It's championship or bust for Wando girls soccer this season, but for one of the most consistent programs in Warriors athletics, that's nothing new.
Wando has reeled off five Class 4A state championships in the past seven years, along with two second-place finishes. It's become a factory for playoff wins and expectations for 2014 remain sky high for the defending 2013 Class 4A state champs.
“Championships are definitely the expectation,” Wando head coach Shannon Champ said. “Every year we're pretty consistent at being the best in the state so our players know the bar is set pretty high.”
Wando enters the season ranked No. 1 in all of South Carolina girls soccer despite losing eight players from last season's squad. The Warriors return nine upperclassmen who have the responsibility of helping acclimate the 10 newcomers to team's standards, routines and tradition.
Goalkeeper Logan Nelson and midfielder Allie Winglosky will shoulder much of the leadership responsibility as the only seniors. Both have spent at least four years with the team and played key roles in last season's championship run. Champ says the two help maintain the Warriors' high level of efficiency in practices, which she expects to translate into wins on the field.
“They know what the expectation is in training and preparation,” Champ said. “It's nice to have players like them, who have been there and done that before and can pass it along to the younger players.
“Logan is very vocal and very demanding and those are great qualities for a goalkeeper. Allie is very tenacious, aggressive, very quick and gets after everything. She puts a lot of pressure on the other team, doing some great things for us in the center midfield.”
Junior Raymara Barretto and sophomore Ellen Hayes will help anchor the Warriors' stingy defensive unit. Both were parts the stronghold that allowed just six goals all of last season.
Champ says she's looking forward to seeing which of the underclassmen separate themselves this season. Wando has freshman slated in starting positions, along with several others who are expected to receive significant minutes.
“I won't keep anyone on varsity that's not going to get serious playing time, including our freshmen” she said. “I like to try different things with different players in different spots to see who plays well together in what situations.”
Wando travels to Columbia March 7, looking to use the Spring Valley Viking Cup as an early gauge for where the team is heading into the regular season. The tournament pits the top 32 teams in the state against each other. Wando opens against Nation Ford Friday at Spring Valley High School.
“We'll have a pretty good idea of where this team stands after that weekend,” Champ said. “The unspoken expectation is that we're getting another state championship. Anything less is a disappointment.”