It was a long ride, but worth every mile.
The Carolina Hilltoppers took a combined roster from their Elite and Ram high school rosters to the Brine Shootout in Cortland, N.Y., requiring a 600-mile trip from the North Carolina Piedmont to the Finger Lake district of New York and back again.
The ’Toppers represented the Old North State with great success, finishing the event with a 4-1-1 record despite nearly 20 hours on the road during a three-day weekend.
In the tournament’s biggest surprise, the Hilltoppers defeated New York state powerhouse Ithaca High School, a team that finished 15-3 and garnered national honors in the past five years. The Hilltoppers also beat a very strong Syracuse Arrow club team.
The Hilltoppers were led in scoring by rising seniors Josh Adams (New Hanover), Tyler Donnelson (Northwest Guilford), Hartford Zirkle (Chapel Hill High) and rising junior Patrick Marks (Proctor Academy).
Several Orange County players, including Bowen and Morgan Collins (Orange High School), Rourke Therrien and Drew Monroe (East Chapel Hill), Kevin Mitchell (Carrboro), and Cole Churchill (Cedar Ridge) also played key roles in the tournament success.
The Hilltoppers’ success in the Brine Shootout followed a great performance at the Mid-Summer Lacrosse Tournament in Greensboro, where the Hilltopper Elite team finished the tournament undefeated, defeating top club programs from Georgia, North Carolina and Missouri. The Ram team finished 3-1-1 with victories over regional teams and the younger Big Horn team finished with a 3-1-1 record.
“This has been a special summer so far for our players, the amount of interest from collegiate coaches has been great,” said Hilltopper founder Franklin Zirkle. “Our coaching staff has worked extremely hard to get these guys playing at the highest level, and despite the fact that many of these guys have not played together, the teams have bonded very well in a short time.
“To have a team go to a tournament in Upstate New York and return with success is a great compliment to the game of lacrosse in North Carolina.”