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Izzy Scane and Erin Coykendall named the top two women’s players in the NCAA by InsideLacrosse

We might be in the thick of winter sports right now, but it’s never too early to talk about The Lake Show.

Northwestern Athletics

Last week, the media outlet InsideLacrosse published its rankings for the top returning 50 players in women’s collegiate lacrosse. Five Northwestern players — junior midfielder Samantha Smith (no. 38), sophomore attacker Madison Taylor (no. 15), junior Samantha White (no. 8), graduate student attacker Erin Coykendall (no. 2), and graduate student attacker Izzy Scane (no. 1) — made the list. So what do these rankings all mean?

Rankings from the media have zero influence on a player’s performance, but they do give us an idea of what’s expected of certain athletes in the upcoming season, so there’s still a lot to take away from this.

The biggest story is, of course, Scane and Coykendall being ranked 1-2. Now Scane at the top isn’t surprising, given that she won the 2023 Tewarraton Award. However, Coykendall’s position right behind her teammate is what’s significant. As one of the five Tewarraton finalists last season, she was already considered one of the best players in college lacrosse. However, she was notably ranked ahead of the only non-Northwestern returning Tewarraton finalist, James Madison’s Isabella Peterson (no. 4), as well as IWLCA Defender of The Year Sam Thacker (Denver, no. 3) and IWLCA Goalie of The Year Delaney Sweitzer (Syracuse, no. 5).

Obviously, rankings are subjective (though putting anyone not named Scane at number one would have been an extremely questionable choice). But simply the idea that Northwestern has not just the best, but the best TWO players is a scary thought for other teams. The reason why the Wildcats were able to win, even if defenses double-teamed Scane, was because of offensive threats like Coykendall who surrounded her, and Coykendall’s ranking on this list emphasizes that stopping one Northwestern player won’t be enough to stop the whole team.

White’s placement in the top ten is also noteworthy. She was named a second-team All-American by InsideLacrosse, USA Lacrosse Magazine, and the IWLCA, and yet she ranked ahead of names like Maryland’s Meghan Ball (no. 9), North Carolina’s Emily Nalls (no. 11), Boston College’s Syndey Scales (no. 12), Notre Dame’s Casey Choma (no. 13), and Maryland’s Shaelyn Ahearn (no. 14), who were all named first-team All-Americans by at least one of the three aforementioned organizations (namely Ahearn and Scales, who were InsideLacrosse first-team All-Americans).

These All-American awards came out before last season’s Final Four, where White’s stock could have risen after her national championship performance that earned her player of the game, but either way, her placement was deserved. After being moved from the midfielder to the defender position during the third match of last season, White has been critical for the Wildcats in the draw circle and on defense, leading her team in caused turnovers (31) and ground balls (42). She also has a lot of speed and is lethal in transition, oftentimes being the catalyst for offensive momentum. In other words, her value had always been there, it’s just that now it’s being recognized more.

Taylor and Smith’s presence in these rankings also speaks to their significance for their team. Taylor, who ranked third in goals amongst Northwestern players, is coming off a season where she was arguably the best freshman attacker in the nation. She’s expected to have an elevated role for the Wildcats due to the departure of attacker Hailey Rhatigan and has already shown a lot of promise this fall, scoring three goals against her college team during the Team USA U-20 squad’s fall ball showcase against Northwestern. Smith will likely continue her role as the Wildcats’ main woman in the draw circle. Draw controls were an important part of Northwestern’s national championship win last season, as the team outperformed Boston College 17-8 in that category. Notably, Smith was responsible for eight of those 17 draw controls.

Once again, rankings don’t dictate future success. In addition, several important Northwestern players weren’t recognized by InsideLacrosse, and there could be several more who emerge this coming season. Yet, it’s always good to know who the media has its eyes on, with rankings like these setting the stage for the narratives that come out of the new season.