FORT MILL -- In last season's state lacrosse quarterfinals, Wando notched a 10-9 comeback victory over Fort Mill en route to the state title game. But Wednesday, the top-seeded Yellow Jackets wouldn't be denied, earning a 9-7 redemptive win over the Warriors after an explosive third quarter.
Mirroring last season's game, Fort Mill had to mount a comeback to overcome a Wando squad that maintained a narrow lead for the majority of the game. In the first quarter, the Warriors tandem of Stephen Smilak and Davis Wray accounted for three goals while Fort Mill struggled to find its offensive rhythm. Both Smilak and Wray finished the game with three scores apiece, accounting for six of Wando's seven combined goals. The first quarter ended with Wando up 3-1 over the Yellow Jackets.
However, Fort Mill stayed in the game by capitalizing on Wando second-quarter penalties. On two separate occasions, Wando found itself a man down, and each time the Yellow Jackets took advantage, including a snipe from junior attacker Connor Crutchfield that tied the game at 4-4 with 5:30 left in the quarter. But Wray made his presence felt again, scoring a go-ahead goal that gave Wando the 5-4 lead heading into halftime.
The third quarter began tentatively for both teams, with a score not being recorded until the 7-minute mark, a game-tying goal by Fort Mill's Parker Thomas. Smilak responded with a goal as Wando regained a 6-5 advantage, but the Yellow Jackets' offense soon ignited. Fort Mill scored three goals in under two minutes to give the Yellow Jackets an 8-6 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
It was an explosive output that Wando would never recover from. The Warriors only managed two second-half goals as the Yellow Jackets defense forced Wando into numerous forced shots and errant passes.
After the game, Wando first-year coach Lance Renes expressed pride in his team's season performance, while also remaining optimistic for the future (25 of the 34 players on the roster are underclassmen). "We have a lot of returning players and a great youth program, so we'll learn from this loss and bounce back next year."
Halftime: Wando 5-4. Wando goals: Davis Wray 3, Stephen Smilak 3, Andy Cole.