Saturday, May 24, 2014
Few high school dynasties exist in as pure of form as Wando Lady Warriors soccer.
Seasons pass, players graduate, but the Lady Warriors continue to churn out championship wins.
Wando downed J.L. Mann, 2-1, in the Class AAAA state championship Friday in Columbia to earn its second consecutive state title. It's the sixth time in eight years the Lady Warriors have hoisted the state championship trophy.
Tied 1-1 in 78th minute, Wando sophomore forward Brittany Heri tapped in the go-ahead goal from five yards out off a deflection from a 45-yard free kick from Raymara Barreto.
“We play until the final whistle blows,” Barreto said. “There was no need to panic. We had plenty of time left and we weren't going to lose just because they were outworking us.”
Mann (27-1) challenged the Warriors throughout the first half, controlling possesion and pressing deeper than any team Wando (28-1-1) had faced in the playoffs. Several Patriot shots just missed, while the Warriors struggled to earn quality looks at the other end.
A 45-minute weather delay gave Wando a chance to reset before the half. The Warriors defense realigned while the offense strategized how to play their free kicks in the second half. The lengthy break paid off.
“We controlled the game much better in the second half,” Wando head coach Shannon Champ said. “We talked about not letting Mann set the tone and dictate the play. We needed to come together as a team and take control back.”
In the 53rd minute, Barreto floated a free kick 50 yards to set up Katie Leen for a header five yards in front of the goal to break the scoreless tie.
Patriots midfielder Jenni Erickson countered for Mann in the 58th with a header from 12 yards out to tie the game off a 40-yard free kick from Emily Malone.
“Regardless of who went up, we couldn't afford a sigh of relief,” Champ said. “That's how it goes in tight games like this. We had to continue to plug away and find ways to get forward.”
Champ gives her players the freedom to make their own decisions throughout the game. Barreto chose to fire away at the goal on her free kick in the 78th. She put enough spin on it that Mann keeper Molly Lynch couldn't corral the shot and it made the difference in winning a state championship.
Mann had one last free kick fly wide left in the 79th before the final whistle blew and Wando charged the field as champions once again.
Wando lost 12 players from last year's state title team and started four freshmen Friday. The Warriors entered the game ranked behind undefeated No. 1 Mann in the South Carolina soccer polls. Slight underdogs, in harsh conditions, it would've been easy for Wando to take second this year. That's just not the way the Warriors dynasty is built.
“I prefer to be the underdogs or have people say this might not be our year,” Champ said. “Whatever they want to say, my girls step up time and time again. They looked forward to playing undefeated J.L. Mann. They wanted to prove everyone wrong. I couldn't be more proud of them for how they played and for collectively continuing the tradition of winning at Wando.”
Frankie Mansfield, the sports reporter for the Moultrie News can be seen all around the state following teams to meets, games, and matches. For score updates, breaking sports news, and more, follow @fjmansfield on Twitter and like Moultrie News Sports on Facebook.