MOUNT PLEASANT — With its opening-round playoff game having been forfeited by a winless Richland Northeast squad, the top-seeded Wando girls lacrosse team was left frustrated and anxious to get back on the field.
Those feelings were manifested in Friday’s second-round contest, and after overcoming a sluggish start, the Warriors used a dominating performance to dispatch Academic Magnet, 16-3, at Wando Stadium.
“We hadn’t played a game in nine days, so we came out a little flat, but (we) picked it up definitely in the second half,” Wando coach Jessica Stralkowski said. “I think that long of a break would impact anybody in the playoffs. It was kind of a rough playoff week. So hopefully this game will check them back into reality and get them ready for Tuesday.”
That’s when the Warriors will face Bishop England, the No. 2 seed, which advanced with a 17-10 win over No. 3 Chapin. A spot in the state title game awaits the winner.
Hunter Leckonby put the Raptors on the scoreboard first just over a minute into the game, but Wando co-captain Jessie Bunting quickly knotted the contest one minute later.
The Warriors (13-3) took a 2-1 lead when junior Allie Bucknam used a Kori Paulsen assist to score the first of her game-high eight goals with 18:06 left in the first half.
A near 10-minute break in scoring followed before Wando notched three goals in as many minutes for a more comfortable 5-1 lead at halftime. Bucknam assisted on the first — scored by Alyssa Smith — and then scored a pair of her own. The junior midfielder’s goal 17:56 into the contest was particularly impressive, as she weaved between Academic Magnet defenders and bounced a shot from close range into the back of the net.
Stralkowski’s squad didn’t waste time after the break, either, adding two goals within the first 50 seconds of the second stanza. Bucknam initiated the second-half scoring, and Brenna Walsh used a lob pass from freshman Maggierose Connell to increase the Warriors’ lead to 7-1.
Wando recorded nine of the next 10 goals before Leckonby closed the scoring with her 91st goal of the season.
Smith (four goals) and Walsh (three), and Bunting (one) joined Bucknam in the scoring column for the Warriors, who received a solid outing from senior goalkeeper Sierra Armstrong.
“We came out with some heart in the first half,” said Raptors coach Siobhan Ragan, whose squad edged fourth-seeded Spring Valley, 8-7, on Tuesday. “In the second half, our girls just didn’t do the things that we practiced all year. But Wando is a very good competitor and we look forward to matching up with them again next season.”
Academic Magnet’s 10-5 final record is indicative of its successful first season of varsity competition. Last year, Academic Magnet fielded a club team.
“Making seed No. 5, beating big teams, (and) making it to the second round of playoffs – I couldn’t be more proud of my girls,” Ragan said.
Halftime: Wando 5, Academic Magnet 1. Goals: Wando: Allie Bucknam (8), Alyssa Smith (4), Brenna Walsh (3), Jessie Bunting (1). Academic Magnet: Hunter Leckonby (2), Alex Gilbert (1).