Lance Renes teaches psychology in the classroom during the day at Wando, and often on the field in the evenings.
As the Warriors lacrosse coach, Renes takes pride in teaching his players to seize a mental advantage over opponents. It often begins even before the opening faceoff. Wando’s frenetic entrances into the stadium are meant to be intimidating. Shouting and hollering pierces blaring music as the players storm around with their faces painted like warriors heading into battle.
It’s a spirit that Wando has developed over the years, confidence that’s been earned through season after season of success. It’s a culture that Renes hopes his players understand and respect enough to want to once again maintain through the spring’s postseason.
“It’s a different animal going into the postseason,” Renes said. “We want to defend out team’s culture, our customs, our traditions. We want to defend the hard work that guys have put in in the past to bring us to this point. We use the analogy, 'defend the fort.' And the fort is a metaphor for everything we’ve earned.”
Wando’s spent the length of the season ranked as one of the top teams, if not the top team, in the state. The Warriors haven’t lost to a team from South Carolina and hold seven wins over teams ranked in the top 20. They’ve outscored their competition 241-85, scoring more goals than any team in the state while allowing the second-fewest.
“As a coach, you’re never allowed to be satisfied,” Renes said. “I am a numbers guy. I do look at stats, what’s working and what’s not. Lacrosse doesn’t have style points but we like things to look good, harmonious ball movement and good flow out there.”
Wando has had clear, established lines that never really changed in past years. This season, though, the Warriors have continuously tweaked lineups and rotations. That’s, in part, attributed to the Warriors’ depth. But Renes is done experimenting now with the playoffs here, confident that he’s found a group ready for the postseason run.
Sophomore attack McKay Dunaway leads the Warriors with 46 goals; he’s also set up 23 assists. Senior midfielder Jack Shipman is second in scoring with 36 goals. Junior attack Nathan Fasanaro has scored 35 goals with 34 assists. Both Dunaway and Fasanaro are among the state’s leaders in total points in Class AAAAA.
“We have some veterans and we also have some young guys who have plenty of experience as well,” Renes said. “We also have a lot of guys who are continuing to contribute in a lot of ways that don’t show up in the stats.”
Sophomore Zach Jennings leads the Warriors with 79 ground balls and has won 136 face offs. Junior defensemen Simon Dickinson and Matthew McIyntyre have combined for 68 takeaways. Keepers Daniel Cain and Braxton Smith both rank top five in the state in goals against average.
“Our defense is definitely a strong hold of this team,” Renes said. “All of our longstick middies are juniors but they all started last year and have a lot of experience.”
Wando enters the postseason ranked second in the state and one of two top seeds in the AAAAA Lower State bracket — the other being No. 12 River Bluff, who the Warriors wouldn’t face until the state semifinals. No. 1 Fort Mill and No. 11 Riverside hold the top seeds in the Upper State.
“Our guys are well aware what’s at stake. They’re aware time is not running out; we’re out of time. There is no time to figure things out. There’s nothing left to say. It’s time to just go out and play some lacrosse the only way we know how.”
Oceanside, seeded third with an opening-round bye in the AAAA bracket, enters the postseason ranked fifth in the state.
The Landsharks are led by senior Colin Reich, who’s scored 38 goals with 16 assists this season. Junior Owen Ciali has scored 27 goals. Cameron Weeks has scooped 100 ground balls and Kyle Carretta has 22 takeaways.
Bishop England is seeded fourth in AAAA and ranked sixth in the state.
Junior Bryan Wain has scored 21 goals, while Dennis Treasurer has scored 17 and Michael Long 16. Senior Harris Hubbard captains the defense with 41 ground balls.
Academic Magnet is seeded second in AAAA, also with a first-round bye, while ranked 10th in the state.
Sophomore John Thomas has scored 55 goals for the Raptors this season. Senior Steven Schlosser has 43 goals and 12 assists. Schlosser also has 173 ground balls, which ranks second in the state.
Porter-Gaud is ranked ninth in the state. The Cyclones are led by senior Will Farrell and junior Kevin Marshall, who’ve both scored more than 20 goals this season.
“The Charleston area is more talented and has better lacrosse than anywhere in the state,” Renes said. “It’s a chess match all season with all of these teams playing each other down here.”