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3 storylines to follow for Maryland women’s lacrosse’s 2017 season

The Terps look to bounce back after a heartbreak loss in last year’s National Championship.

NCAA Lacrosse: Women's Semi Final-Maryland vs Syracuse Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Maryland’s women’s lacrosse team opens the 2017 season Saturday at William & Mary as they look to return to a fifth straight championship game. After winning the previous two national championships, the Terps couldn’t complete the three-peat last season as they lost to North Carolina in the finals. The championship loss was also the Terps’ only blemish in a 22-1 season where they won both the Big Ten regular season and conference championships.

Last season, Maryland featured the best scoring offense in the nation at 15.17 goals per game, while only giving up 7.09 goals per game. This season, the Terps enter as the second best team in the nation, just behind North Carolina.

There are three main storylines to watch for the Terps this season:

Replacing Taylor Cummings’ production

Cummings is the only player, male or female, to win the Tewaaraton Award three times. She graduated with the third most goals and second most assists in Maryland history, and set a Maryland single season record for draw controls with 114 in 2016. Last year, Cummings, a four-time first team All-American, started all 23 games for Maryland and finished second on the team in goals, assists and points.

In addition to losing Cummings, Maryland also lost Alice Mercer, the 2016 IWLCA National Defender of the year. Both Cummings and Mercer were co-captains for last year’s Maryland team.

Impact of incoming freshmen

To combat the loss of Cummings, Mercer and the rest of last year’s graduating seniors, Maryland boasts the top-ranked recruiting class in the nation, according to Inside Lacrosse. Among the class, three are ranked in the top five, and seven total in the top 50, all of which are Under Armour All-Americans.

At the head of the class is Lizzie Colson, the second-ranked freshman and midfielder from Manchester, Md. Joining Colson as top-five recruits on the team are Brindi Griffin, an attacker from Edgewater, Md., and Hannah Warther, a midfielder from Sykesville, Md.

Returning starters

While losing Cummings will certainly be an adjustment, the Terps still returns their top-scoring attacker in Megan Whittle. The junior led the team in points with 81 and goals with 76, the latter being good enough for second in the nation. Whittle, who was the top recruit in the country two years ago, will look to lead the team in goals for the third straight season.

Along with Whittle, seniors Zoe Stukenberg and Nadine Hadnagy will continue to play prominent roles this season as three-year starters. The senior midfielder and defender will together serve as team captains for the second straight season, and each of Whittle, Stukenberg and Hadnagy were named first team preseason All-Americans.

After Saturday’s season opener, Maryland will play Georgetown before a National Championship rematch with top-ranked UNC for the home opener.