Attacker Izzy Scane hustles up the field. She's been her usual terrific self this season, hoping to lead Northwestern to another national championship. Photo by AJ Anderson/North by Northwestern.

Recently crowned both Big Ten regular season and tournament champs, top-seeded Northwestern Women’s Lacrosse (15-2, 5-1 B1G) is going into this NCAA tournament as the favorite to win it all and become the first back-to-back champ since the 2014-15 Maryland Terrapins.

Led by five First Team All-Big Ten selections, they avenged one of two losses on the season with a 14-12 victory over No. 15 Penn State (11-7, 4-2 B1G) in the B1G Tournament championship game and are entering the NCAA tournament hot on a seven-game winning streak.

Of course, you can’t talk about Northwestern Lacrosse without mentioning arguably the best name in the game right now — B1G attacker of the year and last year’s Tewaaraton award winner, sixth-year attacker Izzy Scane. To borrow a phrase, she’s the lacrosse version of Caitlin Clark. Scane is fifth in the nation in goals scored with 70, a slight departure from her previous otherworldly 98+ goal seasons, but she still leads a potent Northwestern offense that is second nationally in goals per game. Scane also tied former Boston College attacker Charlotte North for most goals in a career with 358 in the B1G tournament championship and will almost certainly hold the record outright after this NCAA tournament run.

As good as Scane is, she isn’t the only engine that makes this train go. Fellow attackers second-year Madison Taylor and graduate student Erin Coykendall are critical parts of the offense. Taylor is 11th in the nation in points (goals and assists) thanks to her 66 goals, while Coykendall led the team in assists, sitting 14th in the country in that category. Not to be left out, graduate attacker Dylan Amonte has stepped up big this season as the team’s third-leading goal scorer.

While defense is not their calling card, the Wildcats have been solid on the other side of the ball, allowing under 11 goals per game. Fourth-year defenders Kendall Halpern and Carleigh Mahoney and graduate midfielder Jane Hansen are all in the top 50 in caused turnovers, combining for 86 turnovers this season. Meanwhile, in goal, sixth-year Molly Laliberty has been a stalwart keeper and an energizing presence on the field.

As the one-seed, Northwestern receives a bye and will play the winner of No. 17 Stanford (13-4, 7-0 Pac 12) vs. No. 12 Denver (15-3, 5-0 Big East) on Sunday, May 12. The Wildcats ran up the score against Stanford in their exhibition on Jan. 28, and they defeated then-No. 10 Denver 14-10 on Mar. 8. Another matchup with Denver would also mean a rehash of last year’s Final Four matchup which Northwestern won handily.

Northwestern has home-field advantage, as the games this weekend will be played at a raucous Martin Stadium, which set attendance records during the Big Ten Tournament. To say the Wildcats are a juggernaut at home would be an understatement, as they have won their last 43 games at either Wilson Field or Martin Stadium and are a perfect 10-0 this season. To put that in perspective, the team hasn’t lost at home since before the COVID-19 pandemic, on March 9, 2020, to be exact.

To all the teams eyeing up Northwestern in the coming weeks, good luck. You’re going to need it.

Let the title defense circuit begin.