They're Back! Northwestern Wins First National Championship Since 2012


Northwestern celebrates its first national championship since 2012.

CARY, N.C. — Kelly Amonte Hiller sat down and released what felt like months, maybe years, of stress from her body.

“Oh my gosh” were the first words from her mouth about 30 minutes after Northwestern captured the NCAA Division I women’s lacrosse championship Sunday afternoon at WakeMed Soccer Park. This day was a decade-plus in the making. Eleven years, to be exact.

By beating Boston College 18-6 in front of 6,705 fans who braved the wet weather, Amonte Hiller won her eighth national championship — tying her with her former coach and mentor Cindy Timchal for the most ever — and Northwestern’s first since 2012.

It was evident that the weight of that 11-year drought had lifted. The Wildcats had won seven championships in eight years from 2005-12 and then a string of NCAA semifinal losses in 2019, 2021 and 2022 made the wait even more agonizing … and worth it.

“Honestly, the years after that run of championships, it was pretty challenging,” Amonte Hiller said. “I was pretty hard on myself, taking a lot of ownership. I was putting too many expectations on myself and on the team, and I think that I got to a point where I just said, ‘I’m hitting the reset button, completely resetting this program.’ Going back to how I started in 2005.”

Part of that reset, as cliché as it sounds, was infusing fun into the game. The championship game sure seemed fun for the Wildcats. For as drama-filled as last year’s NCAA semifinal loss to North Carolina was, this year’s championship weekend was the polar opposite.

The Wildcats, owners of the nation’s longest winning streak at 21, breezed past previously undefeated Denver in the semifinals then rode four goals and two assists courtesy of tournament MVP Izzy Scane to an easy win in the title game.

Erin Coykendall added three goals and two assists, Madison Taylor had four goals and Samantha White — the championship game’s most outstanding player — produced one goal, seven draw controls, six ground balls and three caused turnovers.

“It’s been a process each year of getting people to believe more and more and more,” Amonte Hiller said. “There’s nothing more fun than when you get a big group of people to believe in the same thing. It was such a fun journey, and I savored every single moment of it.”

Wet conditions turned much of the first half into a sloppy mess, with 21 combined turnovers making it difficult for either team to get going offensively.

Northwestern scored the first three goals of the contest (the first two were free position goals by Taylor) and held Boston College scoreless for the first 19:47.

Once the Eagles got on the board on Kayla Martello’s righty sidearm fadeaway from just inside the 8-meter arc, they wasted little time getting another. It took them just 37 seconds to cut it to 3-2 on Belle Smith’s catch-and-shoot one-timer off an inside feed from Jenn Medjid.

That would be all of Boston College’s first-half offense. Northwestern embarked on a 6-0 run to push it to 8-2 on a goal by Emerson Bohlig. The Eagles scored their next goal 15:56 after their last, a tally by Martello that made it 8-3 with 8:40 left in the third quarter.

Led by White, Kendall Halpern, Jane Hansen, Carleigh Mahoney and Allie Berkery, Northwestern caused 11 of Boston College’s 21 turnovers. White and Samantha Smith dominated the draw circle by giving Northwestern a 17-8 possession edge. Every ball on the soggy grass was swarmed by a sea of white and purple, evidenced by Northwestern’s 24-16 ground ball advantage.

The group held Medjid, a Tewaaraton finalist, to one goal and one assist and the entire Boston College offense to just 19 shots.

“I’m so proud of my ‘D.’ Wow,” Amonte Hiller said. “They were spectacular this weekend.”

Up 11-4 with a quarter to play, Northwestern didn’t fall back. It was just a year ago that North Carolina came back from down eight goals, scoring five times in the final six minutes, to oust Northwestern in the semifinals. Even as Boston College continued to struggle to clear the ball cleanly and set up its offense, Northwestern refused to make things interesting.

So instead, the Wildcats offense kept giving maximum effort. Scane, a pest on the ride against Denver and even more so against Boston College, caused a turnover near goal line extended, found the ball on the grass and dived to send one past Shea Dolce for a 13-4 lead with 10:44 to play.

“All that is is just, I mean, I’ve said it a hundred times — I just love the group around me so much, and I’m willing to do whatever it takes for them,” said Scane, who added two ground balls and one caused turnover to her ledger.

Coykendall then initiated the running clock when she scored on the doorstep a little more than four minutes later, making it 15-5. Both Coykendall and Scane will represent Northwestern as Tewaaraton Award finalists in Washington, D.C., on June 1.

Coykendall finishes her season with 58 goals and 50 assists. Scane finishes with 99 goals (a new career high and Northwestern record) and 35 assists. Scane set a Northwestern program record against Boston College by scoring her 288th career goal, passing Selena Lasota.

“I came to Northwestern with the goal in mind of winning a national championship,” Scane said. “That’s why I picked this place. … It’s been the most fun year of my life, and I wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Scane will return for another season in Evanston in 2024, taking advantage of both a COVID year and a medical redshirt season she earned after tearing her ACL and missing all of 2022. Coykendall, too, will return. As will Taylor, a newcomer who dropped 53 goals as a freshman.

“When I came here, when I committed, all I thought about was how I wanted to win a national championship,” Taylor said. “That’s really all I ever wanted and dreamed of as a kid. Now, being here is so surreal. I can’t even believe this is real right now. … My dreams came true.”


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