Izzy Scane has scored 89 goals this spring, setting Northwestern's single-season record.

All Aboard the Scane Train: Inside the Makings of Northwestern's Star

About two weeks into the 2015 season, Greg Courter called Isabelle Scane into his office. 

Courter was the first-year girls’ lacrosse coach at Cranbrook Kingswood, a prep school 20 miles outside of Detroit. Scane was a freshman midfielder, already shaping up to be one of the top recruits ever from Michigan.

Scane thought she was in trouble. She sat down to hear what Courter had to say.

“Isabelle, you’re one of the quietest people I’ve ever met in my life,” he started. “But you’ve got a lacrosse stick that can speak volumes.”

Courter continued to build on the metaphor, hoping to get through to Scane. He encouraged her to use her lacrosse stick to talk to the world, to be as creative as she could be, to know that she had the green light to do whatever she wanted to do on the field. 

Courter waited for a response. Scane just nodded and walked away.

She and her lacrosse stick haven’t stopped talking since.

Scane broke onto the scene as a freshman during Northwestern’s run to the final four in 2019, scoring 62 goals and earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. After being cut from the U.S. U19 team initially, she played her way back onto the team and was one of its leading scorers at the world championship that summer. 

She’s gone from a rookie who found space in the holes left by teams throwing their all at another Northwestern star to the player who now gets the marquee matchup.

“This year, it’s been like, ‘Let’s embrace this. Let’s embrace the pressure that you’re going to be under. Let’s embrace everything.’ And she’s really done a fantastic job,” Wildcats coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “A fit, hard-working Izzy Scane is a very difficult person to stop.”

“Isabelle, you’re one of the quietest people I’ve ever met in my life. But you’ve got a lacrosse stick that can speak volumes.”

Scane and her stick have always made noise. Maybe too much.

“We would be on vacation, and she would be doing wall ball against the brick wall at our cottage [against] a chimney right behind the TV in the living room. We’d say, ‘Isabelle, just stop.’ And she’d be like, ‘No, I’ve got to practice,’”  said James Scane, Izzy’s brother and a fifth-year midfielder at Robert Morris. “I wish I could say we watch TV in peace, but she still does it.”

James Scane is the oldest of the four siblings, followed by Izzy, Griffin and Cormac. When he started playing lacrosse in the sixth grade, the others got hooked, too. 

Izzy Scane preferred gymnastics. She loved the vault and the beam, but her coaches saw she had more fun running around the gym than the actual gymnastics events, so they pushed her to get onto a field instead.

James Scane remembers watching one of her first games, seeing how the coaches would instruct the middle-school girls to shoot: more of a soft flick than an actual shot. So when his sister came home, they went to the backyard and learned the real way to shoot. “Put the stick as far back behind your head as you can,” he would say, “and put everything you’ve got into it.”

These influences are undeniable in the style of play that Izzy Scane has since developed — the blend of skill, speed, strength and size. She knows exactly how to move her body to beat a dodge or how to best fall to avoid an injury. She knows how to find the best angles for a high-powered shot and how to best execute it.

As her family dove deeper into lacrosse — packing the family van on weekends for trips to tournaments in Maryland and Pennsylvania — Scane’s potential became increasingly evident. She earned a starting position almost immediately for Courter at Cranbrook Kingswood.

Lacrosse wasn’t big in Michigan. Scane was a natural scorer and could have racked up 10-plus goals per game, but she was also humble. (On her Hudl page, there’s a highlight video called “Me Missing Shots.”) 

So Scane turned elsewhere to prepare for the next level. After a chance meeting at a tournament in Lake Placid, she joined Mass Elite, a club outside Boston. “It didn’t take too long to get used to the speed and how these teams play with confidence,” she said, “even if I was scared in my own head coming up against girls who’d been playing since they were 2.”

Growing up in the Midwest, Scane followed Northwestern at the peak points of its NCAA championship-winning dynasty. She remembers telling her parents that she would one day play for them. They laughed. But as Scane grew older, it became an increasingly realistic expectation.

“About her sophomore year, I had dinner with the Scanes and I said, ‘You know I’ve been watching Northwestern quite a bit these days, and she could play there right now,’” Courter said. “They both looked at me like I was crazy.”

Amonte Hiller was watching, too.

She had met Scane early in the recruiting process, sold on her physicality and athleticism. Scane committed to Northwestern in 2016 and would finish her Cranbrook Kingswood career with a state record for career points and two state titles.

The summer after her senior season, Scane tried out for the U.S. U19 team. Amonte Hiller was the coach. But Scane was one of the last cuts from the 36-player training squad. The decision seems hard to fathom in hindsight, but it ended up shaping the rest of her career.

“I could’ve easily sat down and thought I was never going to be a good player just ’cause I’m from Michigan and got cut from the team,” Scane said. “Putting my head down and working was a good way to move on.”

The next preseason in games against Syracuse and Boston College, Scane showed off her scoring ability, impressing teammates and coaches alike with her deceptiveness and instincts. 

Amonte Hiller and her staff knew they needed Scane on the field in some capacity, so they threw her on defense once the season started in February. But as time progressed, she was inching her way up the field, often scoring more than the attackers. 

Scane finally moved to offense for the Wildcats’ eighth game of that season against Rutgers. She scored six goals, the most by a freshman since 2015. 

Scane’s emergence came as a surprise for opponents already throwing all their defenders at another Northwestern attacker,  Selena Lasota.  Scane had spent her high school career watching and admiring the eventual Tewaaraton Award finalist and the program’s all-time leading scorer. They’d both arrived in Evanston in top physical condition, which made the transition to the college game easier, and came from outside the traditional lacrosse hotbeds.

“It’s a bit of an uphand if you’re coming from an underdog area. You don’t have as much pressure. You’re not compared to people in your area,” said Lasota, a British Columbia native. “She and I really brought the aspect of just having fun with it — being really thankful for the opportunity — and that translated to the field.”

Lasota and Scane connected immediately. Lasota led the Wildcats with 85 goals in 2019. Scane was right behind her. They had a specially designed set piece play — a flip or fake-flip pass-turned-cut toward goal called Buckeye — that frequently left defenses in the dust.

Northwestern advanced to championship weekend for the first time since 2014 with Lasota and Scane leading the charge.


Originally cut from the U.S. U19 team, Scane played her way back onto the team in the summer of 2019.

By the summer of 2019, Scane had played her way back onto the U.S. U19 team. Twice she earned game MVP honors, scoring 21 goals as Team USA went undefeated en route to the gold medal in Peterborough, Ontario.

Scane returned to Evanston that fall knowing that, after Lasota’s graduation, she’d assume a larger role on offense. In the last game of the shortened 2020 season, Scane scored eight goals against No. 1 North Carolina. After an elongated offseason back in Michigan running backyard drills and playing basketball with her brothers during the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned to Evanston in the fall and this spring has picked up right where she left off.

Scane scored a school-record 10 goals in a March 19 win at Rutgers. She now has 89 goals entering an NCAA quarterfinal against Duke on Saturday, surpassing the single-season record of 86 set by Shannon Smith in 2011. Courtney Murphy of Stony Brook holds the NCAA Division I single-season record with 100 goals, a mark she set in 2016 in 21 games.

Defenses now swarm Scane like they once came after Lasota, but more often than not, she finds a way to break free. And even when she doesn’t, she’s creating opportunities for her teammates — fellow attacker Lauren Gilbert also ranks in the top 10 nationally for goals scored, while sophomore Erin Coykendall has come onto the scene as the team’s top distributor.

Scane’s career at Northwestern is far from over. With two years of eligibility remaining, she likely will challenge school records set by players like Lasota and Smith, the Wildcats’ last Tewaaraton Award winner in 2011. She’s studying communication sciences and disorders, with hopes to become a physician’s assistant in the future.

The experience of college lacrosse — playing alongside Lasota, winning her way back onto the U.S. U19 team, scratching, clawing and wall-balling her way to the top — has helped Scane grow from the shy player who walked into her high school coach’s office six years ago into one of the top players in the country.

“Back in high school, she always had a finesse, always had the peak performance. But going into her freshman year [of college], I watched her crank it into 10th gear,” James Scane said. “She’s blossomed into a fantastic player.”

Scane and her stick show no signs of quieting any time soon.