Orange Men’s Lacrosse

Metheny scores hat trick in Orange lacrosse win over E. Alamance 16-6 to open state playoffs; face First Flight on Tuesday

How far has Orange lacrosse come in four years?

In 2019, the Panthers won its first state playoff game under head coach Chandler Zirkle, beating Northside-Jacksonville 17-13. It didn’t hurt that the Monarchs had a defenseman throw the ball into his own empty net in the first quarter. Even Zirkle admitted it took a good draw to beat the Monarchs in Jacksonville, but it was the second playoff win in school history.

Fast forward to 2023 and you see what a program looks like. Playoff wins aren’t a novelty in Hillsborough anymore. They’re excuses to give junior varsity players a chance to play in the second half because the Panthers have a 10-1 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Since that win over the Monarchs, the Panthers have won three conference championships, reeled off 28 consecutive conference wins, captured six more state playoff games and hosted the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game last May.

That latter fact will be a point of discussion during the next 48 hours, because the same First Flight squad that frustrated the Panthers defensively last year will be back on Tuesday night for the third round of the 2023 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs. Some of the players who struck it big for the Nighthawks last year won’t be back for one reason or another, but the Panthers know what to expect now that the expectations around the program, both within and abroad, have changed dramatically.

On Thursday night at Auman Stadium, Orange rolled past Eastern Alamance 16-6 at Auman Stadium in the second round of the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs. Senior Tigh Metheny, who committed to play at Catawba College two weeks ago, scored a hat trick as the Panthers won its ninth straight home game.

Eastern Alamance defeated J.F. Webb 11-5 in Oxford during the opening round on May 3 to advance to the second round. The Eagles, who end the season 8-11, g0t two goals from Dalton Helton.

Josh Crabtree scored the opening goal off an assist from Connor Kruse to open the game. After Helton tied it off an assist from Brett Hupman, the Panthers reeled off eleven consecutive goals to put the game away. It was the Panthers’ third win over the Eagles this season.

A welcome sight for Orange was the return of senior midfielder Jake Wimsatt, who played in his first game since early March. Wimsatt, a key to Orange’s face-off success for the past three years, missed most of the season with an injured MCL. Wimsatt scored Orange’s ninth goal on a sidearm shot assisted by Metheny. While Wimsatt didn’t take any face-offs against the Eagles, his experience will be valuable as the Panthers try to reach the state championship game for the first time in school history.

Metheny started Orange’s long run with a goal assisted by freshman Matthew Macneir, who scooped the face-off clean and sent it to the veteran Orange attacker. Crabtree followed with his second goal. Senior Joe Cady and sophomore Luke Nevius each finished with two goals. Gray Crabtree, freshman Brandon Williams, Brett Clark, and Josh Cowan each tallied one goal.

Kruse added on to his team-leading scoring total in the third period. Kruse, Orange’s all-time leading scorer, finished with five points. That increases his school-record total to 313 points.

Nick Cardone, a defenseman, got a rare assist on Metheny’s second goal in the first quarter. Junior Katie Wolter made three saves but she didn’t play after the first quarter. Sophomore Carson Latta and junior Parker Christie-Pohl played the rest of the game.

Of the seven other teams remaining in the East Region, Orange has beaten two of them. First Flight is a team that Orange has yet to conquer. The Nighthawks defeated Western Alamance 12-11 on Friday night in Elon.

The Nighthawks and the Panthers will face-off at Auman Stadium on Tuesday night at 6 PM.

Orange Panther of the Week: Connor Kruse

This week’s Orange Panther of the Week is junior lacrosse midfielder Connor Kruse. This season, Kruse has continued to cement his status as the greatest lacrosse player in school history. He is the leading scorer for an Orange team that has won the Mid-Carolina Conference championship for the third straight season. Kruse holds the all-time school record with 165 goals and 313 points. This season, Kruse has scored 64 goals. Last year, he amassed 77 goals as the Panthers had its most successful season in school history, reaching the 3A/2A/1A Eastern Regional Championship game for the first time. This season, Kruse has 13 hat tricks. That includes four goals in the regular season finale against Bishop McGuinness at Auman Stadium, where Orange won 10-9 on April 24. His season-high came against Carrboro, where the Panthers won 15-5. Kruse had six goals and five assists. Kruse started the season with five goals against Green Level on February 27. The son of Travis Kruse, who played lacrosse at North Carolina and Johns Hopkins, Connor will continue to lead Orange lacrosse this week in the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs. On Tuesday night, Orange will face First Flight at Auman Stadium in the third round. Last season, First Flight defeated Orange in the state semifinals.

Orange men’s lacrosse earns #1 seed in 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs, starts play Friday at Auman Stadium

For the second year in a row, the road to the 3A/2A/1A State Championship Men’s Lacrosse game will run through Hillsborough.

The Orange lacrosse team received a #1 seed for the East Region in the 3A/2A/1A State Championship brackets released by the North Carolina High School Athletic Association on Friday. The Panthers, who won the Mid-Carolina Conference championship after going through league play undefeated, will face Eastern Alamance or J.F. Webb in the second round on Friday night at Auman Stadium.

The Eagles and the Warriors will meet on Tuesday night in Oxford.

There are plenty of familiar teams that stand in the way of Orange’s path to a second straight trip to the Eastern Regional championship game, both conference rivals and otherwise. If Orange reaches the third round, they will  face either Western Alamance or First Flight.

Last May, First Flight frustrated the Panthers and held them to one goal over 23:26 in a 15-7 win to take the Eastern Regional Championship at Auman Stadium. The Nighthawks were led by then-junior Jacob Gray, who scored five goals. This season, Gray is absent from the roster of First Flight, who are 7-5.

Western Alamance played both of its games against Orange in the opening three weeks of the season. The Panthers won 17-12 in Elon, and held off the Warriors 13-9 in Hillsborough.

Orange rolled to another conference championship this season despite the loss of a major cog in its machine. Senior Jake Wimsatt, a three-year varsity performer, injured his MCL early in the season. Wimsatt likely holds the school-record with 361 career face-off wins, but hasn’t played since March 9. Wimsatt was instrumental in the Panthers’ first great postseason run in 2021 when they upset Northwood 10-9 at Auman Stadium to reach the state quarterfinals.

In the absence of Wimsatt, freshman Matthew Macneir has stepped in and learned on the job. Macneir has won 125 face-offs in 183 attempts.

The core of Orange’s scoring hasn’t changed. Junior Connor Kruse, the all-time goals leader in school history, has 63 goals and 68 assists. He needs just five points to pass his own single-season scoring record, which he set last season. In 2022, Kruse’s first full-season at Orange, he scored a school-record 77 goals and 59 assists.

Senior attacker Joe Cady has scored 35 goals. That includes five hat tricks. In Orange’s 11-8 win over Northwood on March 20 in Hillsborough, Cady scored four goals while the Chargers defense was focused on Kruse, who was limited to one goal in the first half. Cady has also had hat tricks against Eastern Alamance, East Chapel Hill, Western Alamance and Seaforth.

With Wimsatt’s scoring punch missing, senior Tigh Metheny has registered a career-high 50 goals. Metheny. who signed to play with Division II Catawba College two weeks ago, had a season-high six goals against Eastern Alamance on April 21. He has eleven hat tricks this season, including scoring five points in a 17-4 win over Walter Williams on April 4.

Orange’s defense has also been strong throughout the year. Junior goalkeeper Katie Wolter, in her second year as a starter, has made 116 saves and has a .506 save percentage in 466 minutes.

Senior Nick Cardone, who also signed to play with Catawba, has created a team-best 32 turnovers. Josiah Tisdale, a senior who has signed with Methodist University, has 23 ground balls. Longstick midfielder Alden Cathey, a junior has 72 ground balls and has created 25 turnovers.

Croatan, the champions of the Northeastern Coastal Conference, earned the #2 seed. The Cougars split the season series with First Flight. Northwood earned the #7 seed and will face crosstown rival Seaforth at Chargers Stadium this Friday night in the first-ever state playoff matchup between the two Pittsboro rivals in any sport.

Jacksonville received the #3 seed while Carrboro is #4.

For the first time, the 3A/2A/1A State Championship Game will be played at Durham County Stadium, the longtime home of the Northern Durham High football team.

Orange lacrosse’s Katie Wolter, Matthew Macneir and Kale Womble discuss win over Bishop McGuinness

The Orange lacrosse team will go into the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs with lots of momentum following a dramatic win over Bishop McGuinness at Auman Stadium on Monday. Josh Cowan scored the game-winning goal with 22 seconds remaining as Orange rallied from a three-goal deficit at halftime. The Panthers, who claimed the Mid-Carolina Conference championship for the third straight season last week with a victory over Northwood, had another big game in net from goalkeeper Katie Wolter, who has earned a scholarship to play at American University. Orange had a spurt in the fourth quarter that was triggered by its defense. Kale Womble, a member of Orange’s Central Carolina Conference championship wrestling team, created several turnovers in the final minutes as the Villains were held scoreless down the stretch. Connor Kruse scored the opening goal for Orange off a turnover and sprinted down the field to fire an overhand shot past McGuinness goalkeeper Connor Argenta. Orange will prepare for the 3A/2A/1A State Playoffs, where they will be the #1 seed in the East Region. The Panthers, coached by Chandler Zirkle, will learn about the field on Friday when the 40-team bracket is announced.

Orange lacrosse’s Nick Cardone & Tigh Metheny sign with Catawba; Josiah Tisdale signs with Methodist

Three principal figures that have led the Orange lacrosse team to three consecutive conference championships are moving on to play at the next level. On Friday afternoon during a ceremony inside Orange High Gymnasium, senior longstick defenseman Nick Cardone signed with Catawba College in Salisbury. Senior midfielder Tigh Metheny also signed with Catawba. Senior defenseman Josiah Tisdale signed with Methodist University in Fayetteville. Cardone has been one of the most reliable defenseman for Orange during a 29-game conference winning streak. Last week in Orange’s 16-10 win over Northwood, Cardone was matched up against a variety of Chargers. He helped contain Tyler Laberge to one goal as the Panthers claimed its third consecutive Mid-Carolina Conference title. Metheny has been a strong two-way presence for the Panthers. This season, he scored 23 goals and added 29 assists. Tisdale is another strong defensive figure who is in his third year at the varsity level. Orange celebrated the big day on Friday by beating Eastern Alamance 19-6 to complete an undefeated conference season. The Panthers will face Bishop McGuiness on Monday night at 6PM inside Auman Stadium in Hillsborough. Orange will finish the regular season with a road trip to Southern Pines to face Pinecrest.