If there ever was a question as to which high school fielded the best boys lacrosse team in South Carolina, the Wando Warriors left little doubt in answering the question in the AAAA state championship on Saturday afternoon.
Wando completed an undefeated season in relatively easy fashion, dispatching of Fort Mill, 13-6, at Chapin High School.
The two teams were meeting in the finals for the third consecutive year. Wando won the title in 2013, but Fort Mill won last spring. The championship is Wando’s third overall.
Senior Andrew Phelan scored four times while sophomore Ryan Lipsky added three goals as the Warriors finished the season 18-0. Wando defeated Fort Mill, 17-5, back on Feb. 28.
“It’s very special to see all of the hard work pay off for these guys,” said Wando coach Lance Renes. “The team set high goals and they never let up all season. To have the first undefeated season in school history, that’s really special for this team. I’m very proud of the way they played today and all season.”
Fort Mill came into the finals averaging less than nine goals per game this season and faced an uphill battle against the state’s top-ranked defensive team.
The Warriors, also the highest-scoring team in South Carolina, wasted little time establishing its dominance, scoring 28 seconds into the match when John Kuisel gave Wando a 1-0 lead. Lipsky added two goals and Cole Hartley added a score as the Warriors grabbed a 4-0 lead after one quarter.
The onslaught continued in the second period as Wando added goals from Gavin Howley, Riley Seay and Phelan, and a third goal from Lipsky.
“That was the game plan, to score early and make them chase us,” said Renes. “We scouted them on film and they’re a team that prefers to slow the game down. To combat that we had to come out firing and prevent them from taking control of the game.”
Fort Mill got on the board with 3:40 left in the second period as Matt Somjak scored to make it 8-1. Fort Mill’s Tyler Lozinski scored with 45 seconds left in the period and Wando led, 8-2, at the half.
Wando’s offense slowed against an improved defensive effort by Fort Mill in the third quarter. Lozinski added a goal early in the third to make it 8-3, and Wando’s scoreless slump stretched over 10 minutes of clock.
The mini-slump ended with 5:55 left in the third when Phelan found the back of the net for the second time, giving the Warriors a 9-3 lead.
Ham Brower added to the Wando lead with 4:22 remaining and Phelan scored a third time only 21 seconds later to push the lead back to 11-3.
“This means everything,” said Phelan, the state’s player of the year. “I’m leaving with two rings and nothing beats that. It was our goal all season. We knew we could beat (Fort Mill) because we beat them earlier in the season. We practiced and prepared all season for this.”
Lozinski added his third goal of the match with 1:12 left in the third, but Wando maintained an 11-4 lead heading into the final period.
Somjak found the net with 8:15 remaining in the match, but Phelan answered with a goal five minutes later for a 12-5 advantage. Seay’s second score, with 1:26 left, set off the celebration on the Wando sidelines.
Somjak recorded the hat trick for the Yellow Jackets, scoring with less than a minute remaining.