Bishop England and Oceanside Collegiate don't play each other during the regular season, but the two boys' lacrosse teams are building a rivalry through playoff competition.
That competition continues on Saturday when the schools, located barely 15 miles apart, meet for the Class AAAA state championship at Irmo High School.
The only other meeting between the teams came last year in the playoffs when Oceanside Collegiate eliminated Bishop England, then the defending state champion, in a second-round game. OCA went on to win the state title.
“I don’t think it’s really a rivalry, but it is competition,” Bishop England first-year head coach Tyler Tracy said this week. “A lot of these kids have grown up playing in the same leagues. They know each other pretty well.
"Coach (Tom) Harris over at OCA and I are actually really good friends. We respect each other and I think our teams respect each other. Both teams want to win. That’s why we play.”
Harris and Tracy coach together in developmental programs in the area. Harris says the competition is healthy for the sport in the Lowcountry.
“It’s more of a pride thing, you want to play your best and win and it doesn’t matter who the other team on the field is,” Harris said “The kids know each other and it’s a healthy respect. I think these kinds of matchups help grow the sport. Both fan bases will be excited and I know the players are excited to have this opportunity.”
The Bishops earned a spot in the final with an upset win over top-seeded A.C. Flora, improving to 11-3 on the season. Junior Bryan Wain leads the team with 32 goals scored, and gets plenty of help from sophomore Dennis Treasurer (26 goals) and senior Ben Kinsinger (17).
Senior keeper George Prioleau has been solid, allowing 81 goals with 106 saves. Sophomore Eddie Marinaro has 50 ground balls and junior Drew Owens has won 68 of 102 face-offs.
Tracy stresses to his team to approach the final as they would any other game, even though the stakes are much higher.
“I want us to enjoy the moment,” he said. “Give 100 percent and play as well as we can play, but enjoy this opportunity. It’s hard to get this far.”
Bishop England’s defense will be tested by a very good offense from OCA, which is 10-6.
Oceanside senior Colin Reich “is one of, if not the best in the state,” Bishop England's Tracy said of the Landsharks' leading scorer (42 goals). Five other players have at least 15 goals for OCA, including junior Owen Ciali (29 goals, 14 assists) and senior Chase Meilan (20 goals).
Junior Cameron Weeks has gathered 108 ground balls and has won 68 percent of his face-offs. Junior net minder Luke Akers has 98 saves against 132 goals allowed.
The Bishop England girls take on Christ Church for the Class AAAA girls' title. The Bishops are playing in their sixth state final in the last seven years. The Bishops have won the last three championships and this year’s team may be coach Jeff Weiner’s best yet.
Bishop England enters with a 18-0 record and has been as dominant as the record suggests, with 16 wins by double digits. The Bishops, known for their outstanding team defense, allowed just eight goals in their last five matches.
The offense is pretty stout as well. Senior Ava Ward paces the scoring attack with 76 goals and 36 assists. Senior Grace Ann Carlson adds 56 goals and 63 assists while senior Morgan Roberts has 40 goals and 30 assists. Another senior, Ginger Tompkins, is the defensive leader. The fifth senior is attack Brooke Dominiak.
“This is a special group,” Weiner said of his seniors. “They’ve already won three titles and they have high expectations, which they relate to our younger players. It’s part of our tradition and our culture.”
The Wando boys will face a familiar foe in the Class AAAAA championship. Wando and Fort Mill are meeting for the fifth time in the final with Wando winning three times.
Under coach Lance Renes, Wando is making its eighth straight appearance in the state final and is seeking its seventh championship. Wando has won four titles in a row.
The 17-2 Warriors rely on senior Jack Shipman (43 goals, 25 assists), junior Nathan Fasanaro (45 goals, 42 assists) and sophomore McKay Dunaway (51 goals, 23 assists) to handle the heavy lifting offensively.
Sophomore Zach Jennings has 92 ground balls and is 64 percent successful on face-offs, while goalie Braxton Smith has 99 saves with 66 goals allowed.
“We have to carry the momentum from Tuesday into Saturday, make sure we stay focused and try to approach it as a normal game,” Renes said. “Fort Mill moves the ball well and they play well as a team. It will be a good championship match.”