Following an undefeated regular season during which they dominated nearly every team they played, Sunday afternoon was more of the same, as No. 2 Northwestern faced Denver in the second-round of the NCAA Women’s Lacrosse tournament and rolled to a 19-4 victory.
The ‘Cats scored more goals against the Pioneers than any team had this season, highlighted by Junior Izzy Scane’s 8 goals, which officially led her to break the school’s single-season scoring record at 89, and in only 14 games.
“I think it just gives tribute to the amazing coaching and amazing players I’ve played with for the last couple of years,” Scane said on breaking the record. “I think all the credit goes to them, and make me the player I am today and opening up all those opportunities to score goals all season.”
As well, Northwestern was able to spread out the scoring to several players throughout the squad, a testament to their NCAA-best offense, having so many players who serve as threats to opponents and are able to score effectively.
“When you have seven girls on the offensive side that are threats and can move the ball so well and play so well together, it’s going to be really hard for defenses to stop, all around the country,” Scane said.
Denver came out aggressive on the defense, holding Scane only to 3 goals in the first half. Senior Lauren Gilbert added three, and Sophomore Erin Coykendall notched two and six assists.
Another outstanding statistic that contributed to the ‘Cats offense was Senior Jill Girardi in the draw circle, winning 12 draw controls to tie her career-high and adding five turnovers forced.
At the half, Northwestern was up five for a score of 9-4. But after the break, the ‘Cats exploded for a 10-0 run during which Scane tallied five of her eight total goals, including three consecutive goals within the 12-9 minute marks of the second half.
For Northwestern, Denver marks their first non-conference opponent and win of the season. While many in the sports community may not tab the Big Ten as a dominant conference for women’s lacrosse, the ‘Cats certainly made a statement with this win. It was the largest margin of victory by any team in this second round of the tournament.
“There’s still a lot of doubt with our team out there,” Head Coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller said. “It’s up to us to go out there and do our best every game and kind of show what our team is all about. Today was the first step, and next week when we go out and play will be the next step.”
Junior goalkeeper Madison Doucette also had a strong defensive record, tallying seven saves and allowing only four goals, the fewest she’s given up all season.
This game was also the first that the ‘Cats have played in two weeks, the last of which was on May 2 in the Big Ten Conference Finals. Since then, the team has had time to recover and adjust to gear up in the NCAA Tournament, as they showed no signs of rust inside Martin Stadium during the blowout victory.
“I didn’t think that we played as fearless as we could in the Big Ten tournament,” Amonte-Hiller said. “That was our main focus these last two weeks, is just going out there and playing fearless and not worrying about the stakes.”
Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse will host the Duke Blue Devils at home this coming weekend in a quarterfinal matchup on Saturday, May 22. The ‘Cats played Duke last year before the pandemic cut the season short, defeating them 24-20 in Durham.