Lexington - Mother Nature played a part in the Class AAAA girls soccer state championship game on Friday night as the state's top two teams waited out a weather delay of 45 minutes before deciding the title.
The game came down to the final minutes, and Wando sophomore Brittany Heri's goal in the 78th minute gave Wando a 2-1 victory, ending J.L. Mann's perfect season at 25-1.
Wando, 21-2, captured its second straight championship and 10th in school history. Head coach Shannon Champ won her sixth title as Wando's coach.
"I am so extremely proud of this team," said Champ. "We lost 12 players from last year's roster and we're very young, but this team showed up every day and did a great job all season."
Lightning forced the two teams off the field in the 36th minute of play, and they returned 45 minutes later and battled to a scoreless tie at halftime.
"I think the delay really helped us settle down and allowed us to regroup," said Champ. "I think it cooled down some and we were able to re-hydrate. We were getting outplayed at that point, in my mind."
The defensive struggle continued into the second half as both teams played physical and sound near their own goal.
Wando broke through in the 53rd minute when Katie Leen headed in a free kick from Raymara Barreto.
Top-ranked J.L. Mann went for a header five minutes later when Emily Malone directed a free kick from 40 yards out and Jeni Erickson, South Carolina's Gatorade Player of the Year, headed the high ball past Wando keeper Logan Nelson to tie the game at one.
The game appeared headed for overtime before a penalty gave Barreto another direct kick from 33 yards out. Barreto's ball bounced and found the foot of Heri, who pushed the ball in for the game-winner.
"In big games like this, usually it comes down to corners and set pieces, and all three goals tonight were off sets," said Champ. "We followed up on two set pieces, two amazing efforts, and that was the difference. It could have gone either way. I am so proud of the way we played in the second half."
"At halftime, I told our girls that if we didn't some things better in the second half, I thought Mann was getting better chances. We kept the ball better in the second half and we kept our composure."
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