wando lax

The Wando lacrosse team circled tightly around its coaches anxiously awaiting some sort of update. Lance Renes and his staff were thumbing through their phones looking for a score from the Upstate.

Wando had done its part, rolling through Dutch Fork, 17-5, in the Lower State title round. The Warriors would next face the Upper State champion, either Dorman or Fort Mill, in four days in the Class AAAAA state title match. The Warriors remained on the field after their win, waiting to know their challenger.

“Coach,” one of the Warriors eventually called out from the back of the huddle. “We don’t care. We don’t care who it is.”

The rest of the Warriors celebrated in agreement.

The four-time defending champion Warriors may be confident enough in themselves, but the matchup is still enticing.

Wando will meet Fort Mill in the Class AAAAA state title match Saturday in Columbia. The Warriors and the Yellow Jackets helped establish the sport in South Carolina, colliding in the state championship match four straight years from 2013-16. The Warriors won three of those meetings.

“I‘m looking forward to seeing old friends,” Renes said upon hearing Fort Mill had outlasted Dorman, 11-9.

The Warriors, though, remain more concerned about themselves. They’ve lost just twice all season, both out of state, and have outscored their three postseason opponents by a combined score of 53-9.

“At this point right now, we’re playing our best lacrosse,” Renes said. “We’re focused and we’re motivated. Plain and simple.”

Warriors sophomore attack McKay Dunaway ranks sixth in the state with 51 goals. Junior attack Nathan Fasanaro is second in the state with 42 assists and, when factoring in his 45 goals, ranks second in the state in total points.

Fort Mill coach Parker Thomas says it's Wando’s depth of talent that’s most challenging for opponents. The Warriors have five players with at least 22 goals this season and 10 with 10 or more.

“They always have huge teams with a lot of guys,” Thomas said. “So that’s always tough because we’re a smaller roster. They’re coached super well and we’re excited to play them.”

Fort Mill is a worthy opponent with just three losses this season — one to AAAA state semifinalist A.C. Flora, one out of state, and one to Oceanside, who will play for its second straight AAAA state title on Saturday.

The Yellow Jackets have a quality offensive attack led by senior Trenton Wylie, whose 49 goals rank seventh in the state. Fort Mill has scored 45 goals through their three postseason matches.

“Their guys move the ball well, play well as a team between the lines,” Renes said. “They play hard so we’re looking forward to a good game.”

The Fort Mill defense has been stingy most of the season, surrendering more than 10 goals just twice. Wando, for comparison, has scored at least 10 goals in 16 of its 19 games this season. Renes believes attacking early will be important in cracking the Yellow Jackets’ defense.

“This entire playoff run, we’ve come out fast and played hard right out of the gate,” Renes said. “Once we kind of get our step and our flow we take it from there with the momentum.”

Thomas cited the Yellow Jackets’ 2016 overtime state title loss to Wando as important in shaping the program’s development. It was the second title of Wando’s current string of four straight. Fort Mill hasn’t been back to a title game since.

Renes says championships are the standard of the two programs and that although his team has won four in a row, his players aren’t taking anything for granted against a program like Fort Mill.

“It’s definitely a standard we try to achieve,” Renes said. “But it’s something we have to earn. A lot of work goes into maintaining our program. We are, right now, the culmination of all that work and one step away from achieving our final goal.”

Wando and Fort Mill will square off for the Class AAAAA state championship at 6:30 at Irmo High School in Columbia.