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Former Northwestern star Shannon Smith hopes to lift Hofstra's game as coach

Hofstra University women's lacrosse head coach Shannon Smith,

Hofstra University women's lacrosse head coach Shannon Smith, left, works with midfielder Lauren Chandler during team practice held at Shuart Stadium. (Jan. 31, 2013) Credit: James Escher

Hofstra's Lindsey Alfano watched Shannon Smith help the Northwestern women's lacrosse team win the NCAA title nine months ago.

Now Smith, 22, is Alfano's coach -- the nation's youngest Division I women's lacrosse coach.

"Seeing her on the field, then seeing her in an office setting is so different,'' said Alfano, a freshman defender from Hauppauge who joined her former high school teammates to watch the women's tournament at Stony Brook last May.

"Going to the NCAAs with my team, watching her play was just awesome,'' she continued. "It's exciting knowing my game of lacrosse was going to be stepped up so much because of the knowledge and experience that she has. She's so fresh. Being so young, she knows what has to get done. She knows exactly what our team has to do.''

Smith, who starred at West Babylon High School before leading Northwestern to three NCAA titles in four seasons, was planning to attend graduate school at Hofstra when she learned the coaching job was available.

Age was never a factor. "They're my players, I'm their coach,'' she said. "That's the way it's been from Day 1. There's just a respect level there right away.''

Sophomore attack Brittain Altomere agreed. "Respect-wise, there's never an issue,'' she said. "Shannon's our head coach, she's still my superior. I think it's an amazing opportunity for all of us to know what it's like to play at the next level. Shannon definitely brings a national championship mind-set. She knows what it takes to beat the top teams. She's doing a good job of bringing that back to Hofstra.''

The Hofstra women's team, which has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 2007, was 5-12 last season. Smith wants to change that. "It's getting my mind-set into these kids, getting them believing that there's going to be a winning tradition here,'' she said. "Losing's not an option.''

Patience will be needed on a roster that has no players near the ability level of Smith, who won the 2011 Tewaaraton Award as the top female player in the country. "I'm not going to make anyone into a Shannon Smith,'' she said. "I don't expect anyone to be a Shannon Smith. We are going to strive to want to be great this year. It's going to take a good two to three years to really build the type of program that we've reached for here. I just need all 31 to do what they are great at. You don't need 31 star players. It will be very easy for me to relate to them as players. I was in that position for four years. I was in their shoes.''

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