Sunday, May 25, 2014
Wando boys soccer set out to make a statement this season.
Three years removed from a state championship, it was time to silence the critics and erase the questions; to once again prove themselves in a state becoming increasingly competitive. It was time to bring a Class AAAA title back to Mount Pleasant.
The Warriors reclaimed their position atop South Carolina soccer Saturday with a 2-0 shutout of J.L. Mann in the state championship match. The win marks Wando and head coach Shilo Tisdale’s second title in four years and avenges a loss to the Patriots in the 2012 state championship game.
“There’s no better feeling,” Tisdale said. “We played with a little extra motivation. We came out and played together. It’s so similar to what we did in 2011, when on paper, we may not have been the better team, but we went out and proved it on the field.”
Wando outscored its competition 11-0 in the postseason with eight different players scoring goals. The Warriors’ only shortcoming was converting opportunities to put teams away early. That wasn’t a problem Saturday.
In the fifth minute, junior midfielder Tucker Heffron let loose a strike from 25 yards out into the top-right corner of the net to put Wando on top.
Senior defender Jackson Karolczyk extended the Warriors’ lead in the 34th minute with a heel kick in front of the net off a header from Austin Barrington with his first postseason goal.
“The early goals completely changed our momentum,” Heffron said. “But scoring quickly only means you have a longer time you have to hold a lead, which isn’t easy against a team like Mann.
“But after Jackson’s goal, we knew that this one was meant for us.”
With a comfortable lead, Wando played more defensively in the second half, falling back to protect their goal, an usual look for the typically aggressive Warriors.
Mann senior forward Keaton Hinze found a crease 15 yards out in the 58th minute but missed wide left. Hinze got an open look at the net with Wando out of position in the 62nd minute but had his header stuffed by Warriors keeper Jon Milligan.
“In a game like this, you’re not going to have too many opportunities to strike,” Tisdale said. “We played more patient in the second half. We knew we had to keep them outside and really make them work to get one back on us.”
Wando finishes the season 27-1 with a schedule that included two-game series with Mann, Irmo and state champions St. Joseph’s and Academic Magnet. Ranked No. 10 in the nation entering Saturday, the Warriors are bound to rise even higher after their second win over No. 5 Mann.
“Last year woke us up and we realized we can’t take anything for granted,” Tisdale said. “We purposely scheduled tougher throughout the season and I think it paid off in the playoffs. We came out of it as a better team.”