MOUNT PLEASANT - Wando's seniors showed up to Tuesday's Lower State title game wearing their 2011 state championship rings.
Part reminder, part motivation, a championship pedigree looms over Wando soccer and the group of seniors who won state three years ago as freshmen were clear about how they planned to go out.
The Warriors rolled past South Aiken, 3-0, to reclaim the Class AAAA Lower State title and earn a bid back into the state championship match. A showdown with No. 1 J.L. Mann awaits the No. 2 Warriors Saturday at River Bluff High School in Columbia.
South Aiken (19-3-1) struggled to earn quality shot attempts through most of the first half. The Thoroughbreds got better penetration in the second but still couldn't get off a clean look. Wando goalkeeper Jon Milligan and the Warriors defense have yet to allow a single goal this postseason.
"These guys came out inspired today and you could tell," Wando head coach Shilo Tisdale said. "We were able to set the tone early, put one away early, and it gave us a little bit of relaxation."
Senior forward Alex Bourland put Wando (28-1-1) on top with a header in the fifth minute. Nick Wright corralled a shot deflection and set up Bourland with the assist from the left side of the end line for the goal.
Wright extended the Warriors' lead seconds before halftime with a penalty-kick rip into the net in the 39th minute. Senior midfielder Blake Pearce got free for a one-on-one goal from 50 feet out in the 73rd minute to put an exclamation point on the win
"To come out of a cellar like that against a team like this is really difficult," South Aiken head coach Dave Myers said. "Their backline is first to the ball but its what comes in behind them to help. The back pressure is immense and they're quick to cover any kind of mistake. It's good coaching, great technical defending, pressure, cover, balance and they didn't skip a beat."
J.L. Mann shut out Dorman, 4-0, Tuesday to set up the 2012 state championship rematch. Wando defeated Mann, 3-1, at Patriots Point in March in the teams' only meeting this season.
"It's the last game for our seniors and they want to win that ring," Tisdale said. "They're excited, they're fighting for each other and they know how close they are. J.L. Mann is No. 1, we're No. 2. They're hungry for it. We're hungry for it. The pressure is on them. We're just going to go out and give it our best shot."
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