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Preparation and Perspective: Northwestern Lacrosse Entering the Championship Playing Freely

After the disappointment that was last year’s NCAA Semifinal, the ‘Cats have shifted their outlook on playing lacrosse together.

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Even down two goals to Denver in the NCAA Semifinals, down four to Syracuse in the season opener or down one in the NCAA second round to Michigan — Northwestern has consistently fought back in ways it wasn’t quite able to do in seasons past.

After a heartbreaking loss in last year’s Final Four to UNC, this year’s Northwestern team has continually found a way to keep going when the going gets tough.

Yesterday was no different, when the red-hot Denver Pioneers were feeling it in their first trip to Championship Weekend and went up 4-2 in the first quarter. The ‘Cats responded once they figured out the nation’s leading defense and scored four straight goals of their own.

Head coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said the consistency and poise that the team demonstrated yesterday is something they have been building toward the past two years, which both culminated NCAA Semifinal losses.

“I think we just trust in ourselves and each other and what we’re doing,” Amonte Hiller said. “There’s there’s a lot of trust and belief within us.”

The momentum shift was clear once Izzy Scane scored her second goal yesterday and Samantha Smith won the following draw. The ‘Cats would go on to score three back-to-back goals to send them into halftime. Denver only scored once in the third quarter.

“I think in past years we’d get down and we kind of let that spiral,” Erin Coykendall said. “It would feel like when we were trailing it was kind of you’d need a miracle to come back. [This year] we just have this sense of belief that if we do what we’re supposed to do, and what we know what we can do, we’re unstoppable. So I think we just played with that mindset.”

The celebrations from the team in each round of the playoffs, from the sidelines to emphatic stick drops on the field, demonstrate how the team feeds off of each other to keep the momentum and belief that they will come out on top.

In the quarterfinals and semifinals against the top-two defenses in the country, the nation’s leading scorer Izzy Scane has a combined 18 points (13 goals and 5 assists). Her performance has clearly fired up the rest of the team, defensively and offensively, to continue dominating on both ends of the field.

“Our offense did a great job of kind of moving the ball and creating opportunities for each other and just focusing on our offense as much their defense,” Scane said after the win.

Having had the entirety of last season taken away from her, Scane is just thrilled to be back doing what she loves. Playing in Northwestern’s first championship appearance since 2012 makes it even better.

“I think this year especially I just kind of focused on enjoying myself and kind of making the most of the moments we have together,” she said. “I think this year has been an amazing way to kind of get back to that and just enjoy what I’m doing and enjoy the people around me and really fight hard for this to the left and the right of me.”