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Izzy Scane, Northwestern Women's Lacrosse

Northwestern Legends: Izzy Scane in a League of Her Own

February 7, 2024
Beth Ann Mayer
Griffin Quinn

IZZY SCANE IS ENTERING HER SIXTH YEAR OF COLLEGE LACROSSE — a byproduct of COVID-19 and an ACL tear that saw her miss the 2022 season.

Her story has been told repeatedly. Being the only girl with three brothers fueled her competitiveness. Ditto for getting cut from the U19 national team by her future college coach Kelly Amonte Hiller. (Scane wound up making the team and helping the U.S. to a world title in 2019). She added a new chapter last season, returning from her injury to lead Northwestern to its first NCAA championship since 2012. Oh, and she won a Tewaaraton Award, becoming the fourth Wildcat to win the sport’s top honor and the first since Shannon Smith in 2011.

But for Scane, it’s always been about the team. Touting herself felt out of character.

“She is incredibly humble,” Amonte Hiller said. “She doesn’t want the attention. She is really, truly that star that gets and talks about how important the team is and the people around her are.”

During her storied career, Scane has drawn plenty of attention from opponents and the media. Regarding the latter, she’s never acted like sharing the same stories of humble beginnings and setbacks was inconvenient.

And to be clear, Scane’s book is far from closed, even after reaching the sport’s peak in 2023. Scane enters 2024 with 288 career goals, putting her within reach of Charlotte North’s all-time mark of 358. But what more is there to say about herself that she hasn’t already said?

We hypothesized: Not much, so we took a different route. Scane has also drawn the attention of former Northwestern luminaries, many of whom she grew up watching as a young player in Michigan. We asked them about Scane, her impact on the game and if she reminds them of any former Wildcats.

A common theme emerged: Scane is in a league of her own.

“That’s the beauty of sports — everyone tries to make comparisons, but Izzy Scane is Izzy Scane,” said Smith, now the coach at Hofstra. “She is a powerful force who helped lift the game and grow the game that much more for women’s lacrosse with her step-down outside shots, her ability to get to the cage, dodge hard and with the will she plays with on the field.”

Katrina Dowd often speaks the way she plays: Poetically. Yet, even Dowd struggled to describe Scane’s brand of lacrosse and what it means for the legions of fans.

“You feel her when you watch her play,” said Dowd, a Tewaaraton finalist for Northwestern in 2010 who is now in her first year as Brown’s head coach. “I can’t really put into words what it means to feel someone through your TV screen when you watch her play. That is what makes her special — a combination of her athleticism, her mindset and the team she is on.”

You feel her when you watch her play.

Katrina Dowd

To Amonte Hiller, Scane has always been incomparable. She wasn’t looking to fill a gap for a specific graduating attacker when she discovered Scane on the recruiting trail. In fact, Scane wasn’t tapped as an attacker at all. She initially played defense. When she started running the ball up the field and scoring, midfield felt like a natural fit.

“We just wanted her on the field as much as possible,” Amonte Hiller said. “The eighth game of the season, we played Rutgers and were like, ‘What the heck?’ and put her at attack.”

The Scarlet Knights likely said something similar when Scane dropped six goals in the first half.

“The rest is history,” Amonte Hiller said.

But when it comes to history, comparing Scane to Smith, Dowd and other stars of Northwestern lore is also complicated by the game’s evolution.

“It couldn’t be more different now,” Amonte Hiller said. “When we knew the shot clock was coming, we started developing to become something different and new. We wanted an exciting, up-tempo offense with seven threats who could play together.”

While the style may differ, leading team buy-in is a hallmark of Northwestern’s teams of past and present (as it is for most champions).

“Izzy gets an incredible amount of credit for who she is, and she is a transformative athlete, but we really kind of work off of each other,” Amonte Hiller said. “That is where the magic lies. So many of our players can feed off each other. Izzy understands that when her teammates are playing great, that makes her better. When she is playing great, it makes them better. The beauty of our game is that it is a sharing game. It is a team game.”

Scane was eager to share the spotlight in 2023. She returned from injury with a new trick up her sleeve: feeding. She posted a career-high 35 assists to go with her single-season program record of 99 goals, essentially giving opponents 99 more problems to solve to minimize her impact on the game.

“She’s doing a great job of developing her feeding ability to get other players involved and open,” Smith said. “Last year, there were so many weapons, you had to pick your poison on who you were going try to stop and then limit the number of goals Izzy had. Whether she has the ball or not, she is going to draw attention.”

Scane had plenty of wing-women, including Tewaaraton finalist Erin Coykendall (58 goals, 51 assists), fifth-year Mercer transfer Hailey Rhatigan (62 goals, 11 assists) and then-freshman Madison Taylor (53 goals, 17 assists).

Even when an opponent did stop Northwestern’s deep offense, the play wasn’t over — not when Scane had anything to do with it.

“Last year, one of the things that stood out to most coaches was her ability to ride and get the ball back,” said Hannah Nielsen, a two-time Tewaaraton winner at Northwestern.

Nielsen would know. She’s had to strategize against Scane and her alma mater as the head coach at Michigan. Smith was one of those coaches who took note.

“When I coach young kids, you always tell them to ride hard,” Smith said. “Watching how hard Izzy Scane rode to the opposite 75 in the final four was really impactful. You can be a tremendous goal scorer, but you bring your game to the next level with your ability to ride hard and create turnovers, especially when you get it from your best player.”

Izzy Scane, Northwestern Women's Lacrosse
Sixth-year senior and reigning Tewaaraton Award winner Izzy Scane enters the 2024 season with 288 career goals, putting the Michigan native within reach of Charlotte North’s all-time mark of 358.
John Strohsacker

That’s not all  that Northwestern gets from Scane, who is arguably its best player of all time.

“If you are going to try to stop her on 1-on-1 from up top, she is going to dodge you from behind,” Smith said. “If you try to stop her in dodges, she is going to go for an outside shot. She can beat you in a variety of ways.”

Scane’s body control and movement are the foundation of her versatility — a product of Scane’s early days in gymnastics, Amonte Hiller said.

“For someone her size, she can move her body,” Nielsen said. “She can get away with doing things in her right hand that most people can’t do.”

“She’s similar to Kelly in that she has a competitive streak," Nielsen added. “All the best players who have been through the program have it. She won’t settle. Kelly brings it out in you, but I think you have to have that naturally before getting there.”

Scane’s play is inspiring the next generation of players. But how she’s doing it is inspiring previous ones, too.

“When you watched that final four that she wasn’t playing, she was engaged as a teammate,” Dowd said. “It makes you root for her even more and in awe of the season she had last year.”

“What I love about her the most is that she plays with a lot of humility,” Nielsen said. “That is something I value. She’s not showy. If she’s doing a behind-the-back, it’s because it’s the best shot in that moment.”

Scane’s humility is another rare tie between past and present — and perhaps the future. Said Smith: “Maybe in 10 years, you’ll be able to say there’s someone comparable to Izzy Scane,” Smith said.