LEXINGTON - After receiving the runner-up trophy along with the rest of Wando's senior class after the Warriors came up short, 15-13, in the boys lacrosse state championship against Fort Mill, senior Tucker Dodson hugged and gave every teammate an encouraging word.
There was certainly disappointment their two-year run as state champions came to an end but the losing with pride and dignity set a standard by which all teams should be judged.
"This year has been an obstacle for us," the two-time All-State selection said. "We've had family trouble, we've had team trouble and I'm glad we've made it here as a team. We've overcome all of that and it didn't matter if we won or lost. There aren't many teams that can compete for a state championship and put on a (dang) good game."
Wando staged a furious second-half rally but in the end couldn't close the deal. Coach Lance Renes said the opportunity to play for a third straight championship was an accomplishment in itself.
"It's not a birthright or an entitlement," Renes said. "Every year we have to earn, scratch and claw to be here. We played our hearts out but came up short."
Wando (15-3) rallied with five unanswered goals to begin the third quarter to wipe away a five-goal halftime deficit. But Fort Mill had a definitive answer that gave the Yellow Jackets their second state championship in the five years the South Carolina High School League has sanctioned lacrosse. They scored three goals in the final 3:39 of the third quarter for a 14-11 advantage going into the fourth.
The Warriors got two goals each from C.J. Anderson and Dodson in the opening five minutes of the second half to tie things at 10 apiece.
The teams traded goals until Fort Mill (13-3) closed on the 3-0 spurt.
"It starts with the simple things, winning face-offs, winning ground balls," Dodson said of the rally. "We took that momentum, kept it going and tied it. We came back as a team kept our composure and put up a fight. I couldn't be prouder of my team."
Wando never had an answer for the scoring bunch of Mitch Russell and Matt Somjak in the first half. The duo had a hat trick before the end of the first quarter and finished with six and three goals, respectively. Russell, an All-American and a Duke commitment, scored the first three goals of the match for Fort Mill.
After the Warriors took a 2-1 lead on a goal by Jack Davies with 8:38 remaining in the first quarter, Fort Mill closed the quarter on a 7-1 spurt. That gave the Yellow Jackets an 8-3 lead after 12 minutes, and Fort Mill took a 10-5 lead at the half.
"It was a tough battle for both teams," Renes said. "We didn't start the game the way we wanted and had to play catch up but our guys never gave up. That's a life lesson to learn. They fought hard all year but we'll learn from this and bounce back next year."
Wando and Fort Mill have split the last four championships. Fort Mill won in 2011 before reclaiming the title in a rematch of last year's title game. Wando won titles in 2012 and 2013 and played a scheduled that feature several top-notch, out-of-state teams. It's safe to say these two are the premier programs in South Carolina and have a bright future ahead of them.
"Both Fort Mill and Wando are top teams that can compete with teams across the southeast," Renes said. "We earned respect for lacrosse in South Carolina."