Some programs try for excellence, Wando soccer expects it.
The Warriors are back atop South Carolina high school soccer this year, entering the 2014 season ranked as the No. 1 team in the state. It's been three years since Wando won a state title and for head coach Shilo Tisdale and his Warriors, that's long enough.
“The goal has always been to win a state championship and that's a realistic goal for this program every year,” Tisdale said. “That's the team's goal. Our players have seen it and they want.”
Wando returns 19 upperclassmen from a team that won its first 22 games in 2013. Senior defender Darby Martens signed with College of Charleston and senior midfielder Alex Bourland signed with Millsaps College in early February.
Junior forward Nick Wright returns to Wando after spending last season with S.C. United Battery Academy and provides the Warriors a dangerous attacking threat upfront. Junior defenders Josh Masten and Jackson Karolczyk bolster the Warriors defense along with goalkeeper Jon Milligan who returns as the starter after taking over the starting spot toward the end of last season.
“Last year we had a lot of sophomores who are obviously juniors now and the difference between playing their first year to now is confidence,” Tisdale said. “I think we're a more well-rounded team with a much more potent attack and a lot of stability returning.”
Sophomore Sam Ross will play a major role in the Warriors' attack as the leading returning scorer. Ross finished second on the team with 23 goals and third with six assists last season. Junior forward Lejend Bain was third on the team in scoring last season, returning nine goals to the Warriors' front line.
“This team is really deep,” Tisdale said. “It's so close. When we play 11 versus 11, a lot of times it's the second team that beats the first. It's open and they know they have to battle for their positions.”
Tisdale says that even more important than the talent of his lineups are the intangibles that set his team apart. He credits its camaraderie as one of its biggest strengths and expects it to become a major factor as the Warriors make their way through the playoffs in May.
“When we won state a few years ago, our guys were so tight on that team and we have that sort of similarity this year with this team,” Tisdale said. “A state championship is what the want. They're not satisfied with the playoffs. They're not satisfied is we win everything and fall short in the playoffs like we did last year. The ultimate goal is a state championship.”