IRMO --Top-ranked Wando advanced to its fourth consecutive Class AAAA girls soccer final Monday night with a 2-0 victory over Dutch Fork.
"When we stepped off the field after losing last year, that was a heartbreaker," Wando coach Shannon Champ said. Mauldin defeated Wando 2-1 in the 2009 final, ending Wando's state title streak at two (2007-08).
"From that point on, there were no ifs, ands or buts about us getting back to the championship game."
Dutch Fork coach Jovan Brdarski said his team played without fear.
"I was definitely confident that we could score a goal or two on them, I was never scared," he said.
But only the Silver Foxes' defensive efforts were effective early, holding the Warriors scoreless in the first half. In the second half, Wando struck early.
With 30 minutes left to play, Wando's Dilly Hughes squared up with the goal and drilled a shot into the upper 90 from just outside the 18-yard box.
Then, with a little less than 19 minutes on the clock, the Warriors pushed five forward on an attack that drew keeper Katie Nesbitt out of the goal. Nesbitt chased down a crossing shot in the crease, but when she fell on it, the ball slipped loose. Wando's numbers advantage rendered the Silver Foxes defenseless as Melissa McCool scored on an open goal.
"We got down, and then it was hard," Brdarski said. "We tried. We did everything we could, but we were constantly under pressure."
While the Wando defense held the Silver Foxes scoreless, the Warriors offense never slowed. Wando posted 14 shots on goal, and Nesbitt finished with 10 saves for Dutch Fork.
Brdarski was proud of the Region 5 co-champion team's effort.
"With five freshmen starting, they've done a fantastic job. I couldn't have asked for anything more from them," Brdarski said.
Playing with eight seniors, five of whom had been on the past three state finalist squads, helped lift the Warriors, Champ said.
"The drive and leadership that we got from them is what brought us to this point," she said.
Wando will face Dorman or Mauldin in Friday's state final.