Sports Illustrated will announce its choice for Sportsman of the Year on Dec. 4. Below are some personal choices for that honor by SI writers.
11/20/2006 01:27:00 PM
My Sportswoman: Kelly Amonte
With Kelly Amonte as coach, the Northwestern women's lacrosse team won its second consecutive NCAA title last spring.
By Julia Morrill
The first memory I have of my choice for Sportswoman of the Year is actually one of humiliation -- not admiration. It was 10 years ago, when I was a sophomore attack wing on the Dartmouth College women's lacrosse team and Kelly Amonte -- arguably the best women's lax player of all time -- started at center for the top-ranked University of Maryland. That day, as if the Terps weren't dominant enough, Amonte topped off her virtuoso performance with a bit of lacrosse showmanship: "The Hidden Ball Trick."
Here's what happened: Picture Amonte cradling the ball at the top of the arc, ready to fire at our goalie. Picture me and a fellow Dartmouth player desperately trying to double-team Amonte. Another Terp ran toward her, and Amonte appeared to flip the ball to her teammate. But what we didn't realize was that Amonte kept the ball. Tricked and confused, we chased the other teammate and Amonte scored on a wide-open goal.
Amonte and I crossed paths 10 years later again thanks to her remarkable work as the coach of the Northwestern women's lacrosse team. In 2006, the Wildcats -- the team she revived from club status just four years ago -- finished 20-1 and defeated Dartmouth (yes, Dartmouth) in the NCAA finals to win a second consecutive national championship. In doing so, the team became the first in school history to win back-to-back NCAA titles.
Even more admirable is what Amonte has accomplished in her life off the field. Two years ago, she befriended a 9-year-old girl, Jaclyn Murphy, who was diagnosed with a malignant and life-threatening brain tumor. Today, Murphy is a super fan for the Northwestern women's lacrosse team. The players send her weekly text messages, e-mails and packages -- last week, they posted videos on YouTube wishing Murphy well for her upcoming MRI. Amonte has collaborated with a former assistant, who is now the head coach at UMass, to plan a benefit game this spring for Murphy's Web site, friendsofjaclyn.org.
I called Amonte last week. She lives in Evanston, Ill., with her husband, Scott Hiller (a co-president of the defending Major League Lacrosse champion Baltimore Bayhawks), and she gave birth to a baby girl two weeks ago. I felt obliged to remind her of my moment of infamy: "Do you remember me? I was the Dartmouth player you duped with the Hidden Ball Trick?" She was gracious and credited her teammate.
"I was surprised we could do it," she said. "We tried it again after that, but it never worked as well."
Like a true Sportsman of the Year, she was trying to make me feel better. But I realized this meant I was the only player in college lacrosse gullible enough for the Hidden Ball Trick. It was a bitter pill to swallow.