Taylor Cummings wins Tewaaraton Award as best women's lacrosse player in the country

Taylor Cummings Accepts 2014 Tewaaraton Award - Todd Carton

Cummings becomes the first sophomore and third consecutive Terrapin to win the Tewaaraton. As the best player on the best team, the award was fitting and appropriate.

Although it doesn't have the history of college football's Heisman Trophy or college soccer's Mac Hermann Trophy, to lacrosse fans, the Tewaaraton Award, given annually since 2001 to the nation's best men's and women's lacrosse players, carries equal prestige. Tewaaraton is the native Mohawk word for the sport we call lacrosse and the award carries enough prestige for the original castings of the Trophy to be on display in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame in Baltimore and at the the University Club of Washington, DC - a partner of the Tewaaraton Foundation.

Maryland and the Tewaaraton

No Maryland man has won a Tewaaraton Award but, at the start of the evening three Terrapins' women had combined to capture four Tewaaraton trophies. Thursday night, in a ceremony held at the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian, Maryland sophomore Taylor Cummings added a fourth Terrapins' name to that list joining Jen Adams, Caitlyn McFadden, and Katie Schwarzmann. While it hasn't been unusual for juniors to win a Tewaaraton, Cummings became the first sophomore to be so honored.

Jen Adams

Terrapins' great Jen Adams, now the head women's lacrosse coach at Loyola, won the very first Tewaaraton Award in 2001. In her four years at Maryland, Adams scored 267 goals and handed out 178 assists. The former is the Maryland career record and the latter makes her the NCAA's all-time leader. Her combined total of 445 career points is also the NCAA best. Perhaps even more impressive are the accomplishments of her team. In her four years, the Terps were a combined 83-4, won the last four of their seven consecutive NCAA Championships, and had two undefeated seasons.

Caitlyn McFadden

Caitlyn McFadden, played on the 2010 National Championship team that ended Northwestern's run of five consecutive titles. McFadden was the second best goal scorer and led the team in assists. She also led Maryland in caused turnovers while being among the leaders in ground balls  and draw controls on a powerhouse squad that featured Kari Ellen Johnson, Sarah Mollison, and an up and coming freshman named Katie Schwarzmann.

Katie Schwarzmann

In 2013, Schwarzmann joined Northwestern's Kristen Kjellman and Hannah Nielsen as a two time winner of the Tewaaraton. In addition to that national title as a freshman, Schwarzmann and her teammates reached two national championship games and a final four. The championship game losses came by a combined total of two goals. She finished her career with 228 goals and 76 assists. Schwarzmann's speed often dictated the pace of games.

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A Night at the Museum

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The evening began with a reception in the grand atrium and lobby of the museum with an open bar (beer, wine and soft drinks) and hors d'oeuvres prepared by the fairly renowned Mitsitam Cafe. Both the men's and women's finalists circulated with their coaches, families, teammates, and luminaries of the lacrosse world. Katie Schwarzmann and Caitlyn McFadden were among the guests. Jen Adams, on her way overseas, was the only missing Terrapins' Tewaaraton winner.

A bit after eight we moved into the Rasmusen Theater for the main event of the evening - the presentation of the awards. The first awards are scholarships presented to Native American high school seniors - one boy and one girl for their achievements on and off the playing field. Those recipients were Alie Jimerson who will attend Albany and Kason Tarbell. Tarbell will take his talents to the Big Red of Cornell.

Because the first award was made in 2001, the committee has established a Tewaaraton legend award that they present to an individual who would have won the award had it been established at the time he played. The Spirit of Tewaaraton Award is presented to "an individual involved in the sport of lacrosse, who nobly reflects the finest virtues exemplified in the game, and who, over the course of his or her life, has made a significant contribution to society and to the lives of others."

These two awards represented the emotional highlight of the evening. The Tewaaraton Legends award was presented to Jimmy Lewis who played for Navy from 1964-1966 and went on to become a navy pilot - a real life top gun. The Spirit of Tewaaraton Award also went to a Midshipman, Brendan Looney. Looney was a Navy SEAL who died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan in September 2010. Needless to say, sniffling could be heard in the auditorium.

It then came time to announce the 2014 Tewaaraton winners. The five women's finalists were all called to the stage alphabetically by surname to receive a plaque. Taylor Cummings, Megan Douty, Shannon Gilroy, Alyssa Murray, and Kayla Treanor. The hosts, Nick and Ron, were called to present the winner. But there was no envelope. The audience waited. Joe Beninati ad-libbed some nonsense. Laughter, both comfortable and uncomfortable passed through the crowd. The suspense built. Finally, the announcement came, "I've been told that the winner is Taylor Cummings." For those interested, the Thompson brothers, Lyle and Miles, by unanimous vote of the committee, shared the men's award. Those of you who are interested can see more photos from the evening here.

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The newest honoree - Taylor Cummings

High school career

No stranger to winning awards or championships, Taylor Cummings came to Maryland with a championship pedigree. A three sport athlete at McDonogh High School in Owings Mills, Cummings helped McDonogh win four consecutive titles in those three sports - the only athlete in Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland ‘A' Conference history to achieve this feat. Her run started when she scored the winning goal in the 2011 lacrosse championship - an 18-17 win over Roland Park.

That fall, she scored the second goal to help secure the Eagles' 2-0 win over Archbishop Spalding in the soccer championship. Spalding would again fall victim to Cummings and McDonogh in basketball as she scored 14 points to help rally her squad from a 22 point deficit to a 46-44 win in the basketball championship.

Title number four in the sequence came when McDonogh defended their lacrosse crown in 2012. One year. Three sports. Four championships. Of course, with the championships came the awards. The Baltimore Sun gave her All-Metro honors in all three sports as well as naming her the overall Female Athlete of the Year as a junior and as a senior.

But lacrosse was her true love and the sport at which she didn't merely excel but dominated. Lacrosse Magazine tabbed her as the national high school Player of the Year as a junior and she came to Maryland as the nation's top recruit. In her four years at McDonogh, the lacrosse team lost once - in Cummings' freshman year - 2009. The Eagles have not lost since.

Welcome to Maryland

Since Cummings arrived at Maryland both she and the team have done, shall we say, fairly well. Cummings had an outstanding freshman season. On another powerhouse Terrapins squad that featured not only Schwarzmann but a dynamic seventy goal scorer in Alex Aust, Cummings finished fourth on the team with 43 goals and 57 points. She added 21 caused turnovers and a stunning 94 draw controls. Individually, she was the ACC Freshman of the Year and garnered All-ACC and Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association (IWLCA) honors.

For Cummings, though, the trophies had a diminished meaning. Maryland entered the 2014 national championship game as the top seed and the Terps were looking to complete a perfect 23-0 season. They fell one goal short losing to North Carolina 13-12 in triple overtime. It was the first lacrosse game Cummings had lost in five years.

Sophomore season

Many questions swirled around the women's lacrosse team as Cummings entered her sophomore season not the least of which was how the Terps would replace a seven member senior class that included Schwarzmann, Aust, and Iliana Sanza among others. Surely Cummings knew that she, along with her teammates, would all need to take on expanded roles for the season to end differently. And they all did.

Offensively, the 2014 Terrapins' squad was the most balanced in school history. Cummings led the Terps with 63 goals but Brooke Griffin with 62, Kelly McPartland with 61, and Beth Glaros with 53 were not far behind. She and Griffin tied for the second spot in assists with twenty-four just behind McPartland's thirty-three. As dominating as she'd been in the draw circle as a freshman, Cummings stepped up her game as a sophomore increasing her total by one-third to 128.

Defensively, Megan Douty stepped into the vacancy created by Ilie Sanza's graduation and not only won ACC Defensive Player of the Year honors but finished the season as a Tewaaraton finalist. The rest of the first line Terps' defense was outstanding as Maryland had the lowest goals against average in the high scoring ACC. Cummings also took on a larger role and led the team with 37 ground balls and 30 caused turnovers.

Again, the awards began accumulating. First team All-ACC, ACC Championship All-Tournament Team, IWLCA All-American, and now Tewaaraton Award winner.

Cummings felt the sting of losing for the third time in six years when Maryland dropped a regular season contest at North Carolina. The 17-15 decision would be Maryland's only loss in 2014 as Cummings and her teammates saw to it that there would be no championship game repeat. And Maryland won their title by taking down the second best squad in the country, the Syracuse Orange by a 15-12 final score. The Orange lost three times this season. All came at the hands of the University of Maryland. Need I mention the championship weekend's Most Outstanding Player? Taylor Cummings, of course.

A consummate teammate

Award winning athletes often talk about the accomplishments and support of their teammates. Sometimes their sincerity is apparent. Sometimes one senses a lack of sincerity. Cummings' thank you speech was brief.

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She thanked the selection committee, the organizers, the other nominees her family and friends, and her coaches. Of course, Cummings also included her teammates in accepting the Tewaaraton Thursday night saying, "This is not a representation of my abilities, it's a representation of everything we were able to accomplish this year and I couldn't be up here without them." In Cummings' case, it's clear that she is among that group of sincere athletes not only off the field but on it as well. And nowhere was that more apparent than on...

Championship weekend

After scoring the first goal of the semifinal game against Northwestern, the Wildcats' strategy to face guard Cummings emerged. Rather than forcing herself on the offense, the sophomore, showing ultimate trust in her teammates, was content to occupy her defender far away from the action and allow them to play six on six rather than seven on seven. She also knew she could influence the game in other ways as her four draw controls, two groundballs, and two caused turnovers demonstrated. The 9-6 final score proved that her trust was well founded.

Given more freedom to attack offensively in the championship game, Cummings adjusted her style of play. She again dominated in the draw circle using a different technique than the one she had used against Alyssa Leonard, Northwestern's all-time leader in draw controls, to grab eight against Syracuse. However, she added an assist and three goals - perhaps the most important of which came on a draw control fast break where she outraced the Syracuse defense and scored to end the Orange's four goal run.

Interviewed by ESPN in the game's immediate aftermath, Cummings responded to a question about Maryland's youth by saying, "We are so young. But the real leader on the field was Beth Glaros. We live and breathe by her and I'm so happy we could do this for her." (Glaros is Maryland's lone senior starter.) No one can doubt the sincerity of this spontaneous expression acknowledging her teammate in the midst of a triumphal celebration.

After the ceremony, former WMUC broadcaster Brian Kapur asked Cummings how she felt about winning the award and whether last year's triple overtime championship loss had provided motivation for the team. To the first, Cummings responded that winning the championship was the real prize and that the individual award was just a cherry on top. To the second, she replied that the team indeed remembered that loss and that it had, indeed, provided motivation. I asked her what would motivate the team next season. She replied, "Winning it this year. We all remember this feeling and want to feel it again."

Congratulations, Taylor. Maryland lacrosse fans can't wait to see what you have in store for us in acts three and four.

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