Amonte Hiller’s Accolades
- Nine-time NCAA Champion (seven as coach, two as player)
- Five-time IWLCA National Coach of the Year
- Seven-time American Lacrosse Conference Coach of the Year
- Career coaching record of 229-40
- Record-holder, NCAA Tournament wins and winning percentage (36-4, .900)
- 2012 U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Inductee
- 2009 Italian-American Hall of Fame Inductee
- 18 former players or assistants coaching in Division I women’s lacrosse
- Two-time NCAA National Player of the Year (1995, 1996)
- 1996 ACC Female Athlete of the Year
- Three-time participant in IFWLA World Cup
- 2005 All-World Team selection
Back in May of 2005, Kelly Amonte Hiller etched her name in the annals of college athletics when she guided her upstart Northwestern team to an undefeated season and the first lacrosse NCAA Championship ever won by a team outside the Eastern time zone.
Since then, Amonte Hiller has turned what was an etching in the NCAA record books into one of the most stunning, compelling and awe-inspiring chapters ever written on the topic.
After resurrecting a Northwestern program that had not competed at the varsity level in more than 10 years, Amonte Hiller has led the Wildcats to a remarkable seven women’s lacrosse national championships in the last 10 years, reaching the national semifinals 10 years in a row from 2004 to 2014 and tying an NCAA record with eight straight title game appearances in the process. Northwestern’s dominance since its breakthrough 2005 season has been nothing short of legendary: a 226-26 (.897) overall record, 10 American Lacrosse Conference championships and a 39-6 (.867) record in NCAA Tournament play, making Amonte Hiller the winningest coach in Tournament history.
Along the way, Amonte Hiller has produced the nation’s Tewaaraton Award winner in five different seasons as well as the Honda Sports Award recipient on seven occasions. Northwestern has featured 47 IWLCA All-Americans in Amonte Hiller’s tenure and won a total of 11 IWLCA positional Player of the Year awards (two attacker, five midfielder and four defender) in the last nine seasons. Most recently, the Wildcats featured Big Ten Freshman of the Year and IWLCA Second-Team All-American Selena Lasota. A member of the U-19 National Team, Lasota set a Northwestern single-season freshman scoring record with 69 goals to lead all freshman nationally.
Amonte Hiller’s stunning success as the architect of the Northwestern Lacrosse program comes on the heels of one of the most outstanding playing careers the sport has ever seen. The Massachusetts native won back-to-back national player of the year awards while starring for the University of Maryland, and continued her career as a standout for the United States National Team for nearly a decade. In 2012, Amonte Hiller reached the pinnacle of her sport when she was inducted into the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame in recognition of her achievements as a player.
Northwestern’s rapid rise to national prominence under Amonte Hiller — particularly in an area of the country rarely associated with women’s lacrosse — has caught the eyes of many, in and out of lacrosse. In 2011, ESPN The Magazine named Amonte Hiller one of the 20 best recruiters across all college sports, joining the likes of other multiple-time NCAA champion coaches Mike Krzyzewski of Duke (men’s basketball) and Anson Dorrance of North Carolina (women’s soccer). In 2012, the Big Ten Network profiled the NU head coach as one of 12 Big Ten coaching icons in the conference’s history, putting her in the company of Big Ten legends such as Bobby Knight (Indiana), Bo Schembechler (Michigan) and Dan Gable (Iowa).
Amonte Hiller was named to Crain’s Chicago Business’ prestigious “40 Under 40” list for the 2013 calendar year, paying tribute to her relentless efforts to grow participation in and visibility of women’s lacrosse at all levels in the Midwest.
The 2011 and 2012 championship seasons each encapsulated all that Amonte Hiller brings to the table as head coach: strong recruiting, tireless preparation, in-season motivation and in-game strategy.
In 2011 — a year in which it began the season without the title of defending national champion for the first time since 2005 — Northwestern reeled off 12-straight victories to open its schedule before suffering consecutive midseason losses that prompted Amonte Hiller to reinvent her team. After that, the ‘Cats would capture the ALC Tournament by avenging one of those losses against top-seeded Florida, and continued to peak entering NCAA Tournament play. On championship weekend, Northwestern downed No. 3 North Carolina in the semifinals, 11-10, and then used a flawless defensive game plan to hold off top-ranked Maryland in the championship game, 8-7, avenging its 2010 title game loss to the Terps and bringing the trophy back to Evanston.
Following the season, Shannon Smith became the third different player under Amonte Hiller to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as well as the Lacrosse Honda Sports award as the nation’s top player. Additionally, Amonte Hiller coached freshman Alyssa Leonard — who was in just her third year playing lacrosse — to ALC Rookie of the Year honors and sophomore Taylor Thornton to IWLCA Defender of the Year laurels.
With a strong cast of returners in 2012, the Wildcats again played their best lacrosse down the stretch, rallying from a defeat to Florida in the ALC Championship game thanks to a renewed emphasis on the draw circle. Returning to Stony Brook as the site of finals competition, NU edged Maryland and Syracuse on championship weekend in a pair of two-goal victories, keeping the trophy in Evanston for the seventh time in eight years.
Amonte Hiller took home her fifth IWLCA National Coach of the Year honor and seventh such recognition from the American Lacrosse Conference, while Thornton — who in 2012 added a consistent scoring threat to her already impenetrable defense — collected the Honda Sports Award as the nation’s top player as well as ALC Player of the Year accolades.
Amonte Hiller came to Evanston to resurrect a program that was one of the nation’s best during its initial existence (1982-92). Though the 2002 season was NU’s first as a varsity program, Amonte Hiller got a bit of a head start in 2001 when she handled the Wildcat club program for a year while setting about on the recruiting trail. Under her guidance, Northwestern’s club team went 19-1 during the regular-season, won the Women’s Collegiate Lacrosse League (WCLL) tournament title for the first time, and advanced to the United States Lacrosse Intercollegiate Association (USLIA) Women’s Club Championships in St. Louis.
Once NU’s varsity odyssey began in earnest in 2002, Amonte Hiller’s roster featured 15 freshmen and four sophomores — two of whom had never played lacrosse — but fought its way to a 5-10 record in their first varsity season since 1992.
The 2003 season saw more improvement, both in record and on the field. Despite the unexpected loss of the top returning scorer from the previous year due to injury, the ‘Cats jumped out to a 5-0 start en route to an 8-8 campaign. Along the way, they collected their first win over a ranked opponent (8-6 over No. 19 Connecticut on April 6) and earned a spot in the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) poll.
Northwestern’s meteoric rise continued in 2004 as the Wildcats finished 15-3, stood as high as sixth in the IWLCA national coaches poll and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the first time under Amonte Hiller. Northwestern hosted a first-round game against Notre Dame, beating the Irish 10-8 for their second win of the season over their rivals from South Bend. The ‘Cats then traveled to Virginia to meet the second-seeded Cavaliers in a quarterfinal-round game. NU hung tight throughout, but Virginia, who would eventually win the national title, pulled away from an 8-8 tie to gain a 15-11 victory.
Northwestern also made a huge step in the ALC, posting a 5-1 league mark and claiming a share of the conference title after being picked to finish fifth in the preseason poll. NU led the ALC in scoring offense and scoring defense, and Kristen Kjellman was named ALC Rookie of the Year and joined by five teammates on the All-ALC teams.
Following the 2004 season, Amonte Hiller was named National Coach of the Year by both Inside Lacrosse and WomensLacrosse.com, as well as Coach of the Year in the IWLCA Mid-Atlantic Region and in the American Lacrosse Conference.
Then came the magical 2005 season which sent her original recruits out as seniors exactly the way they wanted to: as national champions. One of the most amazing stories in women’s lacrosse history, the Wildcats became the first team outside the Eastern time zone to earn a No. 1 ranking in the IWLCA poll in late March, and a little more than two months later defended that ranking in the NCAA Championship by defeating Mount St. Mary’s, Princeton, Dartmouth and Virginia en route to the first NCAA lacrosse title at any level, male or female, by a team outside the Eastern Time Zone. In the end, Northwestern finished 21-0 overall and was the only undefeated team in NCAA Division I in 2005.
The undefeated ‘Cats led the nation in scoring offense, scoring defense, scoring margin and draw controls per game, again earning Amonte Hiller IWLCA National and Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year honors.
NU rolled to its first outright ALC crown with a 6-0 record and did so in dominant fashion, setting a record for goals in a conference season (98) while shattering the conference mark for fewest goals allowed (28). At the end of the ALC season, Northwestern was honored with the Player of the Year (Kjellman) and the Goalie of the Year (Ashley Gersuk), and Amonte Hiller was named Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season.
Entering 2006 as defending national champions, the Wildcats went 20-1 en route to their second straight title. The ‘Cats won the ALC again and Kjellman became the first player from a non-East Coast school to win the Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation’s top player.
Despite entering the 2007 season with a target on their backs, Amonte Hiller’s Wildcats were up to the task, going 21-1, winning their fourth-straight ALC crown and third NCAA title in the process. Kristen Kjellman took home her second Tewaaraton Trophy as the nation’s top player, becoming the first player to win the award twice.
The Wildcats shattered several school and NCAA records in 2007 with 361 goals, 168 assists, 529 points and a 16.4 goals-per-game average. Amonte Hiller picked up her fourth-straight ALC Coach of the Year honor, Kjellman took home Player of the Year accolades and Morgan Lathrop was named Goalie of the Year. Amonte Hiller had six players receive All-America status, the most of any school and tying the program record for the most All-Americans in a single season.
If there was any doubt remaining, Northwestern solidified its status as a dynasty in 2008 by posting a 21-1 record, a fifth-straight American Lacrosse Conference title and a remarkable fourth consecutive national championship. Amonte Hiller eclipsed the 100-victory mark in just her 123rd game on the Wildcats sideline and watched as Hannah Nielsen became the second Wildcat to take home the Tewaaraton Trophy.
In addition to once again earning IWLCA National Coach of the Year honors, Amonte Hiller was named Lacrosse Magazine’s Person of the Year and earned induction into both the Maryland Athletics and Italian-American Sports Halls of Fame in 2008.
In 2009, Amonte Hiller led the Wildcats on a Drive for Five that ended in an undefeated 23-0 season, culminating with a 21-7 rout of North Carolina in the NCAA championship game for a fifth straight NCAA championship. Northwestern set NCAA records for points (570) and goals (407) in a season, while leading the nation in scoring offense (17.6 goals per game), scoring margin (10.83 goals per game) and draw controls (16.91 per game) and ending the year with the nation’s second-ranked defense (6.83 goals per game).
Another successful season brought in a handful of accolades for the Wildcats. Hannah Nielsen was named the Tewaaraton Trophy winner for the second-straight season, marking a fourth straight year the award was handed out to a Wildcat. She was also named the Lacrosse Honda Sports Award winner for the second time as well as the Player of the Year by a handful of organizations. Six Wildcats were honored as IWLCA All-Americans and Amonte Hiller was named the IWLCA Coach of the Year for the second-straight year and third time in her career.
In 2010, Amonte Hiller coached the Wildcats to another 20-win season, finishing the year 20-2 with a sixth-consecutive trip to the NCAA championship game. Despite coming up short in the title game, the 2010 Wildcats were a team to remember, winning a seventh-straight ALC championship and leading the nation in points (488), goals per game (16.59), scoring margin (7.77 goals per game) and draw controls (17.27). Amonte Hiller received ALC Coach of the Year honors for the sixth time.
Following two more championship seasons in 2011 and 2012, the Wildcats returned to championship weekend for a ninth consecutive year in 2013, with senior All-Americans Thornton, Erin Fitzgerald and Gabriella Flibotte leading the charge. NU earned a three-way share of the American Lacrosse Conference regular season title before overcoming both Penn State and Florida — the two teams with whom the ‘Cats shared the crown — in winning the ALC Tournament for the sixth time in seven years. The 8-3 title game win over top-seeded Florida avenged a loss to the Gators during the regular season and represented the lowest single-game goal output in Florida’s four-year program history.
Amonte Hiller and the Wildcats took a much different route to completing their decade-long run of semifinal berths in 2014, enduring five one-goal defeats prior to the start of the NCAA Tournament en route to the event’s No. 5 seed. That left Northwestern needing a road win over No. 4 Florida in the quarterfinals to reach championship weekend — a victory that came in dramatic fashion when NU topped the Gators, 12-11, in overtime, again avenging two prior losses to UF.
The end of 2014 brought with it the conclusion of Amonte Hiller’s mentorship of All-American Alyssa Leonard, who graduated as the NCAA’s all-time leader in career draw controls, shattering the previous mark by more than 100.
In 2015, a new era in women’s lacrosse came into the fold: the Big Ten began a league of their own. Northwestern started their conference experience with freshman Selena Lasota, a native of Campbell River, British Columbia, Canada. Lasota’s finesse stick-work — representative of the style of play of box lacrosse, popular in her homeland — stunned the Wildcats’ opponents during their slate. After the season, Lasota was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year as well as earning numerous other national honors after leading the conference in goals while ranking second in points. In the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, Lasota was a co-captain of the gold medal-winning Canadian U-19 team at the FIL Women’s World Championship.
Northwestern finished 14-7 in 2015, making their way to the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament before falling to Maryland, who went on to win the championship. En route to that game, the ‘Cats beat such tough opponents as No. 7 Virginia, 6-5, and No. 5 Syracuse, 11-10.
The Wildcats battled through a series of injuries and adversity during the 2016 season to finish 11-10 overall and earn their 11th-consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament. Teetering near a .500 record all season, Amonte Hiller had the ’Cats primed for a postseason run when they hosted the 2016 Big Ten Tournament at Lanny and Sharon Martin Stadium. The hosts opened with back-to-back wins over Michigan, 20-5, and No. 10 Penn State, 9-6, to ensure a spot in the NCAA Tournament before narrowly falling to top-ranked Maryland in the Big Ten final, 12-9.
NU picked up NCAA Tournament victory No. 39 under Amonte Hiller with a 15-5 victory over Louisville in the first round, but fell to No. 6 Notre Dame in the second round for their earliest NCAA Tournament exit since 2004.
While at Maryland, Amonte Hiller was a four-time All-America in lacrosse under former NU head coach Cindy Timchal, ending her career as the school’s all-time record holder for career goals (187), assists (132) and points (319, 70 more than second place). In addition, Amonte Hiller also earned All-America accolades in soccer for the Terrapins and was named the ACC Female Athlete of the Year in 1996 for all sports. She graduated from Maryland in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication.
In 2002, Amonte Hiller was named to the ACC’s 50th Anniversary Women’s Lacrosse Team. In 2006, she was named to the NCAA Division I 25th Anniversary Women’s Lacrosse Team. In 2000, Amonte Hiller was ranked 21st by Sports Illustrated on its list of Massachusetts’ Greatest Sports Figures of the 20th century, a list that included names such as Rocky Marciano, Doug Flutie and Patrick Ewing.
Amonte Hiller’s Hall-of-Fame playing legacy extends to the national program as well. She was a member of the national team for more than a decade, including the U.S. Women’s Elite Team beginning in 1997, and won IFWLA World Cup titles with the Elite Team in 1997 and 2001. Her last appearance in the World Cup in 2005 saw her garner All-World Team recognition in Annapolis, Md., where the U.S. finished second to Australia.
In the four years before her arrival at Northwestern, Amonte Hiller held three different assistant coaching posts at the collegiate level. During the 1997 and 1998 seasons, she served as the assistant women’s lacrosse coach at Brown. In 1999, Amonte Hiller served in a similar capacity at the University of Massachusetts. In 2000, again as an assistant, she helped guide Boston University to its first top-10 ranking and an NCAA Tournament appearance.
Amonte Hiller has three siblings, including Tony who was a former captain of the Chicago Blackhawks in the National Hockey League. He also played the silver medal-winning United States team at the 2002 Olympic Games. Amonte Hiller’s husband, Scott, holds a law degree from Suffolk (Mass.). A lacrosse standout during his playing days at the University of Massachusetts, he served as the general manager of the Washington Bayhawks of Major League Lacrosse for three years after serving as head coach of the Boston Cannons the four seasons prior.
Kelly resides in Evanston with her husband and assistant coach, Scott, and daughters Harlee and Lew.