Lacrosse: Epstein: No. 1 Northwestern inspires the sport’s next generation


Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer

Graduate student defender Allie Berkery and her teammates celebrate with the national championship trophy. Berkery capped her collegiate career with a statement win Sunday.

Jake Epstein, Assistant Sports Editor

Less than 24 hours after No. 1 Northwestern inked its name in immortality for the eighth time in program history, the Wildcats were set for a hero’s return in Raleigh-Durham International Airport on Monday morning.

With the NCAA Tournament’s national championship trophy in tow, players pranced around the terminal, awaiting their flight back to Evanston.

Surely, the trip couldn’t be complete without morning coffee, as more than a dozen Wildcats lined up at the airport’s Starbucks. Meanwhile, a mother and her young daughter, who had just participated in the National Girls Lacrosse League’s National Championship down the road from the Final Four in Cary, North Carolina, also awaited their morning fuel.

The youth player was “starstruck,” her mother said, as she saw the group of newly crowned national champions just steps away. After she asked NU’s stars if they’d take a picture with her daughter, the group called out to a certain NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, who stood a few feet away.

Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane moved right behind the girl, and her teammates filled in beside her, giving the young Georgia native a moment she’d never forget.

The face of women’s lacrosse — a superstar from Clarkston, Michigan — manufactured a moment of pure magic for a young athlete from another nontraditional lacrosse area. The girl’s mother said she was “shaking” as she frantically texted her friends a photo of herself with Scane.

A woman in a purple shirt and grey hat
Graduate student attacker Izzy Scane. (Seeger Gray/ Daily Senior Staffer)

The otherworldly career of the best collegiate lacrosse player in the country, which extends for one more season in Evanston, will undoubtedly inspire other girls from around the country to pick up a stick and aim to be the “next Izzy Scane.” But the Cats’ impact on the next generation of the sport soars far beyond one superstar.

After former Johns Hopkins assistant men’s head coach Seth Tierney put a stick in sophomore defender Samantha White’s older brother Justin’s grasp, the siblings’ journey on the lacrosse field took off from there. 

As a Black athlete in a predominantly white sport, White showed lacrosse is a game for everyone on national television Sunday.

The defender dazzled throughout the most pivotal game of her career thus far, scooping seemingly every ground ball and putting forth a perfect effort to capture the broadcast’s Capital One Player of the Game award.

As author Sanya Whittaker Gragg said on Twitter, “Representation matters in all facets of life. It also makes a difference for young athletes to see players who look like them.” 

With two years left in her college career, White has no bounds on her potential impact on the growth of the sport.

While the game continues to grow on the West Coast, sophomore midfielders and former club teammates Emerson Bohlig and Samantha Smith showed California kids that they, too, can ascend lacrosse’s summit. 

Smith’s crucial command of the draw helped her team dominate the possession battle all season, and she put forth her most impressive effort when it mattered most. Bohlig snatched ankles and showcased her top-end speed at nearly every corner of the field Sunday. 

In an underrecruited area like California, Bohlig and Smith provide proof that hard work and grit can push players to whatever heights they wish to reach.

For freshman attacker and All-Tournament Team honoree Madison Taylor, Sunday wrote a storybook ending for a dream debut campaign in the purple and white. 

Her former high school coach Robyn Rooney said midway through Taylor’s freshman campaign that every girl on Long Island, New York, “wants to be Maddy Taylor.” Now, this sentiment likely extends to a national scale. 

Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller just tied Navy coach Cindy Timchal with an NCAA-record eight national titles and displayed an unprecedented lesson in perseverance.

A woman in a white shirt and purple hat.
Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. (Seeger Gray/Daily Senior Staffer)

Amonte Hiller picked up her first national title at just 31 years old and made the next seven championships — winning six more by 2012. But the program’s success plateaued, leaving many wondering if NU had lost its championship pedigree.

The title drought finally ended Sunday, and Amonte Hiller surpassed 11 years of pressure as she partook in the long-awaited trophy lift. She’s a pioneer of the game who built a program from the ground up into a perennial powerhouse, but Amonte Hiller’s tale tells that even the mightiest can fall. It’s their strength and resolve in getting back up that separates the spoils of victory from the agony of defeat.

Beyond these extraordinary stories, achievements and feats, every Cat carries their own presence as a role model for the next wave of lacrosse talent. With hundreds of young players in Cary, and thousands more watching at home, NU put on a performance for the ages — but the team’s impact extends further than just a national title.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @jakeepste1n

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