Taylor Cummings anchors Terrapins

Maryland sophomore midfielder Taylor Cummings hates losing. She's lost just three lacrosse games in the past six years, and none was more heartbreaking than Maryland's triple-overtime 13-12 defeat to North Carolina in last year's national championship game, the longest national title game in NCAA lacrosse history.

Daniel Kucin Jr./Icon SMI

Taylor Cummings led Maryland this season with 59 goals and was named a first-team All-American.

"It wasn't a great feeling last year," Cummings said about falling short against the Tar Heels. "You're never going to forget a triple-overtime loss in the championship ... it's just not something that's going to go away."

This year, Maryland is back as the No. 1 seed and ready for redemption. The Terrapins (21-1) will face No. 5 seed Northwestern (14-6) in the NCAA semifinals Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET at Towson University's Johnny Unitas Stadium in Baltimore. No. 2 Syracuse (20-2) takes on No. 6 Virginia (12-8) at 5 p.m. in the other semifinal.

The Terrapins, who graduated three key players in 2013, have had to rebuild to replace the voids left by attacker Alex Aust, defender Iliana Sanza and two-time Tewaaraton Award winner Katie Schwarzmann, who were All-Americans and members of the U.S. national team.

"It was a lot coming in where I don't think the expectations were where they were in the past, and this team has rallied together," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.

Cummings, who is only a sophomore, has stepped in to become a leader both on and off the field.

"She's a true competitor. She believes in her teammates. ... She's very selfless where she's working to set her teammates up, but she'll do whatever she can to help the team succeed," Reese said.

What makes this group unique is the chemistry the players have developed, even under such young leadership.

"We have a great group of girls, and that's just the prize of it all, is being able to play together," said Kristen Lamon, a junior attacker.

And that chemistry and respect for her teammates is what propels Cummings to perform.

"What's great about our team is that we pick each other up when we're down and we always have each others' backs," Cummings said.

Last year, Cummings played in the midfield alongside Schwarzmann. Cummings has had to anchor the midfield to make up for Schwarzmann's absence by shifting her focus more toward defending.

"This year I'm definitely getting in more and just learning to be confident on that end of the field like I am on the other end of the field," Cummings said, adding that it was her biggest challenge of the season.

The statistics she's posted this season are a testament to her growth into a stronger leadership role. In 2013, she had 43 goals and 14 assists, but she's far surpassed those numbers this season, having already notched 59 goals, ranking 10th in the nation, and 23 assists.

Her 82 combined points and 116 draw controls are ranked 11th in the country (in both categories).

This season, she was named a first-team All-American and first-team All-ACC, and she's one of five finalists for the Tewaaraton Award, given to college lacrosse's most outstanding player. Junior defender Megan Douty is also a finalist. Douty was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year and has helped Maryland hold opponents to 7.86 goals per game, the ninth-strongest defense in the country. The winner of the Tewaaraton will be announced in a ceremony next Friday.

Despite the recognition that Cummings has received this year, she is focusing on muting the distractions to help lead her team through the national championship weekend and to enjoy the thrill of competing on the sport's biggest stage.

"It's not about me. We have a lot of talented players on this team who get these kinds of awards, and I think what makes Maryland such a great program is that the people don't even acknowledge [the awards]," Cummings said.

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