Maryland's Cummings hitting stride at midfield

Having played attack at Loyola High School, Maryland junior midfielder Joe Cummings gets the occasional pang of wistfulness during team practices.

"Sometimes I'll look over at the attackmen and see what they're doing and think, 'That looks fun,'" said Cummings, a Towson native. "But then I'll look at them sometimes during one-on-one drills and then I'll see them getting beat up by [senior defensemen] Brett Schmidt or Max Schmidt or Boh [Ryder Bohlander]. Then I'll think, 'Well, dodging against a short stick is nicer.' I've found good things in both positions. So I can play either."

Cummings is thriving as a midfielder, leading the No. 8 Terps (8-3) in goals with 24 and ranking third in points with 25. He has posted multiple-goal outings in four of his past seven contests and four goals in three games over that same span.

Cummings' latest four-goal outburst occurred in Maryland's 12-11 overtime loss to No. 4 Johns Hopkins last Saturday night, and afterwards, senior attackman Ryan Young called Cummings "our best player all year."

Cummings, who has already passed his previous career highs of 16 goals and 20 points set last season, said he has found a comfort level as a midfielder, which also entails playing defense.

"I'm not worried about playing defense," Cummings said Wednesday. "I'm very comfortable playing on the defensive end. It's taken me two years to figure out defense because I never really played it before, except in basketball. So I think figuring out the defense has given me one less thing that I have to worry about."

Cummings' stay in the midfield might not continue. Young and fellow attackmen Grant Catalino and Travis Reed are scheduled to graduate after this season, and coach John Tillman is considering having Cummings join sophomore Owen Blye on attack.

"That's something we've already talked about, and that's something we'll look at," Tillman said. "I think to have him on the field all the time would be of great value to our team. It just makes sense. His decision-making, his poise, his leadership — depending on what happens with some other guys, we will definitely look at that next fall and tinker with it a little bit."

Young a question mark

Speaking of Young — whose mother Maria died Sunday night after a four-year battle with pancreatic cancer — there is no definitive word on whether he will play when Maryland meets No. 7 North Carolina in an Atlantic Coast Conference tournament semifinal today in Durham, N.C.

"We'll see how he feels," Tillman said. "… There's no pressure on our end. My biggest concern is his well-being and his ability to deal with this in a way that he feels most comfortable with and what's best for his family. I care too much about him to do anything other than that."

UMBC's Gregoire cleared to play

Redshirt freshman Matt Gregoire has sat out the past three games with an eye injury, but the attackman — who has started five gamed — has been cleared to return to UMBC, coach Don Zimmerman said.

"His eye is fine," Zimmerman said of the Crofton native and South River graduate. "So he's back out there practicing with us."

Navy sticking with Wickham

Navy junior goalkeeper R.J. Wickham will start against Johns Hopkins Saturday night despite making just one save and getting pulled in favor of senior Mike Haas in last Saturday's loss to Army that eliminated the team from postseason consideration.

"R.J., playing against Georgetown and North Carolina, looked like the best goalie in the country," coach Richie Meade said Wednesday. "Why he didn't play that way on Saturday, I have no idea, and I don't think he does either. But we know what his capabilities are, and he's our guy. Mikey Haas did a great job going in, but R.J. is our goalie. It's going to be a very tough environment at Homewood Field, and R.J.'s going to have to stick his nose in there and play tough."

Win and stay home

The Navy and Towson women could clinch home-field advantage for their respective conference tournaments this weekend. Both conference winners receive automatic bids to the NCAA tournament (Navy would participate in the play-in game May 7 against the Northeast Conference champ.

If Navy defeats Lehigh Saturday at 3 p.m. in Annapolis, the Midshipmen would force at least a tie for the regular-season title and host the Patriot League tournament at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium April 28-30. Navy (4-1 in the Patriot League) beat Lehigh in last year's tournament final and then won a play-in game to reach the NCAA tournament.

The Tigers also advanced to the NCAA tournament last season but did so with an at-large bid. If they can beat Old Dominion today at 7 p.m. and William & Mary Sunday at 1 p.m., both at Johnny Unitas Stadium, the Tigers would clinch at least a tie for the Colonial Athletic Association regular-season title and would host the tournament May 5-7. The Tigers (4-1 in the CAA) have won three straight conference games, including last week's 10-9 overtime upset of then-No. 9 James Madison, the defending tournament champ.

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