Coming off two consecutive national titles entering this season, Maryland women’s lacrosse midfielder Taylor Cummings could not believe what happened to her team in a fall scrimmage. The Terps lost to Notre Dame by 13.

Yet once the season began, Cummings’ squad played as it had the past two years. Despite returning five starters, the Terps ran through the regular season undefeated, picking up a Big Ten regular season title along the way. Two more wins gave them their first Big Ten Conference Tournament championship, while another three victories landed coach Cathy Reese’s team in the national final. They ended the season with the top-ranked scoring offense and the eighth-best scoring defense.

The Terps, however, could not achieve their first perfect season since 2001 and left Philadelphia without a national title after their 13-7 loss to North Carolina on May 29. In a dominating year, they fell short of their ultimate goal.

“It stings right now, but this has been a great team,” Reese said. “They’ll rebound, and hopefully, this will fuel their fire for next year just to get back and do our best again and return to the Final Four.”

Reese didn’t know how Maryland would perform in 2016, and neither did Cummings. The team entered the season needing to replace the scoring production of Kelly McPartland and Brooke Griffin and the stability of Alex Fitzpatrick in goal.

But with Cummings, the two-time Tewaaraton Award winner, anchoring the unit, Maryland also benefited from the nation’s second-best recruiting class. The blowout loss to the Fighting Irish initially concerned Cummings about how much success the Terps would have in her final season in College Park, but the group of older and younger players came together as the season wore on.

“The four captains and returners did a good job of easing people into it and not getting frustrated,” Cummings said. “I’m really proud of the way we let them figure it out because they have been able to figure it out.”

Freshman midfielder Carolina Steele ended the season as the Terps’ fourth-leading scorer, while first-year goalkeeper Megan Taylor started all but one game and was named the Big Ten Goaltender of the Year. Defender Julia Braig, who played alongside All-American defender Alice Mercer and defender Nadine Hadnagy, recorded 15 ground balls and forced nine turnovers. Freshman midfielder Jen Giles contributed 27 goals and appeared in every contest.

Combined with the group’s veterans, these players helped lead the Terps to their 20th national championship appearance.

Ahead of the title game, Reese reiterated what she had said multiple times as the No. 1 Terps played their final few regular season games. This year’s freshman class, she said, exceeded her expectations.

“It’s all about goal setting and then doing everything we can to get there,” Mercer said ahead of Maryland’s trip to the final four. “That’s what keeps us on a roll.”

But neither Steele’s two goals nor Taylor’s six saves was enough for the Terps to finish undefeated. For the only time all season, they couldn’t catch up after playing from behind.

In the past, the Terps have responded from past tournament failures. Cummings said the triple-overtime loss to North Carolina in the 2013 NCAA final fueled the Terps’ championship run the next season, Winning the 2014 title was the favorite moment of her Maryland career.

Now without Cummings and Mercer, the Terps will turn to midfielder Zoe Stukenberg and Hadnagy to provide leadership for this program. They’ll also have several talented sophomores who know what it feels like for their team to falter on the sport’s largest stage.

“This team’s in good hands,” said Cummings, part of a senior class that ended its career 88-4. “They came into a team that’s known for playing in championships and winning them and they stepped up. As a senior, they did everything I could have asked of them.”