Orange Men’s Lacrosse

Orange lax’s Cardone, Metheny, Hunt named to Bull City All Star Game

Three seniors who were vital to the rise of the Orange lacrosse program will conclude their high school careers at the Bull City All-Star Game on Wednesday night.

Midfielder Tigh Metheny, defensemen Nick Cardone and Braden Hunt have been named to the All-Star Game, which will be held on Wednesday night at Koskinen Stadium at Duke University, the home of the ACC Champion Duke men’s lacrosse team.

Cardone will suit up for the White Team while Metheny and Hunt were named to the Blue Team, which will be coached by Northwood’s Randy Cox, who won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship earlier this month. It was the first time the Chargers reached a state championship game in lacrosse. Chapel Hill’s Jacob Manning will also coach the Blue Team.

Ken Broomfield of Wilmington Laney and John Van Lunen of First Flight will coach the White Team.

Cardone, Metheny and Hunt were three seniors chosen among over 240 players nominated by 92 coaches. 60 men and 59 women’s players were selected for the two games.

The women’s game will be held on Wednesday afternoon at 3:30. The men’s game will start at 6:30.

Cardone, Metheny and Hunt were members of the most successful four-year class in Orange lacrosse history. They were freshmen on the 2020 team that roared out of the gates with a 7-0 start, outscoring opponents 92-33. They ended the season with a decisive win over Roxboro Community School, which was the final sporting event played by any local team for eight months before COVID-19 shut down the season. The RCS game was the final one for Orange senior attacker Wyatt Jones, the first Panther lacrosse player to sign with a Division I school when he played with Mercer.

As the pandemic restrictions eased, Cardone, Metheny and Hunt became key players for Orange’s run of three consecutive conference championships, the first titles in team history. Metheny scored four goals and three assists as a sophomore.

In 2022, Orange won the new Mid-Carolina Conference championship, reached the state quarterfinals for the first time ever and also hosted the Eastern Regional Championship game against First Flight. Cardone and Metheny were named All-Conference. Cardone led the team with 25 created turnovers. He also registered 63 ground balls, fourth on the team. Metheny was another cog in an offensive machine that scored a Mid-Carolina Conferee-leading 273 goals.

Metheney was tied for second on the team with 45 goals. He also finished with 69 points, second on the team. Hunt, in his first full varsity season, had 41 ground balls as a defenseman.

The 2022 team had a 17-3 record, breaking the school record for wins. This year’s team eclipsed that mark with a 18-4 record, once again reaching the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game. Metheny had a career-high 53 goals and scored 68 points. Cardone led the team with 34 turnovers created and was fifth on the team with 60 ground balls.

In April, both Cardone and Metheny signed with Division II Catawba College in Salisbury.

This season, Hunt created 26 turnovers, second on the team. He also had 35 ground balls.

The Bull City All Star Game is a benefit for the Duke Cancer Institute and North Carolina High School Athletic Association scholarships. Organized by Franklin Zirkle, a former head coach at East Chapel Hill and Leesville Road, the game is named in honor of Tony Cullen. One of the most successful players in Duke history, Cullen scored 106 career goals and 114 assists before he graduated in 1979. Afterwards, Cullen went on to coach the Blue Devils for nine years. After his coaching stint ended, Cullen went on to become a college lacrosse official.

In its first year of operation, the Bull City All Star game raised $2,500 for Duke Cancer Institute. Last year, in its first year back after the pandemic, the All-Star game raised $10,000.


Walden’s four goals leads Northwood lax to East Regional title, dashes Orange’s dreams in 10-8 win

The surroundings were there for a coronation.

A year after looking out of sorts in its first-ever Eastern Regional Championship game appearance against First Flight, the Orange lacrosse team looked to get it right on Tuesday night at Auman Stadium in another state semifinal appearance.

Their opponent, Northwood, had lost five straight games to the Panthers. On April 19 in Pittsboro, the Panthers ruined the Chargers’ senior night with a 16-10 win that clinched the Mid-Carolina Conference championship.

Yet despite Orange’s dominance in the rivalry, Northwood looked like the most desperate team on Tuesday night, as they should have. It was the last chance for seniors Will Smith, Taylor Laberge, Jason Walden, Will Johnson and Taylor Zelholf to beat Orange.

They played like it was their last game. It led to the Chargers first regional championship.

As the buzzer sounded on Northwood’s 10-8 upset win over the Panthers in the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game, the jubilant Chargers all threw their white sticks in the air while Orange coach Chandler Zirkle watched from the sidelines.

Northwood advances to face Lake Norman Charter in the State Championship game at Durham County Stadium.

It was a crushing disappointment for Orange (18-4), who was held to a season-low eight goals against a 3A/2A/1A opponent. Junior Connor Kruse, the Panthers’ leading scorer who went into the game with a right leg injury, was held without a goal for the first time this season.

It was Orange’s first loss against a team from its own classification all year. The Panthers had been ranked #1 in the RPI East Region all season. Northwood was #2.

Tigh Metheny, in his final game at Orange, scored two goals. After the final buzzer, an inconsolable Metheny was motionless laying face-down in the middle of the field as his teammates gathered around him in a show of support.

“Northwood made the plays in front of them,” Zirkle said after addressing his team. “They did a great job of that. We just didn’t hit our shots. We turned the ball over too much and created turnover opportunities.”

The wear and tear of playing 21 games caught up with Orange. In addition to Kruse’s injury, freshman Matthew MacNair was also banged up after establishing himself in place of senior Jake Wimsatt, who injured his MCL in March.

Without a healthy Kruse, Orange’s offense looked disjointed. A superb effort by Johnson, who defended Kruse most of the night, kept the Panthers from getting into a rhythm. After Josh Cowan notched Orange’s opening goal off a rebound conceded by Northwood goalkeeper James Flanagan 97 seconds into the game, the Panthers didn’t score for nearly twelve minutes.

“18 wins is the most we’ve had as a program,” Zirkle said. “That’s a lot of games on the legs. Connor’s biggest strength has been his durability. We had all the chances we needed to try to score and we just couldn’t execute it.”

Northwood controlled possession the final five minutes of the first quarter. They evened the game when Carson Fortunes found Smith darting through the heart of the slot for a transition goal. Then Laberge notched an unassisted goal when he fired an overhand shot past Orange goalkeeper Katie Wolter. Fortunes hit Walden on the doorstep for a dunk shot to make it 3-1 Chargers with 2:28 remaining in the first quarter.

Orange quickly tied it in the second quarter with two goals in 22 seconds, both assisted by freshman Brandon Williams. Luke Nevius fired in a sidearm bazooka from 16 yards. After a slashing penalty against Taylor Zelholf, Metheny tallied Orange’s first man-up goal with 10:26 remaining in the first half.

It felt like the Panthers had found their offensive legs after a sluggish first quarter, but that was the final time the game was tied.

Laberge added his second goal off an assist from Fortunes. After Orange’s Nick Cardone was called for slashing, Walden scored off an assist from Smith for the Chargers only man-up goal. Wimsatt responded with a sidearm shot assisted by Kruse with 1:12 remaining to make it 5-4 at halftime.

Walden bounced in his third goal to start the second half off a feed from Laberge. Metheny ripped his second goal off a feed from Kruse, but the Panthers were held scoreless for the final 5:28 of the third quarter. Smith’s second goal off a pass from Van Reece gave the Chargers a 7-5 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Cowan scored from the top of the box on a sidearm shot to begin the fourth quarter, but Northwood built a three-goal lead afterwards. Laberge completed his hat trick off a pass from Walden. Fortunes added his only goal of the game.

Orange fought back with two goals in 44 seconds, the first from senior Joe Cady. Josh Crabtree added another after an offside penalty to cut the Chargers lead to 9-8, but the Panthers couldn’t win a face-off. Coltrane Northington had a strong game for the Chargers at the face-off dot. Walden’s fourth goal with 3;08 remaining put the game on ice.

After Orange defeated Northwood on April 19 to complete a season sweep, it felt like the Panthers could punch its own ticket to the state championship game. It was why they played powerful 4A schools like Green Level and Wilmington Laney early in the season. Instead, the Chargers didn’t win a conference championship, but they did take a regional championship.

“It just sucks,” Zirkle said. “The kids did so much to try to get back to this point and try to take the next step. We weren’t able to do that. So it’s on to next year.”

It was a bitter disappointment for seniors Wimsatt, Cady, Cardone, Metheny, Josiah Tisdale, Braden Hunt, Seth Hall, Andrew Harris and Dalton Murphy, who leave after putting Orange lacrosse higher on the totem pole amid the crowded spring sports landscape in Hillsborough. Together, they won the first two conference championships in school history and hosted a regional title game twice with three trips to the state quarterfinals.

“We love them,” Zirkle said. “They left with the most wins in program history. They’ve done a phenomenal job.”




Orange lacrosse’s Sascha Van Praag and Nick Cardone talk tonight’s regional title game

The Orange lacrosse team will go for its first regional championship tonight when they host Northwood at Auman Stadium. It will be the third matchup of the year between the Panthers and the Chargers. Senior defenseman Nick Cardone had a big hand in beating the Chargers on March 20. In an 11-8 Orange win in Hillsborugh, Cardone helped hold the Chargers to three goals in the final 17:51. Cardone had four ground balls and created two turnovers. Cardone has signed to play at Division II Catawba College. Junior defenseman Sascha Van Praag was in his native country, the Netherlands, at the beginning of the season. He has played seven games for Orange this season. Van Praag had six ground balls against Bishop McGuinness on April 24, a 10-9 Orange win. If the Panthers emerge victorious tonight, they will play for the 3A/2A/1A State Championship at Durham County Stadium either Friday or Saturday.

Orange lacrosse goes for 1st regional championship tonight against Northwood in Hillsborough

All that stands between Orange High and its first-ever trip to the 3A/2A/1A State Lacrosse Championship is a showdown with a conference rival.

Orange and Northwood are no strangers to one another. When they meet tonight (Tuesday) for the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship at Auman Stadium, it will be their seventh meeting since March 8, 2021. On that night, the Chargers disposed of the Panthers easily, 17-6, at Chargers Stadium in Pittsboro.

It was hardly a surprise. It was the Chargers fifth win in six meetings against the Panthers. But like a lot of stuff since Chandler Zirkle took over the Orange lacrosse program, things changed at warp speed.

Just nine days later, the Panthers stunned the Chargers 10-9 to advance to the state quarterfinals for the first time in program history. Freshman Connor Kruse scored the game-winning goal late in the fourth quarter. Sophomore Jake Wimsatt tied the game off a man-up goal following an illegal stick penalty. Two years later, that call still sticks in the craw of some Northwood fans. It took a goal off the scoreboard that would have given the Chargers the lead.

The following year, the Panthers and the Chargers became rivals in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Yet the Panthers have beaten the Chargers four straight times, including twice this season, and have won 30 consecutive conference game overall.

Orange eased into the regional championship game after belting Carrboro 15-7 on Friday night at Auman Stadium. Kruse, who leads the team with 67 goals, paced Orange with four goals and two assists. Senior Joe Cady had a hat trick, putting him at 40 goals on the season.

“I thought we have a lot of skill and we played OK at times,” Zirkle said. “I thought we were focused on trying to play better and take the next step for Northwood. I think some of the guys thought we overlooked last year’s semifinal (also against Carrboro) so we’re trying to be critical of ourselves and focusing on what needs to be fixed.”

Wimsatt, who recently returned after an MCL injury kept him out of the lineup for most of the season, added a goal in the third quarter. For Orange’s ascendance to the top of the conference, Wimsatt was the ace face-off man. Wimsatt’s injury kept him on the sidelines while freshman Matthew MacNair handled duties at the dot. Yet Wimsatt’s presence makes Orange deeper than the last time they played Northwood, a 16-10 Orange win in Pittsboro on April 19.

“It’s such a boost to have Jake,” Zirkle said. “He just makes us better. He’s helped us a lot.”

The Chargers will be deeper, too. Northwood (17-3) is expected to have Grayson Cox, the son of head coach Randy Cox, back in the lineup after he missed last month’s game due to a broken wrist. Junior defenseman Ryan Brinker is also slated to return after suffering a shoulder injury earlier this year.

Northwood edged Croatan 5-4 last week to reach the state quarterfinals, then hammered Havelock 15-4 on Friday in Pittsboro.

“I know they’ll have some type of wrinkle up their sleeve,” Zirkle said. “I’m not sure what to expect. We’ll have to figure out what it could be. It’s going to be interesting. They have a 3-3 zone that use. I wouldn’t be surprised if they use a 10-man ride. I expect they’ll be at their best version of themselves.”

For the Chargers, the game could be a last stand for a senior class that has reached the regional championship game for the first time in school history. Seniors Will Smith (63 goals and 100 points), Taylor LaBerge (60 goals and 98 points) and Jason Walden (76 points) will fight to reach the state championship game–and end a five-game losing streak to Orange.

Orange (18-3) is looking to become just the second team from Hillsborough to win a regional championship in lacrosse. Last year, thousands of fans packed Auman Stadium to see Orange face off against First Flight for the regional title. But the moment may have overwhelmed a Panther team with only five seniors. First Flight defeated Orange 13-7.

Now, Orange starters like Kruse, Cady, Wimsatt, Tigh Metheny and defensive standouts like Braden Hunt, Sascha Van Praag and Josiah Tisdale are a year wiser with more playoff experience that any Orange team in history.

“I’m sure we’re more prepared in some capacity,” Zirkle said. “It’s tough to quantify that. It’s gives us a reference point about what to think about as opposed to going into it blind. That’s a positive. And the end of the day, you’ve got to make the plays in front of you on the field. You’ve got to figure out the right way to play, make sure you win.”

Six years ago today, Cedar Ridge won the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship when they defeated Chapel Hill 11-8 at Red Wolves Stadium.



Orange lax’s Tigh Metheney & Katie Wolter discuss playoff win vs. First Flight, reaching state quarterfinals

For the third year in a row, the Orange lacrosse team has advanced to the state quarterfinals of the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs. On Tuesday night, Orange defeated First Flight 9-4 at Auman Stadium. The Panthers avenged a loss to the Nighthawks in last year’s state semifinal match. Senior Tigh Metheny scored the opening three goals of the game, all assisted by Connor Kruse. In a critical sequence late in the first half, Orange led 3-2. First Flgiht’s Cody Keller raced down the field on a breakaway. Orange goalkeeper Katie Wolter made a huge save to keep the Panthers in the lead. Wolter has a scholarship to play at American University in Washington, D.C. Wolter and the rest of the Panther defense helped keep the Nighthawks off the board for the entire third quarter. In a span of 18:56, the Nighthawks were held scoreless. Orange scored all four goals in the third quarter to take a 9-2 lead into the final stanza. The Panthers will face Carrboro at Auman Stadium in the state quarterfinals on Friday night. If Orange wins, they will host the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game next Tuesday in Auman Stadium. Metheny is the second-leading scorer on the team with 53 goals and 68 points. Wolter has made 119 saves this season with a 51% save percentage.

Reprisal in Auman–Metheny’s hat trick, Wolter’s breakaway save leads Orange lacrosse past First Flight 9-4, into State Quarterfinals

During summer weightlifting sessions for the Orange lacrosse team, the score “13-7” was written on the white board beside the entrance.

Every time the players left a workout, they would see that score written in back ink that served as a less-than-subtle  reminder to the end of an otherwise successful 2022 season, when Orange hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game for the first time.

It was a moment where Orange truly arrived as a lacrosse program. Thousands of fans gathered at Auman Stadium to see if the Panthers could reach the state championship game. Yet the moment may have overwhelmed the Panthers, who once played in empty stadiums when lacrosse was an afterthought compared to the more traditional baseball and softball programs.

In the regional title game, First Flight’s defense flustered Orange into uncharacteristic mistakes. The Nighthawks held Orange to one goal over 23:26 and advanced to play for the state championship for the first time ever.

By a score of 13-7.

The First Flight team that returned to Auman Stadium on Tuesday night was the same as last year’s in name only. The Nighthawks lost nine seniors, including their top five scorers and goalkeeper Porter Smith. Jacob Gray, who scored five goals against Orange last May, was supposed to return for his senior season yet opted for the Coast Guard Academy instead.

But Orange was still facing First Flight. More importantly, they were facing the Nighthawks in the 3rd round of the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs.

Which made the results no less gratifying. The irony was that the key to Orange’s victory was defense.

Senior Tigh Metheny scored Orange’s first three goals, all assisted by junior Connor Kruse, while the Panthers (17-3) held the Nighthawks scoreless for 18:56 through the second and third quarters in an 9-4 victory at Auman Stadium. Orange, the #1 seed in the East Region of the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs, will face Carrboro on Friday night in the state quarterfinals at Auman Stadium.

Carrboro rolled past Cape Fear 17-3 at Jaguars Stadium.

First Flight, the co-champions of the Northeastern Conference with Croatan, ends the season 8-6.

While the Panthers found its rhythm in the second quarter, they were disjointed and sloppy early. Metheny’s sidearm shot off a feed from Kruse with 6:45 remaining was Orange’s only goal of the opening quarter.

The game turned on a sequence late in the second quarter. With Orange leading 3-2 and 4:45 remaining in the first half, First Flight Captain Cam Van Lunen intercepted a clearance pass and found sophomore Cody Keller up the field for a breakaway. It appeared the game would soon be tied, but Keller opted to go low against Orange goalkeeper Katie Wolter, who kicked it away. Defenseman Braden Hunt won the subsequent ground ball and sent it into the attacking end on a feed to Kruse, who found Metheny for a pinpoint shot that hit the back of the net.

After Orange freshman Matthew Macneir won the face-off, Wimsatt passed to Kruse for another goal seven seconds later to push the Panthers lead to 5-2 at halftime.

Kruse factored into all five Orange goals in the first half, assisting on four of them.

“Katie is a Division I goalkeeper for a reason,” said Orange coach Chandler Zirkle. “That was a huge one. The fact that we were able to make defensive stands throughout the game.”

Wolter has committed to American University, where she earned a scholarship.

First Flight was whistled for four penalties in the opening four minutes of the second quarter, including an illegal stick penalty to open the frame. That led to Metheny scoring with 9:01 remaining following an unnecessary roughness penalty with 9;31 remaining for the first of Orange’s two man-up goals. Metheny would add another two minutes later off a unsportsmanlike conduct call with 10:19 left.

Orange outscored the Nighthawks 5-0 in the third quarter. Jake Wimsatt, a senior who just recently returned to action after injuring his MCL early in the season, scored his second goal with 8:50 remaining off a pass from Kruse. Josh Cowan added two more goals in a span of 31 seconds, the first assisted by Josh Crabtree. Senior Joe Cady provided the highlight reel play of the night with a behind-the-back pass to sophomore Gray Crabtree, who finished it to put Orange ahead 9-2.

Freshman Danny Gardill had two goals for the Nighthawks, including one in the fourth quarter. Junior Bert Waddington also notched a goal in the final quarter, a frame where Orange was more content to run the clock out that scoring.

The Panthers have reached the state quarterfinals for three straight years and are one win away from hosting the Eastern Regional Championship game for the second straight season.

“First Flight plays so hard,” Zirkle said. “The nice thing we have is depth. It helps when you can put a freshman out (Brett Clark) at the end of the first half to replace tired players. Realistically, he’s not supposed to be playing heavy minutes right now, but he’s able to go out on the field and give us some good ones. That’s a big difference maker.”


OMS Chargers Dylan Herndon, Owen Wimsatt, Jackson Runkle & Braden Pfeiffenberger talk division title

The Orange Middle School Chargers men’s lacrosse team captured its seventh consecutive Orange Person Athletic Conference Northern Division championship on Monday afternoon. At Charger Stadium, the Chargers defeated Stanback 10-4 to clinch the title and advance to the Orange Person Athletic Conference championship game. The Chargers got the opening goal from Kaiden Wallace with 6:14 remaining in the first quarter on an assist from Braden Pfeiffenberger. Dylan Herndon scored a hat trick for the Chargers. Pfeiffenberger scored four goals and finished with six points. Renn Vanhoose had a goal and won several key face-offs for the Chargers. Stanback got two goals from Penn Cochran, who finished with three points on the day. Jeremy Holquist and Joseph Drive also had goals for the Bulldogs. Stanford will journey to Chapel Hill on Tuesday to face Culbreth. The Cougars won the Southern Division championship and defeated the Chargers earlier this year. Stanford will be going for its seventh straight OPAC Championship.