February 1, 2013

Thornton a Premier Offensive, Defensive Threat

Northwestern star is LM's WD1 preseason player of year

Taylor Thornton is a true two-way threat. "I can't put a title on it, of what I'm going to be, or what I'm going to do," she said.
© John Konstantaras

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter

Taylor Thornton can do it all. The Northwestern senior plays defense better than almost anyone else. (She was the IWLCA Defender of the Year in 2011.) She is fast and strong between the lines — the definition of a two-way midfielder.

"She has the skills, speed, intensity and fitness," Navy coach Cindy Timchal said. "She is the whole package, and is the finest defender in the game."

Thornton can shoot, too. She more than doubled her scoring with 33 goals in 2012. And she has an apparently unlimited capacity to learn and to improve. "Any time we give her something, she just wraps her arms around it and says, 'Great, no problem,'" Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said.

Now a senior, Thornton will take a few more steps on her journey from defense to offense. The graduation of Shannon Smith and the transfer of Casey Bocklet to Virginia left Northwestern's attack looking its thinnest in years.

Thornton, Gabriella Flibotte and Alyssa Leonard found their stride as a draw unit in the NCAA tournament. If they can bring the same dynamism over the restraining line on offense, it will go a long way toward keeping Northwestern in contention against high-scoring opponents like Syracuse and Florida.

"You can't even match up with one or two players on her. You actually need a whole system to stop her on attack," said Ohio State coach Alexis Venechanos, whose Buckeyes' held Thornton to just one goal in a 13-12 overtime loss.

Even against a scheme designed specifically to thwart her, Thornton found ways to contribute against Ohio State, including a career-high nine draw controls.

Venechanos compared Thornton to her former Maryland teammate Jen Adams. "Jen was able to dominate one end of the field. But Taylor's X-factor is on the draw, and playing close 'D' on the team's leading scorer. And now she's drawing the other team's best defender, too," Venechanos said. "Usually it's [just] one or two of those three things in a great player."

Thornton, a vivacious jokester off the field, is entertainingly cagey about what she'll do on the field to contribute to the Wildcats' three-peat attempt.

"High attack? Goalie? Referee? Who knows? I can't put a title on it, of what I'm going to be, or what I'm going to do," she said.

Some things are as sure as the sun rising in the East, though.

"I know that I'm working hard," Thornton said, "and good things are to come."

This article appears in the February issue of Lacrosse Magazine, the flagship publication of US Lacrosse. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse and its 400,000-plus members today to start your subscription.


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