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Inside NU’s 2022-23 Northwestern Athletics awards

Quite the year to remember.

NCAA Basketball: Purdue at Northwestern David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

With the conclusion of the academic year, the 2022-23 Northwestern Athletics season has come to an end. Between Wildcat football earning a victory abroad in Ireland to lacrosse claiming its eighth national championship, the scholastic season was bookended by winning — a recurring theme among countless programs in Evanston.

In order to reflect on the year that was, we asked our staff writers to vote on the most memorable players, performances and moments of the year. Each writer ranked up to five options for each category, with first place garnering five points. In total, the maximum number of points for an award was 45.

Take a look below at the results, which should bring you down a positive purple and white memory lane.

MVP: Izzy Scane (45 points, 9-of-9 first-place votes)

In a season chock full of stars, none shined brighter than Scane. The 2023 Tewaaraton winner and recent ESPY nominee was a shoe-in for our MVP honors, resetting Northwestern record books and catalyzing the Wildcats’ run to the national championship.

Finishing in second was basketball’s First-Team All-Big Ten point guard Boo Buie, with 29 points. In third was field hockey’s Bente Baekers (21), with lacrosse’s Erin Coykendall (14) and softball’s Danielle Williams (11) rounding out the top five.

Best Team: Lacrosse (45 points, 9-of-9 first-place votes)

As with Scane, was there really any doubt?

While several Wildcat teams qualified for the postseason — and with field hockey nearly culminating its season with a second straight title — Kelly Amonte Hiller and lacrosse were the only to end the year atop the podium. Whether losing just once all year (in the first game of the season, no less) to outscoring its opponents 33-16 in the Final Four, Northwestern went on an unparalleled run of dominance and was virtually unstoppable.

Speaking of Tracey Fuchs’ team, field hockey netted second in our voting with 33 points. Softball and men’s basketball tied for third with 22 points, while upstart women’s soccer ranked fifth (eight).

Best Single-Game Performance: Izzy Scane vs. Notre Dame (40 points, 5-of-9 first-place votes)

Make that two Inside NU awards granted to Scane.

The Northwestern star scored at a record clip all season, but she was especially unreal against the Fighting Irish. On Feb. 16, Scane tied her single-game personal record of 10 goals (matching her existing Northwestern-best mark) and 12 points, both of which helped the ‘Cats take down No. 14 Notre Dame, 18-14. Eight of nine voters ranked Scane’s historic showing in Ryan Fieldhouse no lower than second.

With 32 points in the voting, Buie claimed second place with his jersey-ripped, 35-point showcase against Illinois in Champaign. Next was Evan Hull against Duke, who totaled 278 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns. The rest of the top five included Scane’s six points/four goals against Boston College in the title game and Kansas Robinson’s two-homer day against Kentucky in the Evanston Regional.

Coach of the Year: Kelly Amonte Hiller (45 votes, 9-of-9 first-place votes)

Winning your eighth national title at a single program renders you a pretty easy choice for Coach of the Year.

Amonte Hiller’s tactics and leadership allowed Northwestern to finally get over the hump and claim the championship for the first time since 2012. From allowing stars like Scane and Coykendall to run the operation to leveraging the talents of up-and-comers like Sammy White and Madison Taylor, Amonte Hiller scarcely erred the entire year.

After transforming his team from a consistent disappointment to one of the most formidable in the conference, Chris Collins came in second with 35 points. In third was softball’s Big Ten Coach of the Year, Kate Drohan. Field hockey’s Fuchs and women’s soccer’s Michael Moynihan concluded the top five.

Most Improved Team: Men’s Basketball (45 points, 9-of-9 first-place votes)

In 2021-22, Northwestern finished 15-16, missing out on the NCAA Tournament despite boasting legitimate talent. Few would have foreseen a 22-12 season with a second-place conference finish and a Round of 32 berth — especially subsequent to the transfers of Pete Nance and Ryan Young — but that’s exactly what the ‘Cats accomplished.

NU demonstrated immediate improvement against top teams such as Auburn and Liberty in the Cancun Challenge. The Wildcats encapsulated their “Why not us?” mentality all the way through the new year, at which point the team proved its legitimacy by taking down Illinois, Indiana (twice), Iowa and, of course, No. 1 Purdue. The team’s success was fueled by the breakouts of Buie, Big Ten Co-DPOY Chase Audige and past role players, including Brooks Barnhizer and Matthew Nicholson.

Sweet 16-bound women’s soccer came in second, while cross country (24 points) was third in our voting. Tied with 11 points were lacrosse and volleyball.

Best Win: Men’s Basketball Upsets No. 1 Purdue (41 points, 5-of-9 first-place votes)

No unequivocal choice here, but our writers felt that Northwestern’s win on Super Bowl Sunday was the biggest victory of the season. In fact, it may be one of the more grand wins in Northwestern Athletics history, with the Wildcats’ 64-58 upset over the Boilermakers representing the first time the men’s basketball team had ever dethroned the top-ranked squad in the country.

Finishing in second by only one point was lacrosse’s dominance over the Eagles in the national championship, which established the largest title game point differential since 2009. Softball’s walk-off win over Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament title game finished third; men’s basketball’s NCAA Tournament victory against Boise State was fourth. Tied for fifth were lacrosse toppling No. 1 North Carolina as well as football prevailing over Nebraska in Ireland.

First-Year of the Year: Madison Taylor (45 points, 9-of-9 first-place votes)

On a team with arguably more talent than anyone in the nation, Taylor landed in Evanston and wasted no time cementing her status. The Wantagh, New York native earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors and Big Ten All-Second Team recognition by accruing 53 goals and 17 assists.

Softball’s Robinson netted second place in voting, tallying a 1.001 OPS and nine homers. Big Ten Champion golfer Daniel Svard was third with 26 points, and women’s soccer Big Ten Freshman of the Year Caterina Regazzoni ended fourth at 10 points. Tied at fifth among newcomer rankings were softball outfielder Kelsey Nader and women’s basketball point guard Caroline Lau.

Play of the Year: Chase Audige’s Go-Ahead Three vs. Purdue (41 points, 6-of-9 first-place votes)

As the Wildcats trailed the No. 1 Boilermakers 37-30 at halftime, the team’s slim deficit came in spite of a scoreless half from its clear No. 2 option in Audige. However, as the halftime buzzer sounded and the teams returned to the hardwood, something was unlocked in the Coram, New York native. Audige poured in 15 in the second half, his play becoming torrid in the final few minutes. Arguably his most significant points came on this triple with 1:39 remaining to give NU a 59-57 advantage, its first lead — and one it would not relinquish.

Staying with men’s basketball, Buie’s game-winning floater against the Hoosiers was voted second by our staff at 30 points. Next came Maeve Nelson’s aforementioned walk-off against IU in the postseason, with Scane’s coast-to-coast goal against BC and Brendan Sullivan’s frenetic third-and-eight conversion against Ohio State completing the list.