Megan Taylor always has been absorbed by sports. She began attending her older brother’s ice hockey games in Maryland not long after she was born and would watch, fascinated, from a young age while other siblings horsed around. Her dad, Gary, said she grew up at the hockey rink and in the back of a Suburban shuttling to games.
Yet as much as Taylor loved competition, her mother noticed her daughter’s demeanor during her own practices. During field hockey drills, other girls would run to get in line while young Taylor slowly made her way there and ended up in the back every time. When Taylor’s mom, Terri, asked her daughter about it, Taylor said she would get a turn either way, so why bother pushing and shoving?
“Things are easy for her,” Terri Taylor said.
There’s no stress. Taylor doesn’t feel pressured, not even as the standout senior goalie for a Maryland lacrosse team heading to its 11th consecutive Final Four this weekend in Baltimore. She approaches games — which she reminds herself are only that, games — with a mind-set that’s rational and grounded, not panicked or nervous. If an opponent’s shot flies past her for a goal, she moves on, bringing a calmness that spreads to her teammates down the field.
“I can’t imagine being a goalie ever personally in my life,” said Coach Cathy Reese, who was an attacker on four Maryland national championship teams. “But her ability to reset when things don’t go as planned is something that I admire.”
Taylor has set a remarkably high standard at Maryland. She has started 85 career games out of a possible 89 entering Friday’s game against conference rival Northwestern; is the four-time Big Ten goaltender of the year; and this season became only the second goalie to be named a finalist for the Tewaaraton Award, given to the national player of the year.
But she has never been one to demonstrate frustration. She knows she’s probably not going to hold a team scoreless, even though four times this year Taylor and the Maryland defense have limited opponents to three goals or fewer. After the Terrapins (20-1) gave up the first four goals in their opening NCAA tournament game against Stony Brook, Maryland allowed only four in the next 55 minutes of play.
“She plays one of the hardest positions on the field — getting shot at all the time, getting scored on,” said Caroline Steele, a fellow senior and one of Taylor’s close friends. “It would be so easy for her to put her head down and be frustrated, but as our goalie and our captain and leader, all four years, she just always has impressed me keeping her head held high.”
Perhaps her demeanor comes from her parents, Taylor said. She describes her mom as a go-with-the-flow person who’s “very sweet, just wow, just an angel” and her dad as someone who can talk to anyone. Neither grew up around lacrosse. After games, even in college, Taylor’s mom asks her daughter whether she had fun.
Taylor wears a red helmet, which her mom said is her winning helmet and looks the best. Taylor’s dad said she chose red because they love the Washington Capitals. It has turned into the family joke, too. If Taylor’s mom talks about the game’s nuances, the others will say, “Let’s talk about the red helmet.”
It’s part of the formula that has made Taylor the goalie she is. Her parents viewed sport as something to be enjoyed. Taylor has the second-best save percentage in the country, but she also will recognize when opponents make great plays.
In last weekend’s win over Denver, which sent Maryland to the national semifinals, Taylor’s dad recalled the Pioneers scoring off a behind-the-back pass. He never talked to his daughter about that play, but “it was a phenomenal pass, and I know for a fact that she went to that girl, she walked by and said, ‘Great pass,’ ” he said. “I just know it.”
If Taylor makes a mistake, she will take the blame and shout over to the sideline: “Sorry! I won’t do that again next time!”
“You can’t even get mad about things because she fully acknowledges, takes responsibility and is like, ‘Let’s move on,’ ” Reese said. “I do think it makes people want to be around her. You want to be around her. You want to do well for her, too. And she wants to do well for all her teammates and friends. It’s been a great combination.”
When Reese started recruiting Taylor, the Maryland coach noticed the high schooler always seemed happy. Taylor’s mother recalled being shocked by a rare time when Taylor came home from Glenelg High angry with her friends; it turned out that Taylor, who had a torn ACL, was frustrated they wanted to help her carry her backpack in the hallways.
Since Taylor arrived in College Park, she has brought a positive energy to the team. In a series of videos that star Taylor and Steele and involve odd challenges such as eating horrible-tasting jelly beans, Taylor generally laughs as much as she participates. Taylor’s an early riser and will sometimes wake Steele up before dawn to ask whether she wants to hang out. (“I just don’t like to be alone!” Taylor said.)
But Taylor can be serious and bring a sense of urgency if that’s what the team needs. After the Terps lost in the Big Ten championship game to Northwestern, she texted the team and had everyone arrive a few minutes before practice. That game was just the fourth loss in the careers of these seniors. Taylor reminded everyone to keep their mind-set right, forget about the loss and focus on the way the team wants this season to end.
“She’s a great leader, but she’s always kind of the more reserved one,” Steele said. “She says something, you’re like, ‘Oh, let’s go.’ ”
Reese said Taylor’s deep appreciation for her teammates might contribute to her life-goes-on perspective on games. Sometimes Reese can start to see a little frustration from Taylor, but then she responds well. Steele has never noticed Taylor appearing under duress. Taylor’s dad couldn’t think of a time his daughter seemed rattled. He’s already nervous for this weekend, wondering how it will end. But Taylor? No, she’s not worried.
“You only have so many games left, especially now,” Taylor said. “There’s no time to be stressed.”