An unusual journey to High Point’s turf


Imagine that you are a senior in high school with a love for the game of lacrosse. Your ultimate goal is to play col – legiately at the division one level. At first, it doesn’t appear that this dream is going to come true. You are faced with the possibility of not being able to continue the sport that you have worked all of your life to play. All of a sudden, you receive a call from an old coach about a brand new program in a place you have never heard of before. This is the leap of faith that this HPU lacrosse senior class took upon themselves.

When Jeff Hale was a junior in high school he met then Dartmouth assistant coach Jon Torpey. The two were able to build a relationship through the recruiting process. “Torpey was my favorite coach in the whole process,” said Hale. Unfortunately, like many of us have experienced in the college application process, Hale was not accepted into his first choice, Dartmouth.

Now, the story could have ended right here, but Coach Torpey didn’t just forget about Hale. He instead reached out to the 17-year-old and told him, ”Hey I know things didn’t work out, but maybe in another life.” This respectfully kind gesture went a long way with Hale. As it turned out, Coach Torpey had a reason to be optimistic.

In 2010, Torpey was named the inaugural men’s lacrosse head coach at High Point University. At this time, Hale was contemplating walking on at a big program school. Hale was in class during his senior year at Georgetown Prep in Bethesda, Maryland when his assistant coach pulled him out to talk about an email he received from “a guy at High Point.” Hale was happy to hear back from Torpey once again, but said that at first, he was thinking the school would be similar to West Point or the Army. Hale had never heard of the school, but he visited HPU soon after. The rest was history. Hale was the first lacrosse player to sign with High Point in program history.

Coach Torpey still had a lot more recruiting to do. But Hale was actually able to assist in the process, acting as an ambassador for the university athletics. Before being recruited to HPU, Hale was fortunate enough to be picked for the FCA national team (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). On that team were some the very best lacrosse players in the country. Hale was one of only two players on that team who were undeclared. The other player was Mitchell Dupere. The two became very good friends, and before the trip was over, he jokingly told him, “I have a feeling we’re going to end up playing together. Wherever that is.” Hale’s hunch ended up being correct. Dupere decided to join Hale at High Point.

With a lot of input from Hale, Torpey and the coaching staff recruited 19 blue – collar kids during that first year that proved to be worthy of representing High Point on the lacrosse field. These were kids that all wanted nothing more than to play division one lacrosse.“We all had a chip on our shoulders. There were coaches who didn’t believe in us and we all cherished the opportunity to play here. It was also a chance to be more than just a cog in the wheel. It was an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than ourselves,” said Hale.

Another player in that class was Midfielder Brad James. James hails from St. Joseph’s Prep in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. This season James won Southern Conference Player of the Week following a two goal and two assist performance against Robert Morris. James said that he was originally committed to play division three lacrosse when Torpey contacted him about HPU. “He was so convincing that my parents and I booked a flight down to check out the school and we immediately fell in love with it. It was a no-brainer,” said James. James dedicates a lot of his success to his older brother whom he watched play lacrosse in high school and college. “I put down the baseball bat and picked up a lacrosse stick. I was always shooting in the summer and hitting the wall. I liked what I saw in lacrosse, and how physical it was. Once I started playing, I loved it.”

James said that his favorite game was last season’s 12-10 victory against Sacred Heart. “We were down five goals in the on the road in the fourth quarter. We came back to score seven goals and shut them out. It was a huge comeback and there was a lot of team camaraderie. That game set the tone for us and we went on to win six straight games.”

Hale’s favorite game as a program was its very first victory in 2020, a 9-7 win against Towson at home. Towson was also a program that made it to the NCAA tournament that same season. “Freshman year, during that first year when we didn’t even have a full team was very tough,” said Hale. “Coach Torpey really tested us, and made us question whether or not we really wanted this. Obviously, for all of the guys that stuck around, that Towson game was a sign that we had made it. All of our hard work paid off.”

In just the third year of the program, HPU has become a formidable program know across the country right now for it’s narrow 13-10 defeat at the hands of back – to-back national champions, Duke University Blue Devils. Highlight wins this sea – son include an exhilarating 10-9 triumph over Air Force and a 15-10 victory over Delaware in the season opener. In 2020 the team co-shared a regular season title in the Atlantic Sun Conference.

This is the very first season that the team has a full house of freshman through seniors, many of whom are technically red-shirt juniors because they spent the entire first year practicing. The ultimate goal now is to win the Southern Conference title and make it to the NCAA tournament.

As Hale looks back on his time here at High Point and the necessary steps that he took to develop the lacrosse program, he can’t help but to reflect on the positive building blocks that he created for a program that is on the rise. “Thank you to all of the seniors that never quit on each other and always kept a positive attitude,” said Hale.

Campus Chronicle
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