Having firmly established itself as the premier high school lacrosse program in South Carolina, the Wando boys team is looking to make a splash on the national level.
Wando has beefed up its 2016 schedule with several quality out-of-state opponents, seeking competition at a higher level while preparing for another state championship run. The Warriors are the defending state champions and finished 18-0 last season. The program has won three of the last four state titles, 25 consecutive games and 37 of its last 38 games.
Wando, the state’s top-ranked team, already has early season wins over second-ranked Bishop England, defending upper state champion Fort Mill, Woodward Academy of Atlanta, Norfolk Academy of Virginia and Charlotte Latin of North Carolina.
“We recognize that we have a very talented and very cohesive group and in order to reach our full potential as a team we really want to challenge this group,” coach Lance Renes said. “It’s fun for the kids. They love to compete against the best. It makes them better as players and it makes me a better coach. It’s very challenging but exciting as well.”
In two weeks, the Warriors will face their toughest opponents of the season — Lambert High School out of Roswell, Georgia, and Salesianum School of Wilmington, Delaware. Lambert is currently ranked seventh in the Southeast rankings by laxpower.com. Wando is ranked 15th this week.
“I’m fairly confident in saying these are the two best teams on our schedule so it’s both a great challenge and a great opportunity for us,” Renes said.
Wando’s roster is stacked with more talent than any other high school team in the state. The program already has five Division I commitments and at least one more to follow. And, the team still is building.
Sam Weis (Jacksonville), Jack Davies (West Point), Ian Kennedy (Hartford), Ryan Lipsky (VMI) and John Kaisel (VMI) are all juniors. Sophomore Riley Seay is regarded as one of the state’s top talents and has gained the attention of several major college programs. Seniors Thomas Gribben and Zach Bauer also are headed to the college level at Division II and III schools, respectively.
“For this state to have this many Division I players on one team, it’s a first,” Renes said. “Other programs have had a player here and there, or maybe two, but no team in South Carolina has had this much Division I talent. We are very fortunate at Wando and we recognize that.”
Aiding in the development of Wando’s talent is the area travel program — the Top Left Loggerheads. The program has players from various high schools around the Lowcountry and competes against a national schedule. Wando and Bishop England have benefitted most from the program.
“Their main goal is to grow the game in the area and they do a fantastic job of creating playing opportunities against a competitive schedule,” Renes said. “We communicate well with their coaches and we all work together to promote the growth of lacrosse in this area. Lacrosse is growing and improving across our state but we’re probably growing at a much faster rate in this area.”
While competing on a bigger stage is important for the overall growth of Wando’s program, Renes says the team’s priority is winning another state championship. The coach says he is also shooting for more respect in the Southeast.
“Three years ago we wanted to be a competitor for the state title but now the goal is to win it every year,” Renes said. “Winning a state championship proves a lot but we also want to be ranked as a top 10 team in the Southeast region, which we’ve never achieved. Playing the tough schedule and having success will help us get recognized.”