There's little doubt which public school has the best girls' lacrosse program in Baltimore City.
The Baltimore City College Knights clinched the program's seventh straight Baltimore City championship with an 8-7 win against Western April 24. Through the first six games on the season, City outscored its opponents, 101-17.
The Knights haven't lost to a Baltimore City opponent since 2013.
"It does feel great being a part of the best team in Baltimore City and knowing that I'm capable of playing for this team," sophomore goalkeeper Maddie Reeser said. "City's catchphrase is 'City Forever,' and you really get that feeling when you're a member of the lacrosse team. I have no doubt when I graduate I'll keep up with my teammates and coaches because the energy we have together just makes you feel great."
Though City has dominated girls' lacrosse in recent seasons, it hasn't always been that way.
When Sedrick Smith took over the program nine years ago, the Knights were routinely in the upper half of Baltimore City's standings. It was a solid place to be, but the group was also a good distance behind Poly, which had won the previous 10 Baltimore City championships.
Smith, a City alum who had played lacrosse for just one season in high school, admits he didn't know much about the sport when he started coaching. He decided to approach lacrosse like he did with City's girls' soccer team, which he has coached for the past 10 seasons.
"I wanted to make sure my girls were the most fit and that they worked the hardest on the field," Smith said. "Skill would come over time, but we needed to be working harder than anyone else was. The first couple years were a struggle, and some girls decided they didn't want to be that committed but others got excited by it. Then we beat Poly my third year, and we've been off and running ever since."
City's dominance in league play isn't showing any signs of slowing down. While the Knights have benefited from the play of seniors -- like midfielders Eva Utzschneider and Josephine Schmollinger -- the core of the team is in its sophomore and freshmen classes.
It's a welcome sight for Smith, who's hoping City can eventually become a team capable of beating the state's elite programs. That's a tough task, though, because City regularly plays teams featuring players who are just learning the basics of lacrosse. When the Knights play games like that, the group tries to build a lead quickly so the rest of the game can be used to focus on getting better. It's not uncommon for City to set rules for its players midgame, such as newer players being the only ones allowed to score after the group's veterans have built a big lead.
"We do try to work on the things we need to work on," sophomore attacker Melia Scott said. "We work on our off-hand, improving our passing, ground balls and on plays we know we haven't mastered yet. We just try to work on our weakest spots always, whether if it's in a game or at practice."
Smith has begun to schedule more games against teams from outside of Baltimore City, predominately against private schools like Institute of Notre Dame, and Baltimore County schools like Kenwood and Overlea.
The Knights have won their fair share of games against teams from outside Baltimore City, including the past two seasons against Long Reach from Howard County. City has also taken a preseason trip to Calvert County the last couple years to scrimmage teams from outside the Baltimore area.
Simply put, the Knights will play anyone.
"If a team wants to schedule us, we'll play that game," Smith said. "For me, it's all about exposure. I want teams outside of Baltimore City to know that you're in for a fight if you play us. We're not just going to roll over because we're from Baltimore City."
For the players, there's always extra motivation whenever the Knights face a team from outside Baltimore City.
"I know a lot of girls from surrounding counties and everyone seems to have this image of the city not being able to play good lacrosse," sophomore attacker Grace Pula said. "It feels good to prove them wrong and be competitive with those teams and also to beat a few of them."
For Smith, the next step for the program is to make a deep run in the Maryland Public Secondary School Athletics Association state playoffs. In the past, City has captured first-round wins -- most recently against Lansdowne in 2016 -- but the team has never put together a complete postseason run.
More than anything though, Smith hopes the girls' lacrosse program continues to be a point of pride for his alma mater -- both on and off the field.
"For me, this is where City is supposed to be," Smith said. "The school is known as an academic power, but we can be good at both academics and athletics. I take great pride in the fact that my girls are great athletes who play lacrosse very well, but then also go off to great schools like University of Pennsylvania, Yale or Virginia for college. That means a lot to me."