Taylor Cummings, the do-it-all superstar midfielder and two-time Tewaaraton Award winner, will probably finish her career at Maryland as the most decorated women's college lacrosse player EVER. She has won two straight national championships and is looking to lead the Terps to a three-peat this season. Cummings sports a career record of 68-3. Two of those three losses have come at the hands of Maryland's greatest rival, North Carolina.
The Terrapins and Tar Heels have combined to win the last three national championships. They've played each other in two of them. In the 2012-2013 season, Maryland was undefeated and had already beaten UNC twice before they met in the national championship game. The Tar Heels came away with a 13-12 win in triple overtime in what will go down as one of, if not, the greatest women's lacrosse game ever played. Heartbreaking does not even begin to describe the loss for Maryland. Last season, the Terps returned the favor by beating the Tar Heels, 9-8, in a historic, come-from-behind victory to win their second straight national championship. Heartbreaking does not even begin to describe the loss for UNC.
These are two of the best programs in women's college lacrosse each and every year. Maryland started the season ranked No. 1. Their incoming freshmen class was ranked No. 2. UNC started the season ranked No. 2. Their incoming freshmen class was ranked No. 1.
"Maryland-Carolina is always a great game. It's hard-fought and the girls are so competitive on both ends. It's always one of the best games of the year as far as lacrosse goes," said Maryland head coach Cathy Reese after practice earlier this week.
Megan Whittle had a breakout game against UNC in College Park last season. Caroline Steele, one of Maryland's star freshmen, is looking to make a similar impact. "I'm really excited to be a part of this rivalry."
Maryland only returned five starters from last year's squad. Reese said that while the team is going to have some hiccups, there's also a lot of potential for growth. She said the Terps might be in for some hiccups against the Tar Heels. "Defensively, we're going to be really tested...Their offense and their team is similar to ours in the respect that anyone on the field can score. Any of their seven players are dangerous."
Alice Mercer, a senior defender, said that communication will be key against the Tar Heels. "Defensively, we've always had the same mindset and that is playing together as a unit." Cummings added, "We've seen bits and pieces of how good we can be and what we can accomplish this year. Our goal on Saturday is to put together a full 60 minutes."
A full 60 minutes of Maryland playing their style of lacrosse. That's what it will take for the Terps to pass their first major test of this young season. If anyone can appreciate the history of this game and this rivalry, it's Reese, who won four straight national championships at Maryland as a player, "It's been such a rivalry between the two programs throughout the years."
Reese is taking the approach that while she wants to win this game--and she really wants to win this game--Saturday's contest in Chapel Hill will help her and the staff figure out what Maryland needs to work on as a team going forward. This year's game is as much an evaluation as it a competition. That became evident when Cummings, who might be playing the Tar Heels for the last time in her career and, along with Mercer, wants to beat them more than anyone else on Fetzer Field, demurred.
"We're really excited to go down there and see where we're at."