Wando boys eye repeat Warriors look to duplicate last season’s state soccer championship

Wando midfielder James Appleby wins the ball against a South Aiken player during the Warriors’ 4-0 victory Wednesday.

The Wando boys soccer team is one of the highest-profile programs in the state, so the Warriors never really sneak up on another team. But the Warriors shocked the South Carolina soccer world last May when they upset Irmo, the No. 1 team in the nation, in the Class AAAA state championship match.

Saturday, the Warriors will be the team to beat when they battle J.L. Mann at 6 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.

Many key players returned from last year’s state championship team, and Wando coach Shilo Tisdale always has a deep talent pool, so the Warriors have reason to be optimistic about adding more hardware to the school’s trophy case. But Tisdale knows anything can happen and reminds his team of last year’s state final.

“I use what happened last year when we were the underdogs as my example,” Tisdale said. “When you get to the title game, anything can happen. Many people think we should win, but J.L. Mann will have something to say about that. We expect a great match from a great team.”

The Warriors have plenty of star power with four all-state selections: junior midfielder Erick Clark, senior keeper Hunter Greer, junior midfielder Christian Jablonski and senior defender Trent Rieflin. Greer, the keeper, hasn’t allowed a goal in the postseason.

The Warriors beat Lugoff-Elgin, 6-0 in the first round of the playoffs and followed that up with a 5-0 victory over Lexington, a 6-0 win over Ashley Ridge and a 4-0 decision at South Aiken on Wednesday night to claim another Lower State title.

The Warriors (27-3) scored in the first minute on a free kick that was converted by Rieflin and they never looked back as they posted their 27th victory.

“We’ve never played J.L. Mann, but I know they have a quality program,” Tisdale said. “They beat a good Northwestern team, 5-1, and beat Clover, 6-0. So that shows the quality of their team.”