Once rivals, freshman defenders Madison Beale and Sydney Smith are right at home with Duke women’s lacrosse

Freshman defenders Madison Beale (6) and Sydney Smith (16).
Freshman defenders Madison Beale (6) and Sydney Smith (16).

Nearly nine months ago, in Brooklandville, Md., a battle raged between the McDonogh School and St. Paul’s School for Girls. Both were vying for the Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland A Conference title, but only one team would come out the victor. At the end of 50 minutes of play, soon-to-be Blue Devil and defender extraordinaire Madison Beale celebrated with her St. Paul’s teammates. En route to a back-to-back championship, her final year of pre-collegiate lacrosse would reach a storybook ending. On the opposite side of the field, Duke commit and fellow senior defender Sydney Smith commiserated with her McDonogh teammates as her high school career faded.

For Smith and Beale, this push-and-pull competition has defined their entire playing careers. Their respective high schools have long competed in a grudge match for the highly coveted Maryland crown, with each player having two championships to their name. St. Paul’s is currently ranked No. 1 in the country, while McDonogh is not far behind in sixth. At the same time, Beale’s club team, Skywalkers, has been a longtime rival of Smith’s club, M&D Lacrosse. Without knowing each other, these two members of the class of 2022 were practically destined for a competitive collision.

“I feel like we always knew of each other, but we never really talked,” said Beale. “We’ve definitely been rivals since middle school for club. Our high schools went at it for years.” 

Now, these rivals find themselves teammates after both committed to play for the Blue Devils. Despite their lifelong competition, the two freshmen hit it off almost instantly. As best friends and fellow defenders, they will help Duke head coach Kerstin Kimel add some much-needed defensive depth and chemistry. Even as the new kids in town, the Maryland duo might find itself in the spotlight sooner rather than later.

Nonetheless, the heartwarming friendship of the Duke newcomers is not the first of its kind. As products of the Maryland private school lacrosse culture, going from competitors to teammates is practically its own pipeline. Seven players on the Blue Devil roster alone come from this area, including star graduate student Maddie Jenner. As arguably the most elite high school conference in the country, the state has been a hotbed for turning out phenom after phenom, including one of the greatest women’s lacrosse players of all time in Taylor Cummings, who coached Smith during her high school years.

“It’s an experience that so few people have to be coached by one of the best players in the world … and compete with some of the best girls in the country,” Smith said. “It’s one that I would definitely relive any day regardless of if we won a championship or not.”

That being said, going from opponents on the high school battlefield to teammates on the college stage has been a surreal experience for the two freshmen. Having played against other girls that competed at such a high level in the same conference, the Maryland natives find themselves learning from a wealth of experience due to different coaching and playing styles as well as their different perspectives on transitioning from high school to college. 

Beyond the game, Beale and Smith feel right at home with so much Maryland talent on the Duke roster as they talk about their favorite restaurants, spots to visit and where their families live. The hometown blood running through their veins has not been a divider but the great equalizer.

“We’re the Maryland girls, that’s how we kind of refer to ourselves,” said Smith. “It’s just really cool to have someone know [your culture] and have the same experiences as you even if you didn’t go to the same school. It’s like a cool little family to have.”

With a Maryland family supporting them on their journey, the freshmen feel ready to tackle this next phase of their lives, even with all the expectations on their shoulders. Beale is currently ranked No. 3 among freshmen in the sport and earned a spot as the highest-rated defender on Inside Lacrosse’s Power 100 Rankings list for the Class of 2022. Smith, meanwhile, is not far behind at 27th overall. 

While the pressure to perform might get in the heads of most people, the freshman duo feels ready to step into the limelight. As they continue to compete and adjust to the high level and fast pace of college lacrosse, the two are unbothered by any kind of rankings. For them, the fight lies in proving themselves each and every day and earning their spot on the team.

“In the long run, this ranking won’t matter, because everyone is trying to earn their spot to start or to play,” said Beale. “It’s really about the pressure of being consistent and competing every day.”

“Everyone puts on their pants the same way, one leg at a time,” Smith added. “It’s not the pressure that I’m getting from others, but the kind of calm, cool, collected pressure I have on myself to compete every day to show up.” 

With Friday’s season opener fast approaching against Navy, it’s safe to say these freshmen are ready to go. While it will be months and months of competing, with these two on the roster, there is no telling what heights Duke might reach this spring. Whether it be the environment of Koskinen Stadium or the team’s infectious energy, Beale and Smith are excited to tackle their first lacrosse season in a college uniform. 

“For me, the most exciting part is the process or the ride,” said Smith. “I have full faith that it’s going to be fun.”

Mackenzie Sheehy profile
Mackenzie Sheehy | Blue Zone editor

Mackenzie Sheehy is a Trinity sophomore and Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.


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