Can High Point Repeat as SoCon Champions?

(Photo Courtesy of High Point Athletics)

Since his arrival at High Point as the program’s first head coach ahead of their inaugural 2013 season, Jon Torpey has done nothing but build this Panthers program into one of the best in the SoCon, and a consistent competitor on the national stage.

High Point has made two NCAA Tournament appearances (2015, 2021) and constantly challenges some of college lacrosse’s best as they have upset Virginia twice (2016, 2019) and Duke once (2019). Additionally, the Panthers gave both the national champion Cavaliers and North Carolina a tough challenge this past season, and have only had two losing seasons in eight full seasons of play.

It is without question that the Panthers have been one of college lacrosse’s biggest success stories when it comes to new programs that have been erected over the past decade. Coming into the 2022 season, which will be their 10th as a program, the Panthers have a clear mark on their back for a second time in program history as reigning SoCon champions and will be setting out to do one of the only things it has been unable to do in their nine years of play: make back to back NCAA Tournament appearances.

After ranking 19th in scoring offense in 2018 and fourth in 2019, the Panthers saw a drop during their shortened 2020 season, ranking 36th nationally when the season ended. However, they returned to form this past season and ended the year with the 18th-best scoring defense in DI, averaging 13.36 goals per game. High Point also had the nation’s fourth-best team shooting percentage (.356%).

However, despite the many positives this offense saw in 2021 that they will want to build on this spring, the Panthers will be looking to significantly decrease their turnover numbers as they committed 239 total (17.07 per game) and ranked 39th in DI in turnovers per game.

It’s hard not to look at this High Point team and not believe they can continue the same level of success they had last season with as much talent on both ends as they return, and if they are able to clean up their turnovers problem, which was highlighted even more due to the fact that their headlining player, Asher Nolting, committed 24% of those turnovers, this team could possibly reach even higher heights despite some of the key losses they do endure, especially on the offensive end of the field.

Nolting, despite his aforementioned turnover issues, continued to carry this offense as he has since he stepped foot on campus and remained one of the most exciting players in the SoCon, and in college lacrosse in general. He put up 72 points off 27 goals and 45 assists last season and returning for a fifth and final year of college lacrosse is expected to once again remain as the leader of this offense, and is their biggest returner by far.

Sophomore attackman Brayden Mayea (37G/5A), who is coming off a breakout freshman campaign with the Panthers, and senior Hunter Vines (14G/12A) are the only two other top-five point-getters returning for this High Point offense with the losses of both Kevin Rogers and Dalton Sulver. With those two losses, Mayea and Vines could very well see their production, even more, this spring. The same can be said for sophomore attackman Jack Vanoverbrke (9G/3A) and fifth-year midfielder Koby Russell (8G/2A). The pair were some of the Panthers’ top reserves on the offensive end last season.

On the defensive end of the field, the Panthers were one of the weaker teams in the SoCon last season, allowing 13.86 goals per game for the 53rd ranked scoring defense in DI. High Point was also 44th in caused turnovers per game (7.07) and compiled a team total of 99 to their opponents 128, and were beaten in the ground ball battle 399 to 457 on the year. That puts them 46th nationally in ground balls per game (28.50), tied with Canisius.

After seeing Antonio Arcona get the start in cage for the first three games of the season, Parker Green stepped in and anchored this defense the rest of the way. Green made 129 saves with a .496% save percentage in 12 games with 11 starts and looked very much like he did during that shortened 2020 season in which he turned many heads with his play. Green looks to return in cage and continue to improve as he anchors this Panthers defense.

Out in front of the cage, the Panthers return just two full-time starters at close defense from a year ago in Grant Ammann (33GB/12CT) and PJ Peters (15GB/5CT), who both return for a fifth and final season of college lacrosse. Ammann is arguably the top returner on the back end for this High Point team after being their top producing pole last season, leading the team in caused turnovers and, being the leading ground ball-getting defenseman.

Trey Smith looks ready to lead the way at the SSDM position once again this spring. He grabbed 26 ground balls and caused nine turnovers during the 2021 campaign.

High Point will see a situation unfold at the faceoff dot in 2022 with the loss of Davis Sampere, who has been the Panthers’ top option at the dot for the past four seasons. Junior Collin Hoben looks to be the next man up at the position as he went 89-for-173 (.514%) last season as the primary backup.

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