M

egan Whittle lines up, her gaze fixed on the painted line 100 yards away. A whistle blows. Whittle’s Maryland flag-patterned shoes turn into a blur of black, yellow, red and white. Eighteen seconds later, she touches the line, turns and trots back — one sprint down, 19 to go.

Whittle squirts water into her mouth.

“You just do it,” she says after catching her breath. “That’s the Maryland lacrosse standard.”

Sip, turn, go.

"> With Taylor Cummings Gone, It's Whittle's Time to Shine | USA Lacrosse Magazine

PHOTO BY JOSH ROTTMAN

Maryland's Megan Whittle steps into a new leadership role now that Taylor Cummings has graduated.

With Taylor Cummings Gone, It's Whittle's Time to Shine


M

egan Whittle lines up, her gaze fixed on the painted line 100 yards away. A whistle blows. Whittle’s Maryland flag-patterned shoes turn into a blur of black, yellow, red and white. Eighteen seconds later, she touches the line, turns and trots back — one sprint down, 19 to go.

Whittle squirts water into her mouth.

“You just do it,” she says after catching her breath. “That’s the Maryland lacrosse standard.”

Sip, turn, go.

Freshman Brindi Griffin, whose injury has her relegated to a stationary bike at the center of a sidewalk looking down on the turf of the Field Hockey and Lacrosse Complex, approaches Whittle after the 20th sprint on a windy January afternoon. Griffin’s preseason run test was cut short due to soreness in her knee. She looks disappointed.

“Pick your head up,” Whittle says to her. “Everything is fine. It’s not the end of the world.”

How ironic, Whittle thinks. Only two years ago, she was in the same spot as Griffin, a freshman eager to prove herself yet limited by circumstances beyond her control. At that time, Whittle could complete just seven sprints after having her wisdom teeth removed and suffering a stress fracture in her foot on the treadmill.

It was Brooke Griffin, Brindi’s older sister and a 2015 Maryland graduate, who texted Whittle later that day.

“You need to calm down,” Brooke Griffin said. “Everything is OK. You’re going to be fine. We need you in May. We don’t need you right now.”


“She’s just a constant offensive threat. She’s going to be in the role where now she has not one or two sets of eyes looking at her. It’s going to be three or four.” - Taylor Cummings


Whittle went on to have a sensational freshman season, scoring 67 goals and sparking the Terps’ comeback to beat North Carolina in the 2015 national championship game. She followed that up with a 76-goal sophomore season, though this time Maryland lost to North Carolina in the NCAA final. The two teams play Saturday at Maryland Stadium in College Park, part of a doubleheader with the Terps men hosting Yale.

Whittle never forgot how Brooke Griffin helped her.

“Now it’s my time to do this for Brindi,” she says.

It helps that both Whittle and Brindi Griffin played for the McDonogh (Md.) high school dynasty — as did Taylor Cummings, the three-time Tewaaraton Award winner who graduated from Maryland last spring.Now all eyes turn to Whittle not only as a scorer, but also as a leader.“She’s just a constant offensive threat,” Cummings says. “She’s going to be in the role where now she has not one or two sets of eyes looking at her. It’s going to be three or four.”

In the past two years, Cummings typically sparked the offense by winning the ball off the draw, while Tewaaraton finalist Alice Mercer could carry it coast to coast and kick it down low for another look to goal. Senior captains Zoe Stukenberg and Nadine Hadnagy could assume Cummings’ and Mercer’s roles in the midfield and defense, respectively, but the offense needs a voice.

“Megan, who has been so good and such a standout offensive player, comes into now her junior year, [and] we’re looking to her more to lead, as opposed to she’s always just done her thing,” Terps coach Cathy Reese says. “What we need her to do is really look to take control of the offense.”

Whittle scored 143 goals in her first two seasons and recorded the team’s fastest 40-yard dash in the fall, coming in at 5.08 seconds. She has obvious speed and finishing ability.

But can she be more? Can she facilitate the offense as a feeder? Can she speak up and engage the coaching staff in new discussions on ways she can improve? Can she lead?








Whittle Me This

Megan Whittle's career stats

Year

Goals

Assists

2015 67 5
2016 76 5
2017 (2 games) 6 1
Total 149 11



PHOTO BY JOHN STROHSACKER

With finishing ability and speed to burn, Whittle scored 143 goals in her first two seasons at College Park.


Whittle says she benefitted from playing with the English national team last summer. She learned to do more than just score. She likely will suit up for England (her mother was born there) in the FIL Women’s World Cup in July.

“At the end of the day, I just want to make a name for Maryland,” Whittle says. “That’s my thing — become more of a team player and just put myself out there more to put the team in a position to be successful and compete for a national championship.”

Reese notices the difference between the quiet but determined freshman and the confident junior ready to take the reins of the Terps’ prolific offense. Whittle no longer is linked to Cummings, after both shared a similar trajectory in the sport. They never lost a game as teammates at McDonogh and rarely lost a game as teammates at Maryland. (The Terps are 66-3 over the last three seasons, 88-4 stretching back to Cummings’ freshman year and, incredibly, 205-19 in Reese’s 10 seasons.)

Still, just like it did at McDonogh, the spotlight shifts from Cummings to Whittle.

“Megan will create her own path. I don’t think she’s going to defer to being Taylor’s shadow,” McDonogh coach Chris Robinson said. “Megan Whittle wants to be Megan Whittle, and that’s going to be special enough as it is.”

Whittle’s value as an upperclassman will be tied to her ability to elevate the play of those around her. After crushing Syracuse in the NCAA semifinals last Memorial Day weekend, Maryland sputtered against North Carolina. Marie McCool limited Cummings to one goal and Whittle shot just 3-for-10 in the championship game.

Certainly, Whittle’s ability to get to the goal will help as the NCAA ushers in a 90-second possession clock. She has won and lost an NCAA championship. She doesn’t want to experience losing again. As she describes it, it’s her “put up or shut up” attitude to which her teammates are drawn. Just get it done.

“I want to feel that feeling of winning again,” Whittle says.  “You have to do it. You have to go out and you have to run the run tests. But also you have to catch and throw, you have to score, [and] you have to not hit the goalie. You have to talk it into existence.”

But as Whittle herself said after winning the NCAA championship as a freshman, “You can talk the talk, but you’ve got to walk the walk.”

This article appears in the upcoming March edition of US Lacrosse Magazine. Don't get the mag? Join US Lacrosse today to start your subscription.