Third Time's the Charm for All-Time Great Taylor Cummings
WASHINGTON, D.C. – "You only get a certain number of years and you only get a certain number of opportunities to compete in the game that you love – [Don't] waste them."
Those words meant more to Taylor Cummings than anyone could imagine.
They were said by her father Michael following her first national championship with Maryland as a sophomore in 2014.
It was said in reflection of his sophomore year as a standout soccer player at William & Mary, where he did "a little too much of everything," his daughter recalled, leading to a diagnosis of chronic fatigue.
It was said to put her illustrious career into perspective – even just as a sophomore – to take advantage of the time that she had with her team.
Since then, Cummings led the Terps to two more NCAA title games, winning one more crown in 2015. She earned the highest honor in college lacrosse – the Tewaaraton Award – three years in a row to become an all-time great, not only at Maryland, but in the history of the game.
All it took were the words "three time," uttered by Under Armour's Ryan Kuehl, for her family, friends and fans to erupt in deafening cheers at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian on Thursday night.
Cummings had just made history on her 22nd birthday.
As the first-ever three-time Tewaaraton recipient, male or female, Cummings' head dropped in disbelief, in excitement, in pure humility as she immediately hugged the four finalists standing next to her, including teammate and All-American defender Alice Mercer.
Maryland coach Cathy Reese was the first to hop out of her seat in a standing ovation. While the past week was full of mixed emotions, having fallen to North Carolina in the NCAA finals, Cummings' final game as a Terp, that one loss this year – in fact, just the four losses in her career – have never defined her as a player or diminished what she accomplished.
"It's obviously tough when the season ends the way it did, but at the same time, Taylor's so deserving of this award," said Reese. "To have an undefeated season until the last game was really a testament to her leadership and her abilities out there."
Cummings' acceptance speech echoed what she has said since the first day she stepped on campus in College Park, Md. – when she could barely see straight in her first collegiate practice because the pace was "a big surprise," when Beth Glaros became her Big Terp to continue the Big Terp-Little Terp tradition, when two-time Tewaaraton recipient Katie Schwarzmann took her under her wing and when Alex Aust helped her fit seamlessly into their firepower offense – that her postseason accolades have never been about her. Her three Tewaaraton Awards have never been hers.
"Our season didn't end the way that we wanted it to, but I would lose again to get 60 more minutes with you," said Cummings, trying to hold back tears. "This is for you. This award isn't for me. I have loved every single second. It's because of you. I'm forever a Terp."
From left to right: Maryland assistant Caitlyn Phipps, head coach Cathy Reese, three-time Tewaaraton winner Taylor Cummings, 2016 Tewaaraton finalist Alice Mercer, assistant Lauri Kenis. (John Strohsacker)
She thanked her coaches – head coach Cathy Reese, assistants Lauri Kenis and Caitlyn Phipps and director of operations Maggie Phipps – for taking a chance on her because she was originally destined to follow in her father's footsteps as a young girl whose grit and perseverance first shone as a soccer player.
But Cummings was easily able to translate her skills to the lacrosse field when, perhaps surprisingly to some, she started playing the sport on a "B" team before earning her way to the M&D "A" travel squad, playing for coach Scott Robinson.
"At that time, I was a soccer player trying to play lacrosse," said Cummings. "He took me on his team because he saw something in me that a lot of people didn't and he really just taught the ins and outs of the game. He taught me to believe in myself and what it meant to be a good teammate."
And the ultimate teammate she has been for the Terps after committing to Maryland in September of her junior year of high school. When Cummings became a sophomore sensation, Glaros saw her immediate potential.
"As a player, she's unbelievable," said Glaros. "Off the field, she's just a great person. She's always there for me whenever I need her, even though she's better than me. A lot of times, she takes care of me."
Then entering her junior season, her senior teammates knew she was becoming another Maryland legend. Fellow Tewaaraton finalist Megan Douty described Cummings as "very aggressive." She is an "all-around hardworking player," according to Shanna Brady. But Brooke Griffin summed up her character nicely – Cummings is a "fearless leader."
"Taylor's amazing," said Mercer, as she stood by Cummings throughout the 2016 Tewaaraton Ceremony. "It's been a great four years with her. She just pushes everyone around her to be better. It's just been truly an honor to play with her."
Fans saw four straight years of pure excellence from Cummings and three consecutive seasons of Tewaaraton-caliber performances.
"I wouldn't put it past her to do it – and she did," added Mercer on Cummings' Tewaaraton three-peat. "She's done it all and she's crushed it. She deserves it."
In 2013, she was the ACC Freshman of the Year and an IWLCA first team All-American. As a sophomore, Cummings became a member of the U.S. women's national team as the IWLCA Midfielder of the Year and NCAA championship Most Outstanding Player (MOP). In 2015, Maryland's first year in the Big Ten, she added Big Ten midfielder of the year and another NCAA MOP honors to her resume.
But in 2016, which was the reason for her third straight Tewaaraton honor, Cummings was the Big Ten tournament Most Valuable Player as the Terps earned their first-ever Big Ten tournament crown, avenging last year's missed opportunity after a unexpected loss to Ohio State. She was the conference's midfielder of the year, and again, an IWLCA All-American after setting school single-season records for draw controls (144) and caused turnovers (52).
Cummings graduates from Maryland as one of the most decorated players in the program's storied history. A four-time IWLCA first team All-American, she departs ranking third in goals (229), ninth in assists (94), second in points (323) and first in draw controls (509). Her four-year career finished with an 88-4 record, just one loss each season.
"For us to sit here at the end of the year for the past two years and this year and be celebrating Taylor and her success, I think again is a true testament to her and what she's been able to accomplish," said Reese. "She had such an impact on our team and on the sport. It's been really impressive."
The third time proved to be the charm, as emcee Joe Beninati said following Cummings' exceptional speech, but upon being asked what it has meant to be Terp for the past four years, she was almost left speechless.
"Oh gosh," she said. "It means putting your heart and soul into every single thing that you do.
"On each of the four teams that I've been on, people all want the same thing and they all have the same goals in mind and push each other to their limits and have fun while doing it. I think being a Terp means working hard, playing hard and loving what you do."
Her father's inspirational message has now come full circle for the three-time Tewaaraton winner. No one will ever say she wasted her time.
"Being a pioneer isn't easy," said Spirit of Tewaaraton Award honoree Tina Sloan Green, the first African-American head coach in college women's lacrosse, as well as the first African-American to be named to the U.S. women's national team. (John Strohsacker)
Tina Sloan Green Honored with Spirit of Tewaaraton Award
Former Temple coach Tina Sloan Green, the first African-American head coach in the history of women's intercollegiate lacrosse, was honored Thursday night with the Spirit of Tewaaraton Award.
After becoming the first African-American named to the U.S. women's national first team and the reserve team from 1969-71, she led the Owls from 1973-92 to a 207-62-4 record featuring three NCAA championships and 11 consecutive final four appearances.
Green, a 1997 inductee of the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame, founded the Black Women in Sports Foundation in 1992, as well as the Inner City Field Hockey and Lacrosse Program at Temple.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Tina Sloan Green, not only as my college coach at Temple, but as a trailblazer for women in sports," said current Florida coach Amanda O'Leary. "She helped put the sport of lacrosse on the map – and did so by breaking through gender and race barriers to reach success at the highest level possible in collegiate athletics with a number of national championships."
Her players remembered her as talking the talk and walking the walk as someone who didn't take no for an answer. In her acceptance speech, Green said being the recipient of the Spirit award is "symbolic of the power of education and sport as a change agent."
"Being a pioneer isn't easy," she said. "Remember, talent has no color and all lives matter. "
Penn State alum Candace Finn Rocha is the first female recipient of the Tewaaraton Legend Award. (John Strohsacker)
Candace Finn Rocha Honored as First Female Legend Recipient
After beginning her playing career as the center for Penncrest (Pa.) High School, where she was a three-time Central League All-Star and MVP, Candace Finn Rocha became a four-time All-American as a second home for Penn State and the team's leading scorer from 1979-82.
She led the Nittany Lions to national championships in 1979 and 1980 and then won the Broderick Award as the collegiate player of the year in 1981 and 1982. Rocha was a member of the U.S. women's touring team in 1980 and 1981, as well as the 1982 and 1986 World Cup squads.
"I cannot put into words how much I appreciate being a Tewaaraton Legend," said the 1998 inductee to the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. "Lacrosse impacted my life in so many ways, providing an opportunity to attend college, travel the world, harvest lifelong friendships and memories that otherwise I would not have had."
On Thursday, she spoke of the first time she picked up a lacrosse stick in seventh grade, which quickly brought her great excitement. The speed, energy and competition were "magical" to her, which led to her standout career in State College, where she made behind-the-back passes and shots that no one had ever seen before. Her Penn State teammates ultimately viewed her as a game-changer, raising the level of the sport.
"Lacrosse was my true first love – sorry, dear," she said, apologizing to her husband in the audience. "I am standing here today as a result of those who came before me and those who were by my side throughout my journey. I was lucky enough to be a part of community that supported women's athletics."
Jade Haumann joined Emerson Shenandoah as the 2016 recipients of the 2016 Tewaaraton Native American scholarships, presented by US Lacrosse. (John Strohsacker)
Haumann Earns Tewaaraton Native American Scholarship
Jade Haumann, a senior at Onondaga Central High School who will attend and play lacrosse at Keuka College this fall, was named a 2016 recipient of the Tewaaraton Native American Scholarship, presented by US Lacrosse.
Academically, Haumann, a citizen of the Seneca Nation, Wolf Clan, is a member of the National Honor Society, ranking sixth in her high school class. Athletically, she is proud to follow the lead of the Haudenosaunee women's lacrosse players, striving to be a positive role model on and off the field.
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