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Northwestern's Samantha Smith.

2024 NCAA Lacrosse Preview: No. 1 Northwestern (Women)

February 2, 2024
Charlotte Varnes
Kirk Irwin / Big Ten


2023 Record: 21-1 (6-0, Big Ten)
Final Ranking (2023): No. 1
Head Coach: Kelly Amonte Hiller
Assistants: Scott Hiller, Alexis Venechanos, Charlie Leonard

Northwestern lacrosse was a scary yet glorious sight at the end of the 2023 season. 

Attacker Izzy Scane was ripping goals left and right, finding success from seemingly any angle. A group of rotating midfielders on the draw circle proved difficult for opponents to overcome. Goalkeeper Molly Laliberty was clutch in big moments, bolstered by a veteran defense in front of her. 

Good news for lacrosse lovers and bad news for Northwestern’s opponents: the Wildcats are returning nearly all of the stars from their national championship run. The calendar may have turned over, but the Wildcats’ momentum remains. 

“Any time you win a championship, there’s carry over in terms of confidence level and things you discover about yourself,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “But [this season] is new, and that’s the fun of it.” 

The return of upperclassmen stars like Scane, Erin Coykendall, Laliberty and Kendall Halpern and Sammy White does more than simply boost Northwestern’s title repeat chances. Their leadership and love of the game pays off in practice. 

“Their competitiveness and ability to push in the practice setting and get creative has been hugely important,” Amonte Hiller said. 

Among the Wildcats’ biggest takeaways from their title run: learning that when they compete hard and have fun, they typically play their best.


Izzy Scane, A, Gr. (99G, 35A, Tewaaraton winner)
Molly Laliberty, GK, Gr. (159SV, 47.3SV%)
Erin Coykendall, A, Gr. (58G, 50A)

Scane and Coykendall have been one of the game’s most dynamic duos in recent years. Both are prolific shooters with a sharp eye for playmaking and confusing defenses. The pair are teaming up for one last go-round in 2024, powering a stacked offense returning nearly all its starters. The Wildcats’ offense was the country’s top scoring unit in 2023.


Alia Marshall, D, Gr. (NCAA Field Hockey All-American, 2019 Delaware Girls Player of the Year)
Mary Schumar, A, Gr. (54G, 115A at Marquette from 2020-23)
Alexis Ventresca, A, Fr. (46G, 39A in 2023)

Schumar tallied eight assists in a 21-14 Marquette loss against Northwestern last year. Now, she’s suiting up for the purple and white. Amonte Hiller said Schumar stood out in that game, calling her a “phenomenal player” for the Eagles. Schumar has been finding her place in the Wildcats’ system and is starting to have fun with it, Amonte Hiller said. Expect Schumar to cause major headaches for opposing defenses alongside the rest of the Wildcats’ offense.


Graduations: Hailey Rhatigan, A; Allie Berkery, D; Elle Hansen, A Transfers: Carli Fleisher, A (Penn); Johanna Kingsfield, D (Georgetown)

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Sammy White, D, Jr. (42GB, 31CT, 68DC)

White’s dynamic performance (6GB, 2CT, 7DC) in the 2023 national championship game made her a household name in the lacrosse world. She had a strong sophomore year and will likely take on a greater leadership role on defense with Allie Berkery’s graduation. Amonte Hiller pointed to White as one of several juniors who grew and gained confidence during the national title run.


Northwestern appears to be a well-oiled machine all over the field, returning nearly all of its starters on both ends. Is it the Wildcats’ title to lose? The data looks promising.

Sure, they graduated a major scorer in Hailey Rhatigan (62), but Schumar will likely prove an impactful transfer in her own right, factoring in as a playmaker alongside Coykendall. Several of the Wildcats’ younger players like Madison Taylor, Emerson Bohlig and Samantha Smith also saw significant playing time during the national championship run. On defense, Laliberty leads a a unit that returns all of its starters other than Berkery. The talented draw unit remains intact.

A preseason No. 1 certainly doesn’t always equate to a national championship. Anything could happen in the next few months. But, for now, the Wildcats look like the team to beat. Amonte Hiller, however, doesn’t feel the title is Northwestern’s to lose.

“There’s a lot of great teams out there,” Amonte Hiller said. “The title is up for grabs for anyone. We’re not worried about that. We’re truly just going out there and trying to have as much fun as we can.”


“Very experienced, very explosive, Izzy Scane factor. There’s probably not many holes in their team coming into the new year.”


The 2024 schedule for Boston College features a mix of familiar and new opponents. The Eagles are projected to have a strong season with an average of 13.7 wins against 2.3 losses in our LaxElo simulations. They’ll have to contend with one of the toughest non-conference slates in the nation. Their out-of-conference schedule is projected to be the 5th-most difficult with matchups against, among others, Northwestern, Boston University, UMass and Jacksonville.

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