In the opening minutes of the second quarter, Maryland women’s lacrosse was looking to widen their lead over William & Mary. Attacker Aurora Cordingley came out from behind the goal and passed the ball to her teammate, midfielder Jordyn Lipkin.

Lipkin, the Big Ten Freshman of the Week, fired the ball into the net from up high for her fifth goal of the season. Cordingley’s assist to Lipkin was one of the Terps’ season-high 11 assists in their game against the Tribe. 

“Everyone just has each other’s back here,” Lipkin said. 

Nearly a month into the season, No. 4 Maryland has used its competitive non-conference schedule to grow as a team, improving its confidence and chemistry. 

For coach Cathy Reese, the team’s focus on getting better every practice has put it in a strong position going forward.

“It’s just exciting,” she said. “We are a month in, but we’re only a month in too, is another way to look at it. We’ve got so much more room to grow.”

[‘It’s all about Maryland’: Women’s lacrosse attack stays dominant against William and Mary]

In 2021, the Terps faced obstacles both on and off the field. The team had its worst record since 2006 and missed out on the Final Four for the first time in 11 seasons. Off the field, COVID-19 restrictions prevented the squad from spending time together, Reese said.

But Reese considers last year a learning opportunity.

“It’s been a year that we can grow from, that we can learn from and that’s really pushing us into 2022, having grown a lot, having gained a lot of experience,” she said.

In a program that thrives on team chemistry, bonding activities such as weightlifting, riding on the bus and sharing meals translates into stronger field play.

In their first five games, the Terps are undefeated. They’ve also surpassed game-high records from 2021 in points, goals, assists and shots. 

This year, the team has more excitement and is more confident, co-captain Grace Griffin said. They’ve also become more supportive of each other.

“I think we’re older and more experienced,” Griffin said. “I think there’s less fear, I think we’re just out there doing what we want to do.”

For a number of players on the team, the past five games have been their first taste of a regular season. Reese pointed out that starting goalkeeper Emily Sterling only played a little her freshman year before the season was shut down. Her sophomore year, Sterling and the team were thrust into conference-only play until the NCAA tournament.

“A big thing for me last year was just like confidence and figuring out what my role was out there,” Sterling said.

This season, Reese has seen the junior goalkeeper become an “anchor” for the team’s defense.

Between a new freshman class, five transfers and more experienced players, the team this year is “a whole different group.” 

[Four hat tricks power No. 4 Maryland women’s lacrosse over William and Mary, 19-7]

Lipkin — a freshman — has started her Maryland career strong with two goals and an assist against both Delaware and William & Mary. The midfielder also leads the team in caused turnovers.

“Jordyn, she’s been amazing,” Griffin said. “She’s just a sponge — I love how much she’s always asking questions, going hard no matter what.”

Reese is optimistic about the rest of the season, but she’s sticking to her day-by-day approach.

“We’ve got a lot of the pieces here,” she said. “[We’re going to] keep pushing forward, keep getting better, keep looking to take the next step together as a team, and that’s what our goal is right now.”