Season Recap: Lacrosse

By Kikue Higuchi

Season Statistics

Overall Record: 15-1

Home Record: 9-0

Away Record: 5-0

Neutral Record: 1-1

Most Points: Izzy Scane (124)

Most Goals: Izzy Scane (98)

Most Assists: Erin Coykendall (44)

Most Draw Controls: Brennan Dwyer (89)

Most Caused Turnovers: Jill Girardi (19)

Season Overview

The dominance of Northwestern’s lacrosse program under Kelly Amonte Hiller is unquestionable, especially after a record-breaking season in 2021. For the second year in a row, Northwestern led the nation in scoring offense, setting an NCAA single-season record with 20.12 goals per game. With a Big Ten Regular Season Championship, a Big Ten Tournament Championship and a trip to the Final Four under their belts, the Wildcats will enter next season with plenty of experience and a ton of hardware. 

The themes for this Northwestern team in their 2021 season were confidence and playing fearless. Lauren Gilbert described this team as having an unwavering will to win after their second-round win over Duke in the NCAA tournament. No matter how many times they went down or how many close calls they had, the ‘Cats always seemed to be able to pull out a win — and by a large margin too. A signature of this Wildcat offense was their ability to build off one another and create huge runs that put the game out of reach for their opponents. The Wildcats were second in the nation in scoring margin, sitting at 9.25 goals per game. 

Despite their confidence and drive to win, Northwestern’s postseason run was cut short by a heart-wrenching loss to Syracuse. Down 10-4 in the first half, the Wildcats seemed to be in a bad position; but for a team that had already made an eight-point comeback in their previous game against Duke, it didn’t seem to be anything they couldn’t handle. But as more Syracuse goals hit the scoreboard, there was no signature Wildcat run, and finally, the clock ticked down to zero. 

The question now becomes how Amonte Hiller will respond to their loss against Syracuse– will she be working on her defensive scheme or shoring up her offense to make them even more unstoppable? As the seasons pass, it seems to be trending towards the latter and with pieces like Izzy Scane, Lauren Gilbert and Erin Coykendall in her tool kit, it will be easy for Amonte Hiller to create a seamless offense that breaks its own records. 

MVP: Izzy Scane

Scane is the undisputed MVP on this Wildcat roster. Her 98 goals in just 16 games make her the NCAA all-time record holder in goals per game at 6.12. In fact, Scane only had four games this season where she scored less than five goals but had six games where she scored eight or more. She also set a new program single-game goal record in Northwestern’s first match-up with Rutgers where she put away ten shots. However, she was not always the one taking the ball to the net. A huge point of improvement for Scane was not her sheer goal output in the 2021 season but how she has enhanced her playmaking. She notched 26 assists on the season, second among the Wildcats behind Coykendall.

The 2021 season was nothing short of record-breaking and earned Scane numerous accolades. For her dominance in conference play, she was named Big Ten Attacker of the Year, earned a spot on the first-team All Big Ten roster and earned five Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors. She ended the 2021 season being named to the IWCLA First Team All-American honors after earning IWCLA weekly honors for her nine-point performance in her first game of the season against Ohio State. 

Scane is currently one of 36 players on the US training camp roster, which is building up to the 2022 World Championships in Towson. Her veteran experience training with the best players in the country will prove to be valuable in leading the Wildcat roster.

Key Contributors: Erin Coykendall, Lauren Gilbert & Jill Girardi

An all Big Ten First-Team member, Gilbert posted 66 goals on the season, second in the Big Ten (just behind Scane) and top ten in the nation. Gilbert led Northwestern to two victories over Penn State with a 13-goal performance powered by a five-of-five performance in free-position shooting. Gilbert notched 23 of Northwestern’s 79 free-position goals and ended the season with 0.67 free-position shooting percentage. Her dominance from the eight-meter mark often sparked the rest of the Northwestern offense with an easy, guaranteed goal. 

While Gilbert was taking on opposing goalies one-on-one, Coykendall was running the best scoring offense in the nation from behind the net. She posted 44 assists on the season, which led the Big Ten and made her one of the top ten distributors in Division I Lacrosse. Coykendall also posted 21 goals on the season, highlighting her ability and the chemistry she has cultivated among her teammates to both create plays and finish them.

Northwestern’s success was largely due to their offense, but one of the most crucial elements of the Wildcats’ offense was actually the draw. The opportunity to run their lethal offense was dependent on the draw and possession time. Jill Girardi was a crucial part of this effort, especially as the season progressed. She posted 69 draw controls and caused 19 turnovers, always getting the ball into the hands of her offense in crunch time. Girardi was particularly successful in the early rounds of the NCAA tournament, posting 12 draw controls and career-high five turnovers against Denver; single-handedly turning the tide of the game in Northwestern’s favor.

It’s hard to pick just a few standouts from what Amonte Hiller described as one of her deepest rosters. Both Sammy Mueller and Lindsey McKone, now a professional lacrosse player with Athletes Unlimited, are missing from this short list but were integral pieces in Northwestern’s high-powered offense that deserve recognition and contributed greatly to the ‘Cats’ 15-game win streak to start the season. 

First-year Star: Leah Holmes

Holmes played in all 16 games of the 2021 season and posted 21 goals. She was named Big Ten Freshman of the week twice after two-goal performances against Penn State and Michigan. As the season progressed her growing experience in Big Ten lacrosse began to pay off, and she notched two hat-tricks in the postseason, powering the Wildcats to wins over Rutgers and Duke. She has yet to earn a starting spot on the Northwestern roster, which has less to do with a lack of output on Holmes’ end but an abundance of talent amongst older members of the team. However, with the loss of goal-scorers like Mueller and McKone, she’ll be someone to look for next season.