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It might seem like the biggest challenge the High Point men’s lacrosse team will face this year is replacing star goalie Tim Troutner Jr. As of Thursday, coach Jon Torpey had yet to choose a starter between sophomore Antonio Arcona or freshman Parker Green for Saturday’s season opener at No. 4 Maryland.

The Panthers may also wonder how to handle the extra attention Asher Nolting is bound to receive coming off a 92-point season. If the secret wasn’t out already when Nolting claimed the Southern Conference’s offensive player of the year award as a freshman, it is now after an encore performance last spring. With 74 goals and 84 assists over the last two seasons, Nolting is already fourth on High Point’s career points list. He’s a do-everything attackman whose ability to ride is also a valuable asset for the aggressive Panthers.

Yet on a day-to-day basis, sorting out playing time for a short-stick defensive midfield unit of juniors Taylor Acra and Colin Clothier and sophomore Joel Scerbo could be as tricky a task as any.

“Trying to keep those guys off the field is a full-time job for Connor McKemey, our guy who runs the box,” Torpey said. “They’re like caged animals. That’s the best way I can describe those guys. They’re always looking to attack. It’s an absolute blessing having guys like that around.”

Torpey considers it the best group of short sticks he’s worked with in his career, and they’re all now known commodities. The 5-11 Acra has started at times over his first two seasons and was tied for third on the Panthers’ roster in ground balls last season behind only faceoff ace Davis Sampere and Troutner.

The 6-1 Clothier is a two-year mainstay in the defensive midfield and forced 13 turnovers as a sophomore. And the 5-9 Scerbo is the relative newcomer to the group who quickly emerged as a do-everything sort in his first season.

“You can drop those guys off in Siberia with no money and they’d come back with what most people make in a year,” Torpey said. “They’re freaks. We take a lot of pride in that position. From the second they got here, they owned that position and did whatever they could to be on par with our poles and our close guys so there’s no drop-off depending upon who you’re attacking over the course of a possession.”

So how, exactly, does High Point’s staff sort out the playing time between its top options at such a vital position? Fortunately, the Panthers’ penchant for pushing the pace means high-possession games are more likely. And since High Point is eager to prod opposing teams in transition, there are offensive opportunities for all three short sticks.

Think of them almost as triplets. In a way, Torpey sort of does himself.

“They’re almost the same person,” Torpey said. “They’re just incredibly competitive. They’re unbelievably tough. They are offensive-minded. They’re defensive-minded. And all three of them never seem to get tired. It’s kind of incredible.”

All three defensive midfielders stand to see considerable time against the Terps, who are unlikely to overlook the Panthers after a breakthrough season in which they defeated both Virginia and Duke on the road last February.

Those two top-five RPI wins were not enough to get High Point into the NCAA tournament. They were offset somewhat by damaging losses to St. John’s and Jacksonville during the regular season, then to Richmond in the Southern Conference championship game.

The Panthers narrowly missed out on a top-20 spot in the Nike/US Lacrosse preseason rankings, landing in the also-considered category largely due to the Troutner factor. He was such a huge factor in last year’s 13-3 finish, making 36 saves combined in the Virginia and Duke wins and finishing the season with a 54.1 save percentage. Troutner went on to win rookie of the year honors in the Premier Lacrosse League.

“I thought we’d get some clarity in the fall, but all three guys have played really well,” Torpey said of Troutner’s successor, which will be picked from a group that also includes junior Griffin Basile.

It’s a competition that could very well extend into the season.