Back on Track: The Scane Train Rumbles into Championship Weekend


This story appears in the May/June edition of USA Lacrosse Magazine. Join our momentum.

Izzy Scane’s resume reads like a wish list of a young girl playing lacrosse in the backyard.

The former USA Lacrosse high school All-American played in two final fours with Northwestern and was a Tewaaraton Award finalist in 2021 with 98 goals — third-most in a season in NCAA  Division I history. Prior to that, Scane won a gold medal with U.S. under-19 team. She’s a Tewaaraton finalist again in 2023.

“You say blue-chip kid,” coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. “I call her a blue-collar kid. She has [three] brothers. Her dad is a fireman. Her mom is a nurse. They’re great, blue-collar people.”

Scane’s parents were also both athletes. Her mother, Patricia, was a competitive gymnast who ran track. Her father, Jim, wrestled. Scane credits her competitive fire to her DNA. “Then, there are my three brothers,” she said. “You get toughened up.”

Nagging ankle injuries were no match for some trainer’s tape and an ice pack. A tweaked hamstring didn’t stop Scane from traveling to work out with the U.S. senior team in 2021 or playing in a fall scrimmage against Notre Dame on Nov. 5, 2021.

But no amount of athletic tape could fix what happened next.

“I was just riding, and the girl cut back,” Scane said. “I went to change directions. My cleat got stuck in the turf. I don’t know if I necessarily heard the pop people talk about when they tear their ACL. I thought I had dislocated my kneecap. That’s what I was hoping.”

An MRI two days later confirmed Scane tore her ACL, meniscus and LCL.

ACL injuries feel commonplace in sports, particularly for female athletes. For reasons scientists are still trying to figure out, women and girls are three to six times more likely than men and boys to tear their ACL, according to a 2021 review.

But statistics can only offer so much comfort. A player with a charmed career who was typically healthy and had spent her fall shuttling back and forth between practices for her power-conference collegiate program and the U.S. national team suddenly lay in a hospital. Adding insult to injury, it came before a 2022 season that was supposed to mark a return to normalcy after two years of pandemic weirdness.

“It was a lot to process and figure out who I would be outside of the player who I was,” Scane said.

Scane became an extension of the Northwestern coaching staff. She got an iPad, which helped her show her Wildcats teammates what in-game adjustments they needed to make. She watched plays develop from the sidelines. The game slowed down.

“When you’re in it, it’s not as full-picture. You’re in the middle of the action,” said Scane, the all-time leading scorer in Michigan high school girls’ lacrosse history. “I had never seen things from an outside perspective.”

Meanwhile, the Wildcats had to figure out who they were without Scane. Early on, Lauren Gilbert put the offense on her back. But Erin Coykendall, Jill Girardi, Elle Hansen and Brennan Dwyer all tallied at least 30 points.

“It was a big adjustment trying to fill that gap,” said Coykendall, who finished 2022 with 45 goals and 37 assists. “We realized that her role was too big to expect one player to step up and fill.”

It would be wrong to say Northwestern didn’t miss a beat. Maryland won the Big Ten regular season. Rutgers upended the Wildcats in the Big Ten semifinals, marking just the third time since 2015 that Northwestern didn’t play for the conference title.

But even without Scane, the Wildcats were again busy on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend.

“It was bittersweet,” Scane said. “Seeing us do as well as we were and wishing you could help even more. I focused on what I could do to help my best friends win a national championship or get close to it.”

As Northwestern prepared to play North Carolina in the NCAA semifinals, temptation set in. Scane looked strong — like she could play, even.

“Was it tempting? Yes and no,” Amonte Hiller said. “You know it’s really not a good decision for her or anyone.”

Cooler heads prevailed. Scane sat.

Northwestern led 14-7 with 10:15 to play and lost 15-14. North Carolina went on to beat Boston College in the championship game.

“You can’t really go to what-ifs. It’s not productive,” Scane said.

As strong as Scane looked in May, she still had to build strength in her legs. She targeted a return date: Nov. 4, 2022. The Wildcats would once again close fall ball with a scrimmage against Notre Dame, 364 days after her injury. Before the game, she got the word — she was cleared.

“In the first half of the game, I shot 10 times and missed all 10,” Scane said. “Finally, in the second half, I got my first goal. It was such a sigh of relief.”

The Scane Train wasn’t just back on track. It was full steam ahead.

“After that, she had her competitive juices flowing,” Amonte Hiller said. “If you know anything about Izzy, once she gets competitive, it’s over.”

“I don’t like losing,” Scane said. “I don’t like not being the best.”

The Wildcats did lose in Scane’s official return, a 16-15 barnburner at Syracuse opening day. They did not lose again all season, riding a 19-game winning streak into Friday’s NCAA semifinal against fifth-seeded Denver.

On March 19, Northwestern hosted North Carolina in a final four rematch, albeit with different pieces. The Tar Heels graduated superstars like Jamie Ortega and Taylor Moreno. The Wildcats were without Gilbert and Girardi.

But they had Scane. And she delivered.

Northwestern led 10-4 early in the third quarter. But a furious UNC rally closed the game to 10-8 with 12:57 left. Déjà vu? Not on Scane’s watch. Scane broke up the 4-0 run with a goal, and Northwestern knocked the Tar Heels from their No. 1 ranking with a 13-9 win.

“When she gets tested, when she gets competitive, she’s at her best,” Amonte Hiller said. “She’s not going to crumble when things get tough. She’s going to rise.”

Entering the NCAA semifinals, Scane has 89 goals. With two huge games over Championship Weekend, Scane could at least tie Abby Hormes’ single-season record of 103. With another season to play, she could also eclipse Charlotte North’s career record of 358.

It won’t be surprising if Scane leads Northwestern to its first NCAA championship since 2012, either. But just like she did from the sidelines with an iPad last year, Scane is focusing on the full picture these days.

“I’m trying to have that childlike experience, knowing I would’ve given anything to be on the field,” Scane said. “At the end of the day, it’s a game, and I’m happy to play it with the people that I love.”

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