship.' The reason why it really hasn't sunk in yet is because it took a lot of effort for us to win that. We had such and up and down season and we had some left and right turns. To finish the way we did felt amazing. It showed that all of our hard work paid off. That feeling is going to stay with us the whole entire summer, and then in September, we're going to have to work hard and get back after it.

When you lost two games in a row to Florida and Johns Hopkins in the middle of the season, you said you took the losses personally. What did you mean by that? What did you do differently after that?

The biggest thing for me is I don't like losing. I don't take it well, and I think I knew our team had a lot more potential than what we were playing with, and we had to play more like a team. I thought that I had to put everything out there every day at practice, I had to put everything on the line out there, to show my teammates that I'm putting everything out there, and it's OK for them to do the same.

Our coaching staff did an excellent job of challenging us. They challenged the defense to play more aggressive and play more as a unit. They challenged the midfielders to be more defensive-minded instead of offensive-minded and I think they really bought into that. On attack, they stressed to us to play as a team, to move off ball, to work as one. It took us a little while, but we got there. Each day we focused more and each game we focused more, and it all built up and it paid off for us during the final four.

What was it like with the amount of younger players involved in this team? It seems like this group will be together for a little while.

I think it's amazing. We only lose five people. We had 11 freshmen this year, and it was a lot teaching on both the upperclassmen and the coaching and just showing them the ropes, going over a lot of lacrosse knowledge. It's going to be the same thing this upcoming year. We have 11 new freshmen coming in. It's going to be a lot of hard work. We're going to be a young team again next year. It's exciting for us and exciting for the coaching staff to look forward, but it's going to be what we make of it. If we're not going to work hard, we're not going to get far. I really believe in the group of girls we have on our team right now. The seniors are going to be greatly missed, but we have a good core coming back and we have a great group of incoming freshman. I'm really looking forward to our season.

How has meeting the other Tewaaraton finalists gone, and going through this rehearsal process?

It's been fun and a great experience. To share it with everybody is awesome. A couple of my family members are here and my teammates are here. I'm just taking it all in. These past two weeks have been unbelievable, and it's going to be a great memory in my life. The biggest thing is taking the whole experience in.