A year ago, Wando’s Sam Weis, out with a torn Achilles, watched from the sidelines as his teammates won the lacrosse state championship.
On Saturday, Weis made sure he was a major part of the action on the field. His game-winning goal in the second overtime lifted the Warriors to a 6-5 win over Fort Mill to help Wando win its third title in the last four seasons.
“Oh man, it feels so much better to be a part of the win on the field,” Weis said. “This definitely makes up for not being able to play last year. I’m so happy but also just exhausted.”
The championship, played on the turf at Chapin High School in lower 90’s temperatures, was a lot closer than anyone expected. Wando (18-2) had not been challenged by an in-state opponent since losing to Fort Mill in the 2014 finals. Saturday’s finale was the first time Wando had not beaten a team from South Carolina by at least six goals in the last two seasons.
“We’ve been dominating teams from the state and Fort Mill really gave us a great battle,” Weis said. “Everybody on the field, both teams, were just dead tired. Both teams gave it everything they had. They played great but so did we. We won. That’s all that matters.”
Wando entered the finals averaging 17 goals per game and boasted the state’s top defense, allowing five goals per game. Fort Mill also was one of the state’s top defensive units and the championship was played with a defensive mindset.
The pace of play was more to Fort Mill’s liking in the first half as Wando held a modest 2-1 lead after two quarters.
The Warriors scored two goals in the opening period — the first coming from Zack Bauer with only 1:25 gone in the first quarter. Jack Davies made it 2-0 with 7:30 left in the quarter, rifling a shot from 15 yards out for the score.
Fort Mill got on the board when Trenton Wylie scored with 2:15 left in the first quarter, closing out the scoring for the first half.
The Warriors came out the aggressor in the third quarter, scoring two goals in the first half of the period. Riley Seay made it 3-1 with 10:36 to play and Ryan Lipsky added a great goal with 5:57 remaining, ripping off a shot from 12 yards out that found the upper left corner of the goal.
Fort Mill kept hope alive late in the third with Joshua Cobbina scoring from short range with 1:58 to play, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Then, with a second left in the period, Fort Mill’s Jack Maguire beat Wando goalie David Gottesman, sending the teams into the fourth quarter with Wando clinging to a 4-3 lead.
That lead quickly grew by a goal in the first minute of the final period when Seay connected with Weis on a perfect pass in front of the goal. Weis flicked the ball past Fort Mill keeper Daniel Cortazar for a 5-3 Wando lead.
Cobbina answered again for the Yellow Jackets, scoring with 7:47 to play to cut the lead to 5-4. Less than two minutes later, Wylie beat Gottesman for the game-tying goal.
Neither team threatened in the first overtime. Wando gained possession with 2:30 to play in the second overtime and Wando coach Lance Renes called timeout, hoping to kill the clock until the end of the period for one last scoring chance.
“I told the guys to hold it until about 30 seconds left and then we would go for it but I guess Sam saw something and had other ideas,” Renes said. “Great players make great plays in big games. Sam’s a great player for us.”
“We had just been swinging it around all game really and I realized the defender wasn’t coming out on me so I just ran left and let it go,” said Weis of the game-winner.
Renes praised the effort and play of Fort Mill while also crediting his team for not panicking when challenged by the underdogs. Wando beat Fort Mill, 15-5, earlier this season.
“You know, Fort Mill came in with a plan and executed it very well and they should be commended for playing an unbelievable game,” Renes said. “I am so proud of our guys. We showed great character there at the end when they tied it up. We have been through a lot of tough games with some really good out-of-state teams all season. We’ve had illness and been banged up. This is a tough-minded group of kids and that paid off today.”