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Brother: Vines finds his niche in lacrosse

Douglas Fritz • Updated Jun 21, 2018 at 4:16 PM

Elizabethton isn’t known for producing lacrosse standouts, but Hunter Vines is an extraordinary exception.

The former T.A. Dugger Junior High student transferred to Christ School in Arden, North Carolina, as an eighth-grader. Five years later, he graduated as one of North Carolina’s best lacrosse players.

Vines — the brother of former Elizabethton tennis star Danielle Vines — set Christ School’s all-time record for goals scored with 203. He was an All-State selection three times, and was chosen as an All-American in each of the last two years while leading his team to back-to-back state championships.

Those efforts helped Vines land a Division I scholarship to North Carolina’s High Point University, which played powerhouses Duke, Maryland and Virginia last season.

Lacrosse?

Vines had a family connection to lacrosse.

“I grew up looking up to my cousin,” said Vines. “He always played in South Florida, and I wanted to give it a shot. I never had the opportunity until dad found a team in Bristol.”

It was a club team that traveled to Roanoke, Virginia, to play games. Vines played basketball at T.A. Dugger, but he saw a better future in the lesser-known sport — especially for a 5-foot, 100-pound kid.

“I hit puberty and grew a little bit,” he said.

Now 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, Vines can handle the rigors of lacrosse.

Still, the move from Elizabethton to Christ School wasn’t easy, said Vines.

“I always knew if I wanted to play college lacrosse, I needed to go to a boarding school,” said Vines. “It was really hard, especially at first. But Christ School was so great and welcoming.”

What is lacrosse like?

Vines said the sport is similar to basketball in strategy.

“But the physicality is more like hockey,” he said. “There are player-to-player collisions, but most of the contact is done with the sticks. It’s like hockey in the air, but it’s a mix of a lot of sports.”

There are offensive and defensive players, somewhat similar to soccer.

“Sometimes a defensive player scores,” said Vines. “On our team, one of the defenders scored this season. Sometimes a goalie scores, and that’s exciting.”

How to succeed

Becoming a prolific goal scorer requires athletic and mental abilities and — perhaps surprisingly — passing skills.

“To score goals you have to be a passing threat,” said Vines, who finished second all-time at Christ School with 109 assists. “If you can’t pass, everyone will slide to you. You have to know where the slides are coming from, and where the help defense is coming from, and beat that, too. And obviously it takes a lot of time training and shooting.”

Vines said he believes speed is the reason High Point offered him the scholarship.

“I think speed is my No. 1 asset,” he said. “On the field, that’s always been something I’ve been blessed with. It’s something I work on hard.

“And I think High Point sees potential in me. I’m still filling out and maybe even growing. Plus, I’m a two-way (midfielder), which you don’t see very often. Most people specialize offense or defense, I play both ways.”

Facing NCAA powers

High Point’s schedule traditionally includes top programs like Duke, Maryland and Virginia.

“I’m excited to play against the best of the best,” said Vines. “I’m glad High Point schedules really tough teams at the beginning of the season. You’re thrown out there and it’s trial by fire. And I grew up watching those teams on championship weekend.”

The Panthers compete in the Southern Conference with schools like Richmond, Furman, Air Force and Mercer.

Danielle’s little brother

Vines’ sister not only won three state singles championships at Elizabethton, she is currently a tennis standout at Furman University.

Vines said Danielle’s success was a motivating factor for him.

“I would say it drove me to try to be like her,” said Vines. “She’s obviously incredible at what she does. I wanted to be as good as her, so it gave me a little bit of a drive.”

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