Orange Men’s Lacrosse

Orange lacrosse’s Connor Kruse, Brandon Williams and Josh Crabtree discuss wild win over Pinecrest

Midway through the season and the Orange lacrosse team is off to its best start in team history. The Panthers are 10-0 after beating Southern Alamance last week in Graham. This week, the Panthers will face a stiff test in Holly Springs, a 4A team that beat the Panthers 16-4 last year. Orange has already beaten three 4A teams this year. Last month, Orange journeyed to Pinehurst and came away with a wild win over Pinecrest 10-9 in overtime. Sophomore Brandon Williams scored the game-winning goal off an assist from Connor Kruse. Orange trailed 9-5 with 11:48 remaining in regulation, but Williams led a comeback. He scored four goals, Josh Crabtree tied the game with 1:04 remaining in regulation when he scored off a rebound from a shot fired by Kruse. Orange overcame three penalties in the final minute of regulation and got strong defensive play from defenseman Sascha Van Praag and goalkeeper Jackson Runkle, who played in the fourth quarter and alternated with starter Katie Wolter. Kruse assisted on four goals. On Friday night, Orange will return to conference play to face crosstown rival Cedar Ridge. Orange is going for its fourth consecutive Mid-Carolina Conference championship and is currently ranked the #1 team in the East Region in the 3A/2A/1A classification.

Orange lacrosse Connor Kruse discusses 200th career assist in win vs. Northwood.

Orange senior Connor Kruse had already etched his name into the Orange High lacrosse record books a long time ago. Now, he has put his name into the national record books. On Monday night, Kruse tied a national record by registering 16 assists in Orange’s 18-5 win over Southern Alamance at Redmond Stadium in Graham. Kruse tied the record set by Ryan Stadiumelmaier of Midland-Dow High School in Michigan set in 2022. Along the way, Kruse became the first player in Orange history to surpass 400 points. Last week, Kruse became the first player to eclipse 200 career assists in Orange’s 14-1 win over Northwood at Auman Stadium. Kruse finished with one goal and three assists against the Chargers. After its win over the Patriots, the Panthers improved to 10-0, 7-0 in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Last winter, Kruse signed to play with Lenoir-Rhyne, which won the Division II National Championship last year in Philadelphia. Against Northwood, senior Bryce Nelson earned a gaol. Earning the win as goalkeeper was freshman Jackson Runkle, who played all 48 minutes. Runkle recently finished his first season with Orange wrestling. Orange lacrosse is off for the rest of this week to enjoy spring break. In the meantime, they will prepare for a difficult 4A opponent, Holly Springs, on April 4. 

Kruse ties national record with 16 assists, surpasses 400 career points, Orange lax beats Southern Alamance 18-5

Connor Kruse has been setting records and milestones even before he started playing lacrosse at Orange.

In his last middle school game, he scored a goal right off the faceoff in a blowout win at Roxboro Community School. That was the final game before the pandemic set in, leading to middle school athletics being shut down for nearly 18 months.

No one knew it at the time, but it was also the final game in the long, storied athletic history of Stanford Chargers athletics before the name of the school was changed. It would be rebranded Orange Middle School in February 2021.

Kruse is now a senior and he owns almost every offensive record in the Orange lacrosse record book. On Monday night, he entered his name in a national record book.

Kruse tied the American record for most assists in a game with 16 in Orange’s 18-5 win over Southern Alamance at Redmond Stadium in Graham. The only other high school player in American high school history to have 16 assists in a game is Ryan Stadelmaier of Midland-Dow High in Michigan. In 2021, Stadlemaier had 16 assists against Linden High on May 20, 2022.

Stadelmaier is now playing lacrosse at Air Force, a member of the Division I Atlantic Sun Conference.

Kruse, the son of former North Carolina and Johns Hopkins lacrosse player Travis Kruse, became the first Orange lacrosse player to surpass 400 points in his career.

Last week, Kruse became the first Orange player to reach 200 career assists in a 14-1 win over Northwood at Auman Stadium in Hillsborough. Kruse’s feed to Gray Crabtree with 2:07 remaining in the second quarter put the Panthers ahead 7-0 and earned him another milestone in Orange history. Kruse finished the night with one goal and three assists.

“I’ve played with a lot of guys here who have done some great things,” Kruse said after last Thursday’s win over the Chargers. “There’s a lot of guys who have contributed to that. Ryan Merrill (who graduated in 2022) all the way to today with Brett (Clark) and Brandon Williams, there’s just a lot of guys who have helped me get to that point. I’d just like to thank them for helping me.”

Kruse also owns the Orange record for 170 goals coming into this season.

Kruse is after more than just records in his final games at Orange. The Panthers are 10-0, 7-0 in the Mid-Carolina Conference. Kruse was a member of the first Orange lacrosse team to win a conference championship in 2021. Since then, Orange has added two more league titles to its collection and has hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship game each of the last two years.

Now, Kruse is hunting for a regional championship. It appeared that last year would be Orange’s time when they faced Northwood at Auman Stadium, a team the Panthers had defeated five straight times. But the Chargers came away with a 10-8 victory in Hillsborough.

Under head coach Chandler Zirkle, the Panthers are off to its best start in team history. They have wins over 4A teams Apex, Pinecrest and Jordan.

“Those 4A games at the beginning of the year helped us,” Kruse said. “We’re just focused on trying to get better every day.”

The win over Southern Alamance on Monday night ended a stretch of four games over six days for the Panthers. On Friday night, Orange defeated Western Alamance 17-5 at Primm Stadium in Elon. Kruse finished with six goals and three assists. Clark came away with four goals and one assist.

Last December, Kruse officially signed to play with Lenoir-Rhyne, which won the Division II national championship last year. The Bears defeated Mercyhurst 20-5 in Philadelphia to win the first national championship in team history.

Orange Panther of the Week: Alden Cathey

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is senior long-stick defenseman Alden Cathey. For the past four years, Cathey has been a pillar of the Orange lacrosse team’s defense. He has been a part of three conference championship teams, the first squads to win a league title in the sport in school history. Cathey was huge in Orange’s season-opening win over Apex, the first of three victories over 4A teams so far this year for the Panthers. Cathey had two ground balls and created numerous turnovers as the Panthers captured its season-opener. Last week, in a tight win at Jordan, Cathey had seven ground balls. In December, Cathey officially signed with Division III Arcadia University in Pennsylvania, just outside of Philadelphia. Cathey has paired alongside Sascha Van Praag, Josiah Tisdale, Nick Dardone and Braden Hunt over the past three years to help anchor Orange’s defense in front of goalkeeper Katie Wolter. In addition to playing lacrosse, Cathey has been a member of Orange men’s cross country team the past three years. Cathey has been a part of three conference championship teams in cross country, as well as two Mideast Regional championship teams. Last year, Orange finished 2nd in the state behind Croatan. This week, Cathey will suit up as the Panthers face Northwood at Auman Stadium on Thursday night in a rematch of last year’s 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional championship game. Faceoff will be at 7 PM in Hillsborough. 

Williams scores in overtime, Orange lacrosse wins penalty-marred game over Pinecrest 10-9 win

SOUTHERN PINES–From the moment you walk into the John Williams Athletic Complex in Southern Pines, you sense something different.

There’s a video screen on the scoreboard, where each Pinecrest High School lacrosse player has their picture on display after they score a goal. There’s artificial turf, too, which was probably the only reason why the Orange lacrosse team was the lone Hillsborough-based squad playing on a rainy night last Wednesday.

Orange’s game against the Pinecrest Patriots was different, too. Mainly because the referees likely needed Tommy John Surgery for the number of flags they threw.

The Panthers and the Patriots combined for 25 penalties in a game that stretched on for over two hours. While Orange wasn’t at its best in its first road game, they were good enough to win its second contest over a 4A opponent on the young season.

Sophomore Brandon Williams took a pass from Connor Kruse and buried a quick wrist shot past Patriots freshman goalkeeper Wesley Short with :45.9 remaining in overtime to lead Orange over Pinecrest 10-9. Williams scored four goals, while Kruse assisted on four goals to help the Panthers improve to 5-0.

Pinecrest led 9-5 with 11;48 remaining in regulation, but Orange scored four unanswered goals in the final nine minutes of regulation. Josh Crabtree tied the game with 1:04 remaining in regulation when Short saved an overhand shot from Cruse with 15 yards away. The ball bounced off Short’s stick. Crabtree batted at the ball like he was Sebastian Aho teeing up a slap shot for the Carolina Hurricanes. The ball rolled seven feet over the line across the turf.

Orange had to overcome numerous obstacles just to get the game into overtime. The Panthers were whistled for three penalties in the final 2:17 of regulation. In the final 51.1 seconds, the lost sophomore face-off ace Matthew MacNeir and long-stick defenseman Alden Cathey to slashing penalties. With the game tied 9-9, the Patriots had a 6-on-4 advantage for the final minute of regulation, but a shot by Gavin Latin went off the right shoulder of Josh Cowan.

Despite Cathey being in the penalty box, the Panthers were able to run out the final minute and get the game to overtime. Patriots freshman Jacob Steele won the overtime face-off when Macneir was called for a false start, but Laton fired an overhead shot over the net. After a restart, the Patriots turned it over following an over-and-back violation.

Orange turned it over on its initial overtime possession when Pinecrest’s Tyler Renzi picked up an errant pass, but the Patriot’s Weston Thomson was called for warding against Orange’s Sascha Van Praag. Orange fired four shots before Williams notched the game-winner.

Thomson registered four goal and four assists for Pinecrest (2-2). Laton finished with five goals and one assist.

Thomson started the fourth quarter with an overhead shot assisted by Laton that put the Patriots ahead 9-5 with 11:48 remaining. Orange freshman Jackson Runkle was inserted as the Panther goalkeeper and held the Patriots scoreless for the remainder of regulation.

Williams scored a man-up goal after Thomson was penalized for an illegal check. Williams added his third goal off a feed from Kruse with 6:56 remaining in regulation to put the Patriots lead to 9-8.

Despite being penalized three times in the first period, the Patriots still led 3-0 after the opening twelve minutes. Thompson scored two goals while Laton added another.

Orange responded with five unanswered tallies in the second quarter. Macneir scored directly off the face-off to start the second. Kruse, Crabtree, Brett Clark and Williams also added goal to put Orange ahead 5-3 at halftime.

Orange went on a scoreless drought of 18:31. The Patriots scored six straight goals. Laton had four goals in the third quarter.

The Panthers completed the week with a 17-3 win at Seaforth on Friday. Orange is 2-0 in the Mid-Carolina Conference as they prepare to travel to Jordan on Tuesday night.

Orange lacrosse’s Katie Wolter & Alden Cathey discuss season-opening win over Apex

It’s the final season for several important players who have suited up for the Orange lacrosse team the past four years. On Monday night, they got off to a strong start, beating formidable 4A opponent Apex 13-8 at Auman Stadium. Senior Connor Kruse finished with three goals and six assists. Kruse is the all-time leading scorer in school history. He has 173 career goals and 339 points. Defenseman Alden Cathy had two ground balls and made several stellar defensive plays to keep the Panthers ahead for the entire game. Senior goalkeeper Katie Wolter played in the first and third quarters. Wolter, made two saves. In December, Wolter formally signed to play for the Elon women’s lacrosse team after being a starter for two Orange teams that have won the conference championship each of the last three years. Sophomore Brandon Williams started the year with four goals. Last season, Williams finished with 27 goals as a rookie. Freshman Jackson Runkle played the second and fourth quarters in his first career varsity game. Sophomore Matthew Macner won 15 face-offs. Orange was supposed to face Walter Williams on Tuesday night but the game was rained out in Burlington. The Panthers will face Cedar Ridge at Auman Stadium in Central Conference opener at Auman Stadium this Monday night.