MOUNT PLEASANT - A late-season loss to Irmo cost the Wando boys soccer team its No. 1 national ranking. But it also provided a kick in the pants just in time for the Class AAAA state playoffs.
The Warriors blanked Lexington, 3-0, Saturday night at Wando Stadium and will host the Lower State final Tuesday against South Aiken. Wando, 27-1-1 and ranked No. 2 in the state, has not allowed a goal in three playoff games behind keeper Jon Milligan.
"The complacency went away from losing that game to Irmo," said senior Jackson Karolczyk. "I think it was actually a good thing that we lost that game."
South Aiken, 19-2-1 and ranked No. 6, got to the Lower State final with a 3-0 win over Ashley Ridge on Saturday.
Wando, now ranked No. 12 in the nation, got goals from Ryan Meade, Logan Chalfie and Tucker Heffron to subdue eighth-ranked Lexington (20-7-1), which survived a penalty-kick marathon at Summerville on Friday.
"We moved the ball around well," said Wando coach Shilo Tisdale. "They made us break their defense, got numbers behind the ball and formed a pretty compact shell around their goal. I knew if we could get one, that would make them break that shell a little bit."
Meade provided the shell-breaker about 15 minutes before the half, converting a cross from sophomore Andrew Johnson for a 1-0 lead.
Wando made it 2-0 in the second half when Chalfie put in a rebound off a shot by Ramone Medina, who made a nifty turn in the box. Heffron iced it in the final minutes, beating the Lexington keeper one-on-one.
It was a tough two days for Lexington, which played 110 minutes plus penalty kicks at Summerville on Friday, traveled back home that night and returned to the Lowcountry on Saturday to face Wando.
"I wish we could have stayed," said Lexington coach Will Gettys, who has 12 seniors on his team.
"But I don't think the school would have appreciated me ringing up $1,400 on credit cards. We were tired, but that had nothing to do with the result. I think we were playing the best team in the state tonight, and we did everything that we could."