In Baltimore City, no girls lacrosse team can match City College.
The Knights have dominated for several years and, after topping their closest rival, Western, 15-5, Friday afternoon, they remain the only undefeated team in the city league.
With unmatched skills and experience against their local rivals, the defending city champion Knights (8-0) are 6-0 in the league and beating teams by an average of 13.8 goals.
"Over the years, our style has developed drastically," said senior midfielder Jessica Morrell, who led the Knights with six goals Friday.
"We practice getting the ball down the field with our pass instead of our feet and that's one thing that gives us a huge advantage. When we have four or five transition midfielders who can pass down field in a couple seconds, it helps us get the ball to the goal faster than the defenders can get back."
That kind of ball movement kept the Knights several steps ahead of the Doves' defense. They also worked to hit cutters while the Doves (5-1) relied on running and dodging their way to goal.
City scored five times on 10 shots before visiting Western managed a shot and the Knights led 8-0 when Sarai Harcum fed Morrell with 7:48 to go in the first half.
Morrell scored three goals in the run, and Melia Scott scored three in a row.
The Knights dominated the early draws with Mia MacDonald directing them to Anna Shafer three times on the first four draws. Shafer finished with six draw controls.
"Mia's a freshman and she's done great placing the ball, so we know almost exactly where it's going every time. Me and Simone [Shafer, her twin] or whoever's on the circle, we have to make sure to be the first ones to it," she said.
Midway through the half, the Doves started winning some of the draws and City finished with just an 11-10 draw advantage. Winning those possessions helped Joi Scruggs score two late goals to cut City's lead to 9-2 at the half.
Raykiara Anderson and Dajae Davenport scored early in the second half to pull the Doves within 10-4, but the Knights answered with a four-goal run. Simone Shafer, Sloane MacDonald and Morrell scored unassisted goals before Mia MacDonald fed Harkum for a 14-4 lead with 6:24 to go.
Win or lose, the players on both sides said they enjoy meeting each other on the field.
"My team had a lot of energy and we wanted to have fun," Scruggs, a sophomore attacker, said. "We kind of knew what was going to the be the outcome but we still played our best."
Morell said she's seen the Doves get better as her Knights have improved.
"They hustle to every ball, they're a super athletic team, so I think that increases the intensity," she said, "and they've got a great group of girls, who are always pleasant. They're just fun to play with."
Doves coach Mary Hain said it's difficult to compete with the Knights, who have a lot of club players.
"We get girls that are athletic and play basketball and we try to transition them over to lacrosse, because they know how to play man-to-man [defense] and pick-and-roll and things of that nature," Hain said. "I'm fortunate I do have some strong girls this year."
The Doves, however, were playing without their best player, Destiny Johnson, who was at a church retreat.
For the Knights, the goal is to finish the city schedule undefeated and make a deeper run in the playoffs. Last year, they lost their first game to Hereford, 22-2, in their Class 3A-2A section final.
Coach Sedrick Smith would like to sharpen the Knights' transition defense and improve their shooting percentage. Against Western, they shot 15-for-30, but didn't move the ball to set up their shots as much as he would have liked.
"The game is so different in the state playoffs," Smith said. "Western relies on their athleticism and their speed to get shots. When we get to the next level, it's all about passing and ball movement and communication. I actually think we're a little bit more geared to that sort of game now, but there's still a huge gap."