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Joe Cummings’ 5-point effort helps Maryland lacrosse dismantle Georgetown

- The Washington Times - Friday, February 24, 2012

His shot isn't a rocket, at least not usually. He isn't a hulking attackman perpetually perched on the crease. Despite a strong pedigree, he never seems to be hyped.

No matter. Joe Cummings keeps playing, keeps winning, keeps making the Maryland lacrosse program better.

He's been an attackman and a midfielder. Really, he's just an offensive maestro. Ask Georgetown, which found itself on the wrong end of the senior's five-point outing in a 16-11 Maryland rout at the Multi-Sport Field.

Cummings had three goals and two assists for the No. 7 Terrapins (2-0), who led 16-5 before the Hoyas (0-1) deposited six goals in the final five minutes.

"I think he takes a lot of pride in that," coach John Tillman said. "I think what fires him up is he heard a lot that he was an off-ball guy and that's all he could do. I think he's a prideful guy and feels like he's a much more diverse guy than just a finisher."

Cummings wasn't the only reason for Maryland's impressive demolition. Faceoff ace Curtis Holmes won 15 of 27 draws. The Terps got goals from all six of their offensive starters, plus a hat trick from second-line midfielder Michael Shakespeare. Maryland, so sloppy in its opener, committed only seven turnovers in the first three quarters.

But an extended look at the offense revealed so much of what Maryland wants to do this year revolves around the 6-foot, 190-pound Cummings.

He's always possessed a knack for scoring, whether as a complementary piece as a freshman, a man-up sniper as a sophomore or a crafty midfielder a year ago.

But beyond the numbers, Maryland was always better when Cummings was a cog in the offense. The assists weren't there, but the savvy was evident all along.

"You can't replace someone like Joe Cummings," Holmes said. "His lacrosse IQ is so high. He knows where to be all the time. He's our quarterback on the offense. He knows where people are supposed to be. He knows where he's supposed to be. He gets [us] organized."

In that context, his first two-assist day really wasn't a surprise, even if it required 52 career games to do it. And as Maryland moves on without the potent attack combination of Grant Catalino and Ryan Young, Cummings is a logical successor to filling in some of its production.

His skillset isn't the same as Catalino's, but his role will be similar. Catalino scored the big goals, but was also a certain presence as Maryland reached the final four a year ago.

But there are differences. Much of last year's attack --- seniors Travis Reed, Catalino and Young --- were best left at one spot. Cummings' value inherently lies in his ability to blend in anywhere.

It's a common trait for these Terps, who saw Shakespeare race around the cage for one goal and deftly dissected the Hoyas with their passing within 10 yards of the cage.

"That's the good thing about our offense," Cummings said. "We're not attack or midfield. We're just six offensive players, and we play anywhere and that makes us dangerous. I think that's what makes us unique this year compared to last year."

What wasn't unique was Friday's outcome. The local lacrosse rivalry might have arrived at an indefinite hiatus, basketball-related squabbling perhaps shelving the rivalry for some time to come.

Yet the final scheduled meeting between the two, though, was decided like so many others --- with Maryland winning in a rout. The Terps improved to 10-2 all-time against the Hoyas, with Maryland winning six of the regular-season meetings in the last 10 years by at least five goals.

That included a 20-8 pummeling last year in College Park, a game nearly emulated before Maryland yanked its starters while the Hoyas left in their first-teamers at the end and wound up with a respectable margin.

"I didn't expect this in a million years," Tillman said. "There was no way I expected this game to be what it was last year."

Instead, Cummings played a big part in ensuring the Terps would retain Beltway bragging rights for the next year and probably longer.

"I definitely had opportunities, and I was thankful I finished them, but I also had some that I missed, and I can definitely improve," Cummings said.

He likely will --- and, as usual, make Maryland better along the way.

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