When Taylor Cummings finishes playing lacrosse for Maryland this weekend at the final four in Philadelphia, she will be ready to move on.
For four years, outside attention has focused on a lacrosse career that places the Terps' two-time Tewaaraton Award winner in the conversation about the best college women's player ever. At the same time, however, Cummings earned a degree in finance — and she wants to use it.
That's not to say she won't miss Maryland.
"If I could do it all over again I would," said the McDonogh graduate who leads the No. 1 and two-time defending champion Terps (21-0) into tonight's national semifinal against No. 4 Syracuse at Talen Energy Stadium. "I love this program. I love everything about this place, and I will miss our team and the coaches and everything I've been so fortunate to have been a part of the past four years.
"But at the same time, I'm excited to see what my life is like without lacrosse. It will be weird and it'll take some adjustment, but I'm excited to do something different."
It's not as if Cummings won't ever pick up a lacrosse stick again. She plans to continue competing for the U.S. national team, and she would like to play in the semipro United Women's Lacrosse league that debuts this summer.
If she can combine lacrosse with her future career, so much the better.
She interviewed with Under Armour last week and has said for years that it is her dream to work for the Baltimore-based sports apparel company. It's difficult to see any company affiliated with lacrosse turning her away.
Cummings has been the face of women's college lacrosse for three years and is the most honored player in the history of the game while leading Maryland to two national championships and four final fours.
To Cummings, the defining moment in her college career came at the end of her freshman year when the Terps lost to North Carolina in triple overtime in the national championship. She doesn't want to feel that heartbreak again.
"We played three overtimes and didn't come out on top," she said. "And after all that work we put in, not to reach our final goal was really tough on myself and the other girls. Those of us who were returning felt we had to target that emotion and that feeling of not wanting to fail into our play, and I think that had an impact on every player who played in that game."
Maryland coach Cathy Reese remembers realizing afterward that Cummings hadn't lost a scholastic lacrosse game in four years. McDonogh's 155-game win streak was at 69 when Cummings graduated.
"That loss was tough," Reese said. "We went undefeated through the whole season and that was the first loss for her in a really long time, and I think it was her recognizing that she has the ability to positively impact the game. ... She's such a competitive person, just so mentally tough that her career's been amazing."
A year later, the Terps were national champions. Cummings was the tournament's Most Outstanding Player and later that week became the first sophomore to win the Tewaaraton Award.
Next week, she could become the first three-time winner — male or female — in the 16-year history of the Tewaaraton. She's a four-time first-team All-American and a two-time national Midfielder of the Year. Last year, she was nominated for an ESPY as the Best Female College Athlete.
Is she the best women's college lacrosse player ever?
Jen Adams, who won the first Tewaaraton in 2001 to cap a storied career at Maryland, has been widely considered the best ever to play the game, but she's already handed over the mantle.
"If my vote counts for anything, I vote for Taylor Cummings," said Adams, now the coach at Loyola Maryland.
"She's just exciting to watch," Adams said. "It's not that she does anything fancy. She's not all about the flair, but she's about playing lacrosse at the highest level with an intensity about her and with such poise and grace and control, and that's what I've always loved when I go out to watch her. She just goes about her business and makes sure she does it as good as she possibly can."
There isn't much Cummings can't do, and that was obvious at McDonogh when she led the Eagles to soccer, basketball and lacrosse championships her senior year — scoring four goals in a soccer semifinal, rallying the team from 22 points down at halftime of the basketball final and scoring the game-winning goal in the lacrosse championship.
"That's just her personality. Whatever she does, she never does it halfway," said Corinne Etchison, her best friend and former Eagles teammate who played lacrosse at Georgetown. "I don't know if I would call her a perfectionist, but I think she gets the most out of whatever she's doing, whether it be in the classroom — she works so hard in school — or whether it be on the field. You see the drive in other areas of her life, too, and that's just how she is."
Channeling all of that competitive drive, talent and work ethic into one sport at Maryland, Cummings excelled right away. She has started every game, and scored five goals in her second game as a freshman.
Heading into this weekend's national semifinals, she leads the Terps in points (74), draw controls (134), caused turnovers (50) and ground balls (60) for a second straight year. Last year, her 100 points led Division I.
Teammate Zoe Stukenberg, a junior who grew up five minutes from Cummings' Ellicott City home but went to Marriotts Ridge, said everything Cummings can do is summed up in the 10-7 regular-season win over Syracuse in 2015. Cummings had six goals and an assist, and scored the last three Maryland goals.
"Taylor just won the game for us," Stukenberg said. "It was just one of those games where everyone is a step off, a step slow, shots weren't falling, we weren't playing well as a team and Taylor Cummings alone was able to allow us to squeak out with a win. It was just pure grit and determination and the refuse-to-lose mindset that she has. Obviously, she didn't do it alone, but it kind of felt like it that day."
Despite the attention focused on Cummings, Stukenberg said she is a terrific teammate.
"It's easy to imagine how somebody with that many accolades and awards could be all about themselves, but Taylor — never for a second," Stukenberg said. "She's thinking about what she can do to make the Terps a better team and what she can do to help us. When Taylor Cummings, the most awarded player in the history of women's lacrosse, can think about the team, I think that sets a really good example for everyone."
With the possibility of winning her third Tewaaraton Award on the horizon for next week, Cummings isn't thinking about that. She has more pressing business awaiting tonight.
She'd trade all of the individual honors for one final championship. When she considers what her Terps legacy might be, it has nothing to do with two or three Tewaaratons.
"I would rather be remembered as being part of an awesome program," said Cummings, whose team is aiming for the 14th national championship in Maryland women's lacrosse history.
"I'm just another piece of the Maryland tradition and the Maryland family. I am so proud of everything we've accomplished in four years here, my class and I. I think that we were able to do some really special things that not a lot of people can say they did.
"I'm happy to have my name on those championship titles and on those conference titles, and that's what I want to be remembered for — just being another piece of the Maryland puzzle."
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