Lacrosse: What to Watch For: The Scane Train is back, but with the loss of Lauren Gilbert, what will Northwestern face as it vies for eighth national championship?


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane surveys her options upfield. The Cats received a major offensive boost when Scane returned from her ACL injury against No. 5 Syracuse on Feb. 11.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

The 2022 season ended on an especially bitter note for Northwestern.

The Wildcats appeared on the cusp of their first NCAA Championship appearance 10 years ago, when the squad won its seventh national title. 

Last May, NU shot out to a 6-0 lead in the first frame of a Final Four matchup with then No. 1 North Carolina. The Cats carried momentum as the contest progressed, leading 13-6 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Then it all came crashing down. 

The Tar Heels tallied nine fourth-quarter goals and NU fell 15-14, leaving Baltimore empty-handed. 

Eight months later, NU regrouped and returned to regular season action. The Cats fell 15-16 to then No. 5 Syracuse in their season-opener on Feb. 11, but an early season loss should seldom sound any sirens. The pieces seem to be there for NU — it’s just a matter of whether coach Kelly Amonte Hiller can put them together and lead the team on the path to the promised land.

Here are five takeaways to keep note of as the season progresses.


       1. Replacing attacker Lauren Gilbert

When Lauren Gilbert was on her A-game, the Cats always had a chance to pull off a victory. Gilbert, a highly athletic and skilled attacker, scored 79 goals in the 2022 season. Tallying team-highs with 106 points and five game-winning goals, Amonte Hiller could always count on her attacking star to try and right the ship.

Gilbert’s gamesmanship was on full display in the Final Four loss to North Carolina, and she seemed to have her way with the Tar Heel defense whenever the ball was in her stick. Her team’s seven-goal lead at the cusp of the final period was built on the back of her five-goal effort and when the team stumbled at the finish, it failed to get the dynamic scorer involved late.

After a standout collegiate career, Gilbert turned pro, leaving massive shoes for NU to fill. 

Whether her production can be emulated by one player, or if several must step up in Gilbert’s stead, remains to be seen. A 15-goal performance in the season opener proves promising, but Gilbert’s absence may weigh on the squad’s offensive firepower.

       2. The Scane Train is back on the rails

After being named a 2021 Tewaarton Award Finalist, expectations for attacker Izzy Scane’s 2022 season were sky-high.  

However, Scane went down with what appeared to be a serious injury in a fall scrimmage against Notre Dame. She heard the dreaded “pop” and MRIs all but confirmed her fate: the All-American would miss her entire senior season with a torn ACL.

The Cats’ leading scorer was officially derailed.

In her first competitive action since the 2021 season, many wondered how long it would take for Scane to shake off the rust.

It took the graduate student attacker all but one quarter.

Scane put on an offensive clinic against the Orange this past Sunday, scoring five goals and tallying two assists for good measure. Despite the NU loss, fans should hop on the bandwagon before the Scane Train departs the station.

With Gilbert’s graduation leaving the Cats in search for the missing piece to its offensive puzzle, Scane’s return to the field appears to be the answer to concerns regarding NU’s offense. Finishing the 2021 season as the NCAA’s leading scorer — and setting a new program record — the high-powered threat will arguably be the Cats’ leader in offensive production to get the squad back to a deep run in the NCAA Division I tournament.

      3. A battle with Boston College

The Cats’ schedule is stacked, and Amonte Hiller’s team doesn’t have to wait long to get a crack at No. 3 Boston College. The 2021 National Champions and 2022 National Finalists will come into the Ryan Fieldhouse Sunday, and the Eagles appear formidable as ever. 

Boston College showcased its prowess on both sides of the ball in a 14-3 trouncing of USC this past weekend. NU must play its best game to have a chance of defending its home turf with a victory. 

The last time the two sides faced off, the Eagles came away with an 18-9 victory over the Cats in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. NU will be looking to prove it belongs among the nation’s elite programs, and what better way is there for them to do so than by knocking off its ACC foe? 

     4. A shot at revenge against the National Champs

Due to unpredictable Evanston weather, the Cats play a large chunk of their season inside the Ryan Fieldhouse. On March 19, Amonte Hiller and company will welcome defending NCAA National Champions North Carolina, who entered the season ranked No. 1. While the matchup will be played inside the climate-controlled confines of Ryan Fieldhouse, tensions will most certainly be ablaze.

After losing both contests to the Tar Heels last season, NU looks to defeat the national powerhouse at home. There couldn’t be a better mid-season test for the Cats, and the team holds a chance to avenge its heartbreaking 2022 season finale.

While the school departs for Spring Break the day prior, there is potential for an action-packed Sunday with a chance of sweet revenge. 

     5. Seeking a Big Ten Title

Last season, NU fell to then No. 13 Rutgers in the first round of the Big Ten Tournament. For a squad that has won eight conference titles, the result disappointed many within the program. 

The Cats will kick off conference play March 16 versus Michigan at home. Until then, NU hopes to be battle tested with a challenging non-conference slate as the team vies for its first conference title since 2021. 

It appears the toughest conference test will be the final regular season matchup, as No. 2 Maryland marches into Martin Stadium on April 22. 

A squad’s national title dreams are built over the course of a season, and the Big Ten provides the perfect platform for the Cats to form a championship foundation.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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