Way back in March, the girls soccer teams from Wando and T.L. Hanna began their seasons against each other, T.L. Hanna squeaking out a 1-0 victory over the Warriors at the Viking Cup in Columbia.
Tonight, the two teams will end the season against each other, again in Columbia, this time with a Class AAAA state championship up for grabs.
Wando (21-1) can win a third straight state title — and avenge its only loss of the season — with a victory over the Yellow Jackets at 7 p.m. at Memorial Stadium.
“Absolutely,” Wando coach Shannon Champ said when asked if her team was interested in a little payback. “When I told our girls we’d be facing Hanna if we won the Lower State, that was something they definitely were looking forward to.”
Wando won the Lower State title, 3-1, over West Ashley on Tuesday night, getting two goals from senior Jane Vardzel and one from freshman Raymara Barreto.
The Warriors have won four of the last five state titles and nine championships in all, a tradition the seniors take seriously.
“It is a lot of pressure,” Vardzel said. “We know what’s at stake if we lose.”
T.L. Hanna, on the other hand, is making its first appearance in the state championship game. The Yellow Jackets (26-2) knocked off perennial power Riverside, 1-0, in the Upper State title game on Monday.
“I’m speechless. I’m so proud of the girls, I don’t even know what to say,” Yellow Jacket standout Chelsea Drennan said after that game. “It’s just the greatest feeling ever, and I’m so proud that we’re going to state.”
Drennan, a junior all-state pick, scored the only goal of that match on a header in the 16th minute as T.L. Hanna avenged an earlier 2-1 loss to Riverside. Sophomores Baylee Gilmore and Paige Miller also made all-state for the Jackets.
Wando is paced by all-state picks Nora Bishop, a senior, and junior Rachel Torlay.
Vardzel said it’s hard too draw much from Wando’s first meeting with T.L. Hanna, since that match was so long ago.
“It was our first game of the season,” she said. “We were still trying to connect on our passes. But we’ve gotten much better as a team since then. If we keep playing our flanks wide and serving balls in, we should do well.”
Champ said both clubs like to possess the ball and attack up the flanks.
“We’ve got to get off our heels,” she said. “We hesitated a little too much in that first match. We need to be a little more aggressive, but stick with what we do, which is possess the ball.”