Taylor's Takes: The Beauty of Rivalry Week

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARMY ATHLETICS


Taylor Cummings is a three-time Tewaaraton Award winner, a member of the U.S. women’s national team, the inaugural Athletes Unlimited Lacrosse champion and the head coach at McDonogh (Md.). “Taylor’s Takes” is presented by Gait Lacrosse. Be legendary.

 

There’s truly nothing like playing against a rival school. No matter when you face them during the season, it always means something bigger and literally anything can happen.

It could be the opening game of the spring, the conference championship game or the final game of a lackluster year, and the tension would still run deep. Rivalry week is the time when current records don’t seem to matter much, and there always seems to be a mix of big blowouts, huge upsets and wire-to-wire matches that come down to the last second.

Fans witness firsthand the level of play from every single player and a palpable passion from teams for their respective schools, teammates and coaches. That near tangible feeling of pride mixed with intensity was always my favorite part of playing North Carolina, Syracuse and Northwestern every year as a Terp. I knew it was going to be a great game filled with talented players, but it always felt like the team who loved each other more and fought together as one would come out on top, so that sense of pride was a competition within the game itself.

This week, fans were lucky enough to witness multiple rivals go head-to-head. Some games were tight from the opening whistle, while others found themselves with a running clock on their opponents. This week’s “Taylor’s Takes” will consist of a deep dive into those rivalry matches and highlight players who were the difference makers for their teams.

Penn (5-9) vs. Princeton (10-3)

Both Penn and Princeton are constant figures in the Ivy and NCAA tournaments and have a long-established rivalry fueled by consistent excellence and respect. Princeton has had an excellent year thus far after not participating in the 2021 season but had to get through a tough and motivated Penn team to continue its hot streak.

The Tigers were the clear favorites going into this Wednesday night matchup, but the Quakers were unrelenting in their crisp play and were able to capitalize on multiple Princeton mistakes to keep the game close until the end. Penn even had a chance to tie the score late in the fourth quarter, but a costly turnover led to Princeton possession and ultimately a 15-13 Tigers victory.

Maria Themelis led Penn with four goals and solid offensive play, but again it was Princeton’s Kate Mulham who shined and helped lead the Tigers to victory. An incredibly shifty and unassuming player, Mulham scored five goals and eventually earned herself a face guard, which helped open lanes for top scorers Kyla Sears and Nina Montes.

Virginia Tech (9-8) vs. Virginia (8-8)

Virginia and Virginia Tech have had a long standing in-state rivalry that has produced many tight games and upsets. They play different styles that challenge the other in ways they are not used to. Virginia tends to play with a more traditional dodge-based offense and solid man-to-man defense, while Virginia Tech leans more towards an aggressive shifting zone and ball movement offense.

Unfortunately for the Hokies on Thursday night, the Cavaliers were not going to be upset this year thanks to all-star performances from Ashlyn McGovern, Rachel Clark and Mackenzie Hoeg on the offensive end. These three players combined for 12 of Virginia’s 18 goals and produced three helpers as well. The game started out chippy and close, but once McGovern, Hoeg and Clark were able to figure out Virginia Tech’s tricky shifting zone, they slowly began to chip away until the hill was too much for the Hokies to climb. The final result was 18-11 in favor of the Cavs.







Duke (15-2) vs. North Carolina (15-0)

This game was one that many of us had circled on our calendars when schedules were announced in January and later became highlighted, outlined in Sharpie and underlined after Duke upset Boston College last weekend at home. The story had almost written itself — a Duke team on a roll would come into Chapel Hill on UNC’s Senior Day and upset the undefeated top-ranked and team in the nation. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, not only did this not happen, they ended up losing by 14 goals.

To put it simply, the Tar Heels were the better team in almost every single area of play and won 18-4. They continued with their balanced, high-powered offense with eight players contributing points and played lock down man-to-man defense against a talented Duke offense, giving up just 18 total shots. To put it in perspective, Carolina scored 18 goals Thursday evening, meaning Duke would’ve had to shoot 100 percent against Taylor Moreno just to tie the score.

Jamie Ortega and Scottie Rose Growney led the way offensively for the Tar Heels, but it was the defense of Emma Trenchard and 12 saves from Taylor Moreno that ultimately stood out. Duke won the draw battle significantly, which meant more defensive possessions for UNC and a desperate need for big-time stops to be made if UNC was to come out on top.

Northwestern (13-3) v. Maryland (14-1)

Maryland and Northwestern used to only see each other on the lacrosse world’s biggest stages at final fours and national championship games. Since moving to the Big Ten in 2015, these teams now compete at least once a year and have had varying degrees of success against one another since becoming in-conference foes. Last year, the Wildcats faced the Terps three times and won each game and outscored them by a combined 27 goals, but this year’s first meeting looked a little different. With 11 assisted goals, a seven-goal performance from attacker Libby May, and a 16-save game from keeper Emily Sterling, the Terps were able to cruise to a 15-9 victory over the Wildcats.

This game had a little bit of everything that one expects from a rivalry match with a regular season title on the line — hard hustle plays resulting in caused turnovers, awesome end-to-end goalie play and a draw battle at the center circle that swayed the momentum. The difference maker for the Terps on Saturday was the way they hunted down balls in groups of two and three to Northwestern’s one or two. While they did not play a perfect game, Maryland created havoc on both ends of the field and played with a confidence through the chaos that was palpable to the crowd.

Army (11-5) v. Navy (13-3)

Talk about pride for school and country, and one of course thinks of Army-Navy. A rivalry like no other that transcends across all sports, this is a game that means so much to all involved. For the first time in program history, Army was the team to sing second after the game and win in this historic rivalry by a score of 14-9. Led by a hot goalkeeper in Lacey Bartholomay (17 saves) and offensive weapons Julia Gorajek and Jolie Riedell who combined for eight goals total, the Black Knights were victorious at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for the first time in six meetings.

Navy outshot Army by a large margin but only had two more total shots on goal, a credit to the outstanding play of Bartholomay and the defense in front of her. Forcing teams to shoot the shots that a goalie can see and save is one of the many jobs of a defense, and the Army defense delivered in those high-pressure moments. Hats off to my friend and Army head coach Michelle Tumolo for her team’s outstanding performance. I look forward to watching many more Army-Navy battles in the future.

TAYLOR’S TOP 10

1. North Carolina
2. Boston College
3. Maryland
4. Northwestern
5. Syracuse
6. Duke
7. Loyola
8. Stony Brook
9. Denver
10. Florida

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