LEXINGTON - The Wando girls lacrosse team didn't have the smoothest trip to its first championship game appearance since 2011. The Warriors bus broke down just before getting off I-26 so the start of the title game with J.L. Mann had to be delayed for nearly 15 minutes while the Patriots bus went to pick them up.
After that, Wando never got on track offensively as J.L. Mann won its second straight state championship with a 13-11 victory Monday night at White Knoll High School.
"We didn't play the complete game we've played before," Wando coach Jess Stralkowski said. "The first half, we forced the ball and made way more mistakes than they did. We knew we were a better team than that and we made a pretty good comeback but it was a little too short."
The Patriots (15-3) were in their third straight title game despite losing nearly their entire starting lineup from a season ago. J.L. Mann coach Kristy Schumacher thought that experience played a factor
"They wanted what those other kids did," Schumacher said. "They know the feeling and they wanted it. I couldn't be prouder of this team."
Wando trailed by as many as five in the second half but got within one twice before running out of steam. Jessie Bunting's steal and goal made it 10-9 with 7:48 remaining and a shot less than a minute later could have tied it but was wide.
After getting that reprieve, J.L. Mann rattled off three goals in a 25-second span to take a four-goal lead with 5:52 remaining.
"You win the ball, you win the game and they won the ball more than us," Stralkowski said. "That's what happened there in less than a minute."
Bunting, who scored six goals, thought they lost composure after falling behind.
"We got down on ourselves," the senior attacker said. "We fell behind by a lot and instead of getting after the ball we gave up and got our heads out of the game. We wanted it but we didn't want it enough."
Schumacher made a switch on the draw that allowed the Patriots to foil the Warriors momentum.
"The ball was going our way but we weren't coming up with it," she said. "We came away with the ball in those situations and it's all about having possession. We were able to put those in the back of the net."
J.L. Mann took control in the first half and withstood the rally spearheaded by Bunting to deny the Warriors their second state championship in the five years of lacrosse being sanctioned by the South Carolina High School League.
Wando (13-2) got goals from Bunting and Skylar Horner to take a 2-0 lead four minutes into the match. But after Horner's goal, the Warriors suffered an 11:45 scoring drought while J.L. Mann scored six unanswered goals.
Bunting finally broke the scoreless string at the 9:26 mark. Each team scored once the remainder of the half to allow the Patriots to take a 7-4 into the break.
Stralkowski felt like the Warriors needed to come out aggressively in the second half and score quickly but it was the Patriots who struck early. Two goals 40 seconds apart and just 1:49 into the half pushed the lead to five, 9-4.
Wando staged its rally at that point but it was too little too late. But it does not diminish what they accomplished this season.
"We're graduating nine seniors and this is a heartbreaking loss for them," Stralkowski said. "We've got an amazing talent of sophomores and freshmen coming up so they great thing is there is always going to be next season. We have such a great girls coming up in the rec department that I feel we'll be here again."