Lacrosse: Erin Coykendall reaches new heights on attack ahead of NCAA Final


Daily file photo by Seeger Gray

Senior attacker Erin Coykendall dodges around Michigan’s defense. With 55 goals and 48 assists in 2023, Coykendall has been an important offensive contributor for the Wildcats.

Charlotte Varnes, Senior Staffer

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– Northwestern senior attacker Erin Coykendall looked unafraid as she faced the country’s No. 1 defense in Denver on Friday. 

She sparked the attack during a quiet first quarter, digging the ball out of the eight-meter to give the Cats an early lead. She dished out timely assists, countering Denver’s comeback as NU worked to regain the lead in the game’s second quarter. Her efforts proved key to the Cats’ 15-7 rout of the Pioneers, which sent her team to the NCAA Final.

It was just another day in the office for Coykendall, who has anchored NU’s No. 1 scoring offense with 55 goals and 48 assists. A key contributor since her freshman season, Coykendall powered her team to its fourth consecutive NCAA Championship Weekend. 

“This year, she has a lot of confidence as a leader,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said . “She’s always had confidence in her abilities, but she’s finding who she is and embracing that. She’s really intelligent (and doesn’t) get rattled.”

As NU looks toward its first shot at the championship since 2012, Coykendall’s leadership and offensive prowess are center stage. Her 103 points rank second among all Cats’ players, trailing only behind graduate attacker Izzy Scane. Her talents have received national recognition as well, as she is one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, which is given annually to the nation’s top lacrosse player. 

On the field, Coykendall is typically found around the goal circle. There, she feeds attackers, directs the game’s offensive tempo and leads offensive schemes. Oftentimes, Coykendall connects with Scane –– NU’s goal leader — for a score. Against Denver on Friday, Coykendall assisted Scane twice. 

Scane said she shares a strong bond with Coykendall on and off the field. Coykendall’s abilities make the Cats’ entire attack look good, Scane said.  

“I wouldn’t be half the player I was without her on the field,” Scane said. “Same thing goes for the other attackers, but she was absolutely phenomenal. She’s the smartest player I’ve ever played with.”

Graduate student attacker Hailey Rhatigan said she enjoys watching Scane and Coykendall play together. It’s “fascinating” to see how their minds work on the field, Rhatigan added.

But even after a season of prolific offensive performances, Coykendall said she was “surprised, but really grateful” to discover she was among the five Tewaaraton Award nominees. She attended the ceremony two years ago as one of Scane’s guests and said she expected to go as one of Scane’s plus-ones again — not an honoree.

Both Coykendall and Amonte Hiller said they view all awards as team awards, rather than a reflection of individual abilities. But Coykendall’s nomination for the Tewaaraton Award was an important moment for her to “realize how good she really is,” Amonte Hiller said. 

Now, with three years of experience — including two losses –– in the NCAA Semifinal, Coykendall is bringing lessons of games past with her to Sunday’s NCAA Final.

Coykendall said the team is playing without pressure after its struggles in the NCAA Semifinal in recent years.  

“We’ve made it this far,” Coykendall said. “Three years in a row, we lost the semifinal game, so it’s like what worse could happen? That’s our attitude, that’s how we play and how we’re attacking this weekend.”  

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @charvarnes11

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