Tonight, the Orange lacrosse team will play for its first regional championship inside Auman Stadium in Hillsborough.

And you should be there.

Yes, you.

You should be there because of Connor Kruse, the all-time leading scorer in Orange lacrosse history. It will be his final game in Hillsborough, win or lose. He has scored 532 points since he started playing regularly as a freshman, which was Orange’s first conference championship team through the messy, unorganized thrones of the 2021 pandemic. In elementary school, Kruse knew exactly what his future would be.


While he played basketball and soccer growing up, he spent most weekends traveling around North Carolina playing on the diamond. On various travel teams, he was a teammate with a number of current Orange baseball players who also have won four conference championships. At around 11 years old, Kruse yearned for something with more action. He asked for a lacrosse goal as a birthday gift and that’s when he found his passion for the sport. Next year, he’ll play for Lenoir-Rhyne, which won the Division II National Championship last year.

You should be there because of the Orange lacrosse senior class. Together, they have amassed a record of 66-12 over the last four years, winning four conference championships. They have grown up together, not just in lacrosse but in life.

You should go because of Katie Wolter. For four years, she has been a female goalkeeper playing against men. She moved to Hillsborough with her family at the age of 2. She was in preschool with Josh Cowan, who has scored 28 goals this year. Katie and Josh met Alden Cathey when they were in kindergarten. In 5th grade, a boy named Sascha Van Praag from the Netherlands came to America and joined a class that included Kruse, Josh Merrill, and Cowan. Together, they would change the fate of Orange lacrosse from being just another spring sport in baseball’s shadow to another championship team.

Her brother, Tyson, played goalkeeper at Orange and is now an assistant coach when he isn’t at mosh pits during Mastodon concerts. Katie had chances to play women’s lacrosse at various private schools. Instead, she opted to stay with her friends and the community her brothers have been a part of. And a community that has embraced her.

You should be there because of Sascha Van Praag, who stops at nothing on defense. When he first showed up at practice, a lanky 6-foot-5 freshman, Orange head coach Chandler Zirkle and JV coach Zach Wright couldn’t find a uniform fast enough for him.

The only thing that matches his intensity on the field is his singing off of it.

In March, following an intense overtime win over Pinecrest in Pinehurst, Van Praag wasn’t drained despite a game that featured 25 penalties. He performed various rap songs on the bus to the amusement of his teammates.

You should be there because of the Zirkle family. They have truly lived for lacrosse. The first time I ever saw Orange head coach Chandler Zirkle, he was a middle school student in 2005. He stood on the sidelines as his father, then-East Chapel Hill coach Franklin Zirkle, faced off against Chapel Hill. It was a rivalry that attracted over 1,000 fans that night. The Tigers won in overtime at Wildcats Stadium and his father told his son to get the loose balls off the field before the handshake line. I was a reporter for the now-defunct Chapel Hill News. Franklin Zirkle’s first quote after the tough loss was “We’re going to see these guys again.”

He was right.

A month later, East Chapel Hill beat Chapel Hill 10-1 at SAS Stadium (now WakeMed Soccer Park) in Cary to win the North Carolina Lacrosse Coaches 4A State Championship, the first time I ever did play-by-play for lacrosse on WCHL-AM. Since then, lacrosse has been a regular part of my spring sports viewing because of the Zirkle family. Chandler, his brother Hartford and his family have always been polite and patient with me as a total novice turned into a fan. There weren’t many good things to come from my time at WCHL, but my friendship with the Zirkle family was one of them.

You should be there because it may be the final athletic event at Orange High this year. This has been among the best of times for Orange athletics and the Class of 2024 has left an indelible mark in school history. Orange athletics has won nine conference championships this year. It could easily be ten. Connor Kruse’s cousin, Katie Belle Sikes, won three state championships in swimming this year. She will be there tonight.

And you should be, too.

Faceoff is at 6PM against Croatan.

Don’t be late.


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