Month: May 2024

Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week: Kimber Shambley

This week’s Cedar Ridge Red Wolf of the Week is junior first baseman Kimber Shambley. This season, Shambley led the Red Wolves in home runs and RBIs. She hit eight home runs and 34 RBIs. In Cedar Ridge’s final home game of 2024, Shambley hit a walkoff home run to defeat Western Alamance 7-6. It was the first time Cedar Ridge has defeated Western Alamance since the two teams became conference rivals in 2022. Shambley also had a three-run homer in the Red Wolves 13-4 win over Northwood in Pittsboro on April 25. She also had a three-run homer against Eastern Alamance on April 23 in Mebane. In an 8-6 win over Person on April 12 in Roxboro, Shambley had a two-run single. Last fall, Shambley announced that she would play for Western Carolina University in Cullowhee. The daughter of Kevin and Missy Shambley, Kimber hit .449 as the Red Wolves reached the state playoffs for the third straight year. At one point this year, Shambley had a four-game home run streak, starting with a dinger in a win over Person in Hillsborough on March 19. She followed with homers against Walter Williams, Southern Alamance and Orange, which came in the first inning at Panther Field and gave Cedar Ridge an early lead. Next year, Shambley will be a senior leader for a more experienced squad ready to move upward in the Central Conference.

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Orange softball seniors Caden Robinson and Mia Leathers discuss playoff win at South Johnston

For the first time since winning the 3A State Championship in 2017, the Orange softball team has reached the round of 16 in the state tournament. On Friday, Orange rolled past South Johnston, the Quad County Champions, 7-0 in Four Oaks. Senior Caden Robinson struck out nine in a complete game, four-hit shutout. Mia Leathers, as a designated player, roped a two-run single to break Orange’s lead out to 7-0 in the fifth inning. Orange is the last team standing from the Central Conference in the state playoffs. Robinson is 14-4 this season with 139 strikeouts. Leathers, a senior, is hitting .264 with two home runs and 14 RBIs. The Lady Panthers were in Southport last night for a game against South Brunswick. The game was interrupted by rain in the fifth inning with the Cougars leading 2-0. The game will resume today in the top of the fifth inning with Evelyn George running at first base with one out. Robinson has seven strikeouts through four innings. Robinson now has 377 strikeouts, which is only one behind the school record set by Kristina Givens, who was the hurler for Orange’s 3A State Championship team. The winner of Orange-South Brunswick will face the winner of Havelock-Cape Fear in the state quarterfinals.

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Jermyn, Alvis help Orange men’s, women’s track & field win Central Conference championships

Over the past three years, the Orange men’s track & field team has been anchored by its long distance runners.

In 2021, it was Spencer Hampton, The past two years, it was Gabriel Schmid.

Now, it’s Myles Jermyn.

On May 1, Jermyn won three individual championships and a relay event during the Central Conference Track & Field Championships at the John Kirby Sports Complex at Eastern Alamance High School in Mebane.

Orange claimed the men’s conference championship with 181.2 points. Cedar Ridge finished second with 96.3 points.

Behind the running of seniors Bree Harris and Adelyn Alvis, the Orange women’s track and field team also claimed the conference title, finishing with 150 points.

Once again, Cedar Ridge’s Naomi Dyreng had a strong performance for the Red Wolves. Dyreng won two conference crowns in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Dyreng won three Mideast Regional championships, in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters last year at Franklinton High School. Dyreng has also qualified for the 3A State Cross Country championships the past two years.

Jermyn helped Orange win six men’s conference championships. Jermyn won the 800 meters in a tight race where the top three competitors were separated by only just .38 of a second. Jermyn edged teammate Cyrus Neal to the finish line with a time of 2:03.55. Neal came in at 2:03.83. Henri Lanzoni of Walter Williams finished third at 2:03.93.

Jermyn had another close race with a teammate in the 1,600 meters. Jermyn edged Lucas Van Mater for first place at 4:38.10. Van Mater finished second only two-tenths-of-a-second behind Jermyn. In the 3,200 meters, Jermyn took first place, Van Mater finished second and Nathan Walters of Cedar Ridge came in third.

The Orange men won two relay events. Jermyn, Van Mater, Neal and Dallas Johnson earned first place in the 4×800 meter relay, timing out at 8:40.69.

Orange also claimed the 4×200 meter relay. Merveille Ndayiringiye, Malykahi Justice, Kingston Purefoy-Farrington and Jackson Patrick finished first at 1:32.88.

Orange senior Aedan Sampey finished first in the pole vault, clearing 12-feet-six inches. Sampey’s teammate, Kyse Devore, tied for second by clearing eleven feet. Cedar Ridge’s Ender Buchanan also cleared 11-feet.

Senior Jaylan Sorrells finished second in the discus and third in the shot put. He registered a distance of 122-feet, four-inches in the discus. In the shot put, he finished with a distance of 40-feet, 9-inches.

The Orange women won nine individual championships. Sophomore Adelyn Alvis won the only win once in a running event and another in a field event. Alvis captured the 400 meter dash at 1:02.64. She also captured the long jump at 16-feet-six inches. Typhany Cheek of Cedar Ridge finished second in the long jump at 16-feet-3.50 inches.

Cheek would take first place in the triple jump at 32-feet-11.50 inches.

Alvis also came in second in the 800 meters, only behind Ava Childress of Walter Williams.

The Cedar Ridge women’s relay team of Payton Castro, Chloe Bowers, Danielle Gala and Annora Leaf won the women’s 4×100 relay. They finished at 52.48 seconds.

Orange senior Bree Harris finished first in both hurdle events. She won the 100 meters at 17.43 seconds, then captured the 300 meters in 48.76 seconds.

Orange’s 4×200 relay team of Harris, Gianni Burnette, Asia Whitsett and Kayla Willey came in first at 4:23.29. Cedar Ridge’s Molly Alverson, Dyreng, Rebecca Fullwood and Leaf came in second.

Orange senior Grace Pell earned first place in the high jump at five feet. Pell finished second in the triple jump at 31-feet-four inches.

Orange had the top three placers in the pole vault. Lily Howard finished first at eight-feet. Clara Fowlkes finished second while Pell came in third.

Junior Iyauna Justice captured the conference championship in the shot put with a throw of 33-feet-9 inches.

The 3A State Championships are set for Saturday at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.

Orange baseball’s Josiah Gibbs & Wyatt Hedrick discuss playoff win over Eastern Alamance

After a stunning win over Cedar Ridge in the opening round of the 3A State Playoffs last week, the Orange baseball team didn’t have any time for drama against Eastern Alamance in the second round. The Panthers scored seven runs in the opening inning and rolled to a 19-1 win over the Eagles on Friday night to advance to the third round of the state playoffs for the third straight year. Senior third baseman Wyatt Hedrick drove in a career-high seven runs as he finished 4-for-4. That included a two-run single to left field in the third and a high fly ball that bounced off the 2008 2A State Championship banner in right field that plated Ryan Honeycutt and Henry Hoffman. Senior pitcher Josiah Gibbs earned his 18th career win, throwing five innings to improve to 8-0 on the season. Gibbs struck out three and finished the night with 68 pitches. The Panthers now have to win their way back into another home game. They will venture to Fayetteville on Wednesday night to face the Terry Sanford Bulldogs, the co-champions of the All-Americans Conference. The Bulldogs have only one loss since the end of March, which happened against 4A power D.H. Conley. The winner of Orange-Terry Sanford will move into the state quarterfinals.

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Kate to Katie: Paulakonis’ two goals leads Cedar Ridge women’s soccer past Richlands 3-1 for 1st home playoff win since 2005

There have already been plenty of remarkable achievements for the Cedar Ridge women’s soccer team this year.

They now have 14 wins, more than the 2018 squad that had freshman Ivy Garner, who now plays at Liberty University.

On Monday night, the Red Wolves won its first home playoff game since 2005.

Junior Katie Paulakonis scored two goals in the opening eight minutes as the Red Wolves defeated Richlands 3-1 at Red Wolves Stadium. Freshman Kate Finnegan assisted on the opening two goals.

The Red Wolves, seeded #16, will face conference rival Western Alamance in the second round in Elon. The Warriors defeated another Central Conference team, Walter Williams 6-2 on Monday.

Cedar Ridge’s last home win in the state playoffs came back in 2005 when they were a 2A team. They defeated Durham School of the Arts 2-0 to move into the state quarterfinals, where they fell to Western Guilford. That Red Wolf team finished 16-1-1.

This Cedar Ridge team is now the most successful team since that squad from 19 years ago.

Much of the credit goes to first-year head coach Sam Semerzier, who now had the Red Wolves on a four-game home winning streak.

“Given the passion of this team, I thought this was possible at the beginning of the year,” Semerzier said after Cedar Ridge’s win over Williams last week, which ended the regular season. “They had the thirst to thrive. They had the urge to win from the first time I met them. Everything that was burning in their hearts in coming to life now.”

Cedar Ridge’s last playoff win came in 2018, when they defeated West Carteret 3-0 in Morehead City.

The Red Wolves scored on its first possession just 80 seconds into the game. As the Wildcats tried to mount an attack, centerback Adelynn Nasseri cut off a pass and cleared the ball upfield to Kate Finnegan. As Paulakonis went on a mad dash past the midfield line, Finnegan kneed the ball past a Wildcat midfielder and directed a gorgeous longball ahead. Paulakonis’ won a race against Richland centerback Ester Zapata and had only goalkeeper Abbigail Kaestner in front of her. Paulakonis’ dribbled around Kaestner and, with a tight angle, directed the ball towards the net with her left field. The ball rolled tenuously along the line before it crossed over just as it tapped the far post.

Cedar Ridge goalkeeper Ellamarie Perel stopped an immediate response from 20 yards away by sophomore Kamrey Watkins, who finished the season with 34 goals.

The Red Wolves would strike again only three minutes later when Paulakonis took a deep throw-in from midfield and banked it off Finnegan’s corner went directly into the nine-yard box, where Paulakonis curved through unmarked and sent a half-volley directly to the back of the net for what turned out to be the game-winning goal with 35:23 remaining in the first half.

Paulakonis nearly had a hat trick on a free kick knuckleball from 23 yards away with 21:30 remaining in the first half that nearly cleared Kaestner’s head below the crossbar, but it sailed over the net.

Watkins provided the Wildcats in the best chance in the opening 40 minutes when midfielder Torrie McAllister stripped the ball away in Richlands’ attacking end and fed Watkins, who cut across midfield and got past Natasha Buchler-Fosado, but Perel stopped a line drive from ten yards away. With 5:42 remaining, Watkins took a long counter pass, but Rachel Alverson raced her down and squared up. It led to a long shot by Cadence Brown that missed wide. Watkins fired a 21-yard heave in the waning minutes that led to Perel’s fourth save.

Watkins had the forest serious attempt in the second half when she took a long clearance pass following a Cedar Ridge free kick, but Alverson ran her down and conceded a corner. The subsequent cross was cleared by Nasseri.

Paulakonis was fouled just outside of the box with 29:45 remaining in regulation, but her shot from 19 yards skipped off the top of the crossbar, the Red Wolves ninth shot.

The Red Wolves earned its third goal with 19:34 remaining a throw-in by Finnegan. Paulakonis bounced the ball off her chest and it rebounded to Celine Galla, who shot off a bounce inside the box went off Kaetner’s hands, then the crossbar. On the rebound, Galla jumped and tapped the ball off her head into the net and was immediately mobbed after her first playoff goal.

Richlands earned a penalty kick after a foul on Cedar Ridge in the box. Facing off against Abigail Proffitt, Perel made a diving save to the left, leading to another celebration from her teammates. Immediately afterwards, Brown sent a corner kick that was headed in by Watkins for the only Wildcats goal.

Perel finished with nine saves.

No Gray Area: Crabtree scores 7 goals, Kruse dishes six assists, Orange lacrosse wins Eastern Regional title with 14-9 win over Croatan

Photo by Carly Williams 

The goalkeeper was a native of Calgary, Alberta, Canada who has been playing lacrosse for two years.

One of the defensmen was a native of the Netherlands who arrived in America when he was in fifth grade. The other defensman was a member of two regional championship teams in cross country.

The top scorer had a baseball career in mind ten years ago, but when he transitioned to his best sport, he would turn on the floodlights in the backyard of his home shooting at his net after games.

The head coach was a midfielder at East Chapel Hill a decade ago who played in a state championship game.

Now, Chandler Zirkle will be coaching in one.

The broad, spicy ingredients that blend into the melting pot that is Orange lacrosse finally got what it had been denied the past three years.

A regional championship.

In its final home game of the most successful season in school history, junior Gray Crabtree tied his career-high with seven goals while Connor Kruse racked up six assists as Orange defeated Croatan 14-9 to win the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship in front of a raucous crowd at Auman Stadium. Orange (23-1) will meet the winner of Lake Norman Charter/Bishop McGuinness for the State Championship at Durham County Stadium on either Friday or Saturday night.

Goalkeeper Parker Christie-Pohl, who grew up playing hockey in Canada, made ten saves to earn the win. Fittingly, senior Katie Wolter relieved Christie-Pohl in the final minutes in her final game as Orange played keep away to run out the clock.

Orange’s third straight year hosting the regional championship game proved to be the charm. Last year, Orange lost to Northwood, a conference rival they had defeated twice before in the regular season. In 2022, First Flight defeated the Panthers 13-7.

“We could have won both of those games,” Zirkle said afterwards as he held his newborn son, Leon. “I think this is a very mature team. We have some phenomenal leaders. Our captains, Katie, Josh, Connor, Alden and Sascha have just been a phenomenal all year. It’s been a really cool group.”

As Zirkle spoke after the game, the Orange fans lined up to applaud the players as they walked off with a regional championship trophy in hand.

Unlike the previous two regional title games, Orange summoned momentum early using a ten-man ride that the Cougars just couldn’t puncture consistently. Though Croatan’s Dain Sparks scored the initial goal off a pass from Ethan Eifert, Orange’s defensive unit of Netherlands-native Sascha Van Praag, Alden Cathey and Aidan Monteith kept the Cougars from getting into a rhythm offensively,.

Crabtree immediately answered Sparks goal off a pass from sophomore Brett Clark. Then Clark assisted on a goal from fellow sophomore Brett Clark to put Orange ahead, a lead the Panthers wouldn’t lose. Kruse’s only goal came off a powerful sidearm shot from 15 yards away that buzzed over the shoulder of Croatan goalkeeper Graham Myers.

Sparks added his second goal on the doorstep off a perfect feed from Matej Roth with 5:05 remaining in the first quarter, but the Cougars wouldn’t score again for 12 minutes and 32 seconds.

Roth entered the game with 37 goals, second only to Sparks’ 55. Van Praag, who was primarily matched up on Roth, held him to two goals.

Orange reeled off four straight goals bridging between the first and second quarters to increase its lead to 7-2. Williams fired in a sidearm shot from five yards away off a pass from Kruse. Then Crabtree added an unassisted tally to open the second quarter. Kruse found Clark in front of the crease to end a spree of three Orange goals in a span of 1:58. The Cougars held the Panthers scoreless in the final 5:32 of the first half to keep things apprehensive at halftime. Sparks and Drew Degeorge added goals late in the second quarter to decrease Orange’s lead to 7-4.

Orange put the game away by scoring four goals in a span of 2:32 in the third quarter. After Croatan’s David Contreras was penalized for slashing, Clark dumped in a quick overhead shot from another feed from Kruse. Following a faceoff win by Matthew Macneir, Josh Crabtree unloaded a blazing sidearm shot from 19 yards that caught nothing but nylon. Just 19 seconds later, Clark score again off a pass from Kruse from behind the net. Grey Crabtree added another goal in transition after Cathey took a pass from Monteith to increase the Orange lead to 11-4.

The Cougars’ best run game when they reeled off three straight goals, two of them scored off Roth on fast break chances. Grey Crabtree restored order with consecutive tallies, naturally both assisted by Kruse,.

As the final horn sounded and Orange players tossed their sticks into the air in triumph, among the first people to hold up the regional championship trophy was John Bianco, who held it up along the track in front of a cheering group of fans. He was the second head coach in Orange lacrosse history, a time that wasn’t the most glamorous in program history.

But his time has arrived. So has Orange lacrosse.




Orange lacrosse’s Connor Kruse & Matthew Macneir discuss winning regional championship

The Orange Panthers lacrosse team are the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional champions. On Monday night, the Panthers got six goals from Grey Crabtree to defeat Croatan 14-9 in front of a raucous crowd at Auman Stadium. In his final game in Hillsborough, senior Connor Kruse racked up six assists, including four in the third quarter. Sophomore Matthew Macneir earned 14 faceoff wins in a rugged, physical game there the Panthers took control early in the second quarter with four consecutive goals. Kruse started the run when he found Brandon Williams on the doorstep with 3:56 remaining in the first quarter. Macneir went against several Croatan faceoff men throughout the night, but maintained possession thanks to midfield wingers Alden Cathey and Josh Crabtree. Kruse now has 209 this season, setting a new single-season school record. It was an emotional night for Kruse and his senior teammates, who played its final game in Hillsborough. But it wasn’t their last game in an Orange uniform. The Panthers will face either Lake Norman Charter or Bishop McGuinness for the 3A/2A/1A State Championship at Durham County Stadium on either Friday or Saturday. Orange will be just the second team from Hillsborough to play for a state championship in lacrosse. The 2017 Cedar Ridge Red Wolves won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship.

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Green Eggs and Hamlin: Orange fans need to pack Auman Stadium tonight

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.