COLLEGE PARK, Md. — Even from the view far above the turf, in the Maryland football stadium’s press box, you could see the passion emanating from Kori Edmondson on the field. In her right hand, she waved her lacrosse stick above her shoulder, like the Statue of Liberty with her torch, and wagged the shaft and bright yellow head repeatedly, calling for the ball.

It was the first quarter of a game against a top 10 opponent, and Edmondson is only a freshman, but in short order, a teammate obliged with a pass. Edmondson caught it and, in the instant that great talents often only need to make spectacular plays, she bolted past a defender who stepped out maybe a yard too far, then darted down the left wing and tossed a right-handed shot through the few inches of open space between Denver goalie Emelia Bohi and the near pipe.

Exaltation ensued. With what appeared to be all the force her 5-foot-8 frame could produce, Edmondson smashed her stick-head into the artificial turf, sending rubber pellets flying up and the stick rebounding to the ground, where she left it for the officials’ standard post-goal stick check in college women’s lacrosse (to ensure the pocket depth is legal).

“You can see how hard she went and what a tough player she is,” Maryland coach Cathy Reese said afterward. “This is just the starting point for her as we get going into her career as a Terp.”

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The Maryland women’s lacrosse team lost the game, 8-7, to then-ninth-ranked Denver, but in the close defeat, those that were there saw what was the first breakout game for the Terps’ next great star — and a sign of more things to come in what Reese describes as a season for growth for one of college lacrosse’s preeminent powers.

The goal was Edmondson’s second of three Sunday — her first career hat trick. She took only five shots. She also scored the Terps’ first goal six minutes in, and in the second half bounced in a stunning backhander on the crease after slipping along the goal-line extended and rolling away from multiple defenders. Then, Edmondson nearly had a fourth goal in the waning moments, which would have tied the game and likely forced overtime.

It was the best game of her young college career, and an emphatic reminder: Edmondson, a Severn native who starred at McDonogh the past three years, was considered the nation’s top high school recruit for a reason. The daughter of Terry Edmondson, a longtime high school coach in Anne Arundel County, Kori Edmondson was a U.S. under-18 team member in 2021, and a four-time Under Armour All-American, who scored nearly 200 goals and had a 52-6 record at McDonogh, leading them to the 2019 IAAM championship.

Yet despite those facts — and the sparkling effort on Sunday that screams, “I’ve arrived!” — Maryland lost its second straight game, which dropped the team’s record to an unusual 3-3 record in March. The program, collectively, and the individuals on the roster, drawn from area high school powers and beyond, has long been known for running around and away from opponents. For beating most teams handily, and other elite teams by enough most of the time. For winning championships. National championships. Not every year, but a lot: five times since 2007.

Until the Terps rebounded with a 22-4 win on Wednesday against overmatched William & Mary, this season marked the first time the Maryland women’s lacrosse team had been .500 after six games since the end of the pandemic-shortened season in 2020 and, before that, the 2006 campaign, which was Hall-of-Fame coach Cindy Timchal’s last in College Park. Maryland (4-3) is now ranked 11th nationally, down from No. 2 in the preseason. But Reese and her team are not panicking. Far from it.

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“This season in particular, yes, we want to win games,” Reese said, “but we have so much growing to do as a unit.”

Edmondson, a three-sport first-team all-IAAM pick while at McDonogh (lacrosse, field hockey, and basketball) and a competitive cheerleader for 10 years, is one reason for optimism, despite the start. Her story in College Park is just beginning and she’s already all over the field. She started Sunday’s game on the left wing at midfield, holding that stick up high, and scoring twice. Then she was positioned in the center of the midfield, and she also was on the circle for draws, and played defense.

“Everywhere,” Reese said. “When she scored the first two goals, I was like, ‘Welp, you’re not coming off the field today.’ Kori can run. She’s a competitor. She’s mentally tough and strong, but she’s a freshman, so we’re going to see some growing pains, but I’ve got to be able to give her the flexibility and the room to grow. I love the no-fear attitude. I love how hard she gets up the field. She’s going to continue to have more and more of a role as we go through the season.”

The early part of this season has been a bit uncharacteristic for Maryland, most notably in a blowout 20-11 loss at Syracuse on Feb. 17. But this is Reese’s 17th season leading the program and she is its all-time winningest coach. If anyone knows how to coach a group of the nation’s best 18- to 22-year-old women’s lacrosse players, it’s her.

In addition to five NCAA titles under Reese’s direction, the Maryland women have been runners-up three other times and made the final four in four more seasons, including last year, and reached at least the quarterfinal round of the NCAA tournament all but once.

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“Dating back to the fall, Cathy has said, ‘Trust the process,’” said senior goalie Emily Sterling (John Carroll), the returning player of the year at her position. “That really is what this season is, it’s a whole process. We don’t need to be playing our best lacrosse Game 1.”

Following the loss to Syracuse, the Terps’ defense — a new mix, with Princeton transfer Marge Donovan; redshirt freshman Kennedy Major; redshirt junior Clancy Rheude, playing her first season for the Terps after transferring from Albany in 2021 and sitting out a year with injury; added to grad student Abby Bosco in front of Sterling — has gotten tighter.

“We’re seeing significant improvement,” Reese said. “We’re limiting shots. We’re limiting opportunities. We gave up less than 20 shots. We put Emily in the position to be 50% [in save percentage]. We are making progress and that was very good to see.”

Maryland has since beaten No. 10 Florida by a goal on Feb. 25, and lost to now No. 8 James Madison and Denver, which jumped to sixth in the Division I coaches’ poll this week, by a goal each. The Terps face unranked Villanova (5-1) next, on the road at 1 p.m. Saturday.

On offense, there’s maybe more work to do, particularly with shooting. On Sunday, this familiar bugaboo doomed the Terps. They put only 60% of shots on cage against Denver’s zone defense, and were 2-for-8 on 8-meter free-position shots, which are akin but not exactly the same as free-throws in basketball. “Our shooting wasn’t where it needs to be,” Reese said. “We can’t be less than 50% [on free-positions] and beat anybody.”

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Maryland also had an uncharacteristic 17 turnovers, which helped unbeaten Denver (6-0) to build a 7-3 third-quarter lead that the Terps ultimately couldn’t overcome. “We came out of James Madison and I talked about how we have to play faster and play more aggressive. We did that to some extent [today], but sometimes it resulted in turnovers and we’re uncharacteristically dropping balls, which was bizarre, too,” Reese said. “These last two games for us especially, it’s a play here or there which ends up in a win or not. ... These are minor details that make big differences.”

They’re also fixable. After all, top scoring threats like senior attackers Libby May (15 goals) and Hannah Leubecker (nine), as well as junior Eloise Clevenger (13 assists), have plenty of experience, and a growing role for Edmondson may give everyone a boost. After Tewaaraton Award finalist Aurora Cordingley (67 goals, 51 assists) exhausted her eligibility last season, having a talent the caliber of Edmondson on the field, even as a freshman, could be a significant change for the entire course of the season.

After her highlight-worthy second-half score, the Denver defense looked up at the scoreboard to watch a replay, stunned, and Edmondson received a glowing review on the Big Ten Network’s livestream. “I’ve seen her in these high-pressure moments put the team on her back. She’s doing it as a freshman,” said analyst Taylor Cummings, the former Maryland star and three-time Tewaaraton-winning midfielder, who coached Edmondson at McDonogh and met her when she attended Maryland lacrosse camps years ago.

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After the same goal, Sterling and Donovan, team leaders, chest-bumped Edmondson at midfield to celebrate at the start of an ensuing timeout. She loved it. “You build off your team’s energy,” Edmondson said. “When everyone celebrates, it makes you feel good. It makes the team feel good, and it kind of trickles in to the next play.”

By late in the game, Edmondson drew a double-team from the Denver defense on a crucial possession, which surely won’t be the last time that happens. In just her sixth career college game, the ball was already in her stick in crunch time. After junior attacker Victoria Hensch pulled the Terps within one on a free-position with 1:59 left, on the next possession, Edmondson got the ball up top, dodged past one defender, drove hard toward the goal, and let a bouncer go as other defenders converged on her and she fell to the ground.

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Bohi, the Denver goalie, made the stop, but “Kori had a great look and I would encourage her to take that again,” Reese said later. “As a freshman, to be able to drive down the middle and get that last shot off … if it goes in, you’re sitting here and you’re celebrating that. At the same time, we lose by one, but I want her to do that. That’s how we’re going to get better, is because she had the nerve to go ahead and to drive hard and do what we’ve been asking her to do in a big moment. That shows what kind of competitor she is and what we’re going to see from her over these next four years.”

In the meantime, we’ll see how the rest of this one goes, too.

Games to Watch

Elsewhere in the women’s game this weekend, No. 7 Loyola (5-0) will face tenth-ranked Florida (3-2) and No. 23 Johns Hopkins (3-3) is at eighth-ranked James Madison (6-1). Both games are at noon Saturday.

The No. 5 Maryland men (3-2), who lost to No. 2 Notre Dame in triple overtime on Saturday, are at unranked Albany (1-3) this Saturday. We’ve got a top-10 matchup when No. 7 Loyola (4-1) is at No. 4 Duke (5-1) at 7 p.m. Friday, and No. 11 Johns Hopkins (4-3), which lost to No. 1 Virginia 18-13 Tuesday night, heads to unranked Syracuse (3-3) at 4 p.m. Saturday. It’ll be the 61st all-time meeting of the programs.

End Lines

Kudos to Western Maryland’s Frostburg State (4-0), which upset No. 1 Tampa in Division II men’s action last Saturday in a kind-of home game at the Maryland SoccerPlex outside Washington, D.C. After the win, which ended Tampa’s 25-game winning streak, Frostburg moved up to No. 11 in the Division II men’s coaches poll.

Corey McLaughlin is a veteran writer and editor who has covered sports in Baltimore for a decade, including for Baltimore magazine, USA Lacrosse Magazine and several other publications.