Scane's 10 Points, Defense's Pressure Push Northwestern into Final Four


EVANSTON, Ill. — Izzy Scane was a woman on a mission on Thursday.

That much was clear when the Northwestern attacker repeatedly dodged and twisted past Loyola defenders, reaching the goal with ease. It was clear in her determination on the ride, homing in on Greyhounds defenders and causing two turnovers. It was clear in her joy on the field, fist pumping after goals and hugging her teammates.

The goal of her mission? To best what she felt was a “bad” performance against Michigan on Sunday, when she was held to one goal and one assist, and to work with her teammates to reach a fourth consecutive NCAA semifinal.

“This week, I focused on the people around me to give me confidence going into the game,” Scane said. “They set me up terrifically. Our defense did an amazing job getting us the ball and the draw team. When we were on offense, girls were just creating opportunities. That’s all on them.”

Scane’s seven goals and three assists — her highest point total since February –– were key to leading top-seeded Northwestern to a 16-6 victory over eighth-seeded Loyola in Thursday’s NCAA quarterfinal. The Wildcats’ top scoring offense dominated the Greyhounds’ second-ranked scoring defense.

Northwestern draws fifth-seeded Denver, which dethroned reigning national champion North Carolina, in the semifinals on Friday, May 26.

Northwestern and Loyola traded blows in the opening minutes. Loyola won the first draw, which turned into a lengthy possession with polished passing. But Northwestern caused a turnover, putting an end to the Greyhounds’ hopes of getting on the board right away.

From there, momentum started to shift toward the Wildcats. Northwestern attacker Madison Taylor opening the scoring on a perfectly positioned to dart into the eight-meter, and Elle Hansen followed to make it 2-0. Chase Boyle countered to make it 2-1 –– the closest Loyola would ever get.

This came even as the Greyhounds initially dominated the draw and managed to get shots off, too. Loyola won five draws to Northwestern’s one and had seven shots to the Wildcats’ nine in the first quarter. But Boyle’s goal would be Loyola’s lone first-quarter tally.

Loyola coach Jen Adams said it was a “tough day” offensively, and she knows her program’s offensive leaders would love “another go” at the game.

“We struggled under the pressure,” Adams said. “We weren’t prepared for it. There was a point in the game where it was a close match between how much we were shooting and how much they were shooting. The difference was their balls were going in the back of the net, and ours were not.”

Northwestern continued to find its groove in the second quarter, bolstered by the addition of midfielder Serafina DeMunno in the draw circle. DeMunno helped turn the tide, as the Wildcats won seven to Loyola’s two in the second period.

The Wildcats’ attack then took control. A diving goal from Scane and an exciting score from Hansen, who was positioned near the top of the eight, helped Northwestern to a 10-3 halftime lead.

This performance came just five days after the Wildcats managed only eight goals against Michigan. Coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said her players were unhappy with that performance, and the past week was spent focusing on “trusting each other” and playing as a unit.

“They were really hungry, focused in practice and they chilled out tonight,” Amonte Hiller said.

The Greyhounds appeared resurgent in the second half. Loyola led Northwestern 6-4 on the circle, powered by graduate midfielder Jillian Wilson’s hot hand. But it wasn’t enough to spark the Greyhounds’ offense, which didn’t score at all in the third period and tallied just three more goals in the fourth quarter.

Northwestern’s defense was key to containing Loyola’s comeback efforts. Molly Laliberty had two second-half saves, as the defense limited Loyola’s looks at the cage. The Wildcats were aggressive on defense and in transition, causing nine turnovers.

Northwestern plays a high-pressure defense, Scane said, and it’s ultimately their goal to ensure the unit doesn’t play a full 90 seconds every possession.

“Our main focus is going into that ride with a sense of urgency and doing whatever we can to get the ball back,” Scane said.

Amonte Hiller called her defense “cohesive,” saying it succeeded putting significant pressure on Loyola.

The Wildcats looked every bit like a top seed on Thursday, and they also looked like they were having fun. Laliberty hyped up the crowd in the second quarter, waving her arms up and down. Defender Kendall Halpern and Laliberty hugged after a big save in the third quarter. The bench was getting in on it, too, hopping up and down and cheering their teammates on.

Now, on to the NCAA semifinals against Denver, Northwestern hopes to continue embracing this joy in the final week of its season.

“People couldn’t be happier, and I know it’s not about the win,” Scane said. “It’s about getting another week with our best friends.”


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