Academic Magnet girls seek 2nd straight crown

Academic Magnet’s girls celebrate the state title win over Christ Church last year. The Raptors hope to do it again today in Columbia.

It might be a little early to talk about an Academic Magnet girls soccer dynasty heading into today’s Class AA-A state championship match against Christ Church. But just give coach Anna Merriman and her team time.

The squad has marquee players in keeper Emily Gossen and scoring machine Kallie Peurifoy. But the team is hardly two-dimensional, showing its depth Monday night with a 6-0 victory over Bishop England in the Lower State championship.

“We have all of our starters back from last year,” said Merriman, whose team is 21-3. “We’ve added some excellent new freshmen. I think that’s definitely going to help us be more composed going into it.

“We definitely look to Kallie, but we add a lot more scoring threats this year. She only had one goal of the six, so I think that just shows some versatility on the team, which is awesome.”

The Raptors have outscored foes, 20-0, in the playoffs and are seeking their second straight victory over Christ Church in the title game.

Last spring, The Raptors ended the Bishops’ long reign as state champs and followed it up with a 3-1 victory over the Cavaliers to claim their first state title.

This spring, the Raptors scored three victories over the Bishops to establish themselves as the team to beat.

Christ Church also enters on a major roll. The Cavaliers outscored their opponents, 23-0, in their first three playoff games and then had another blowout against St. Joseph in the Upper State title match, posting an 8-0 victory.

The Cavaliers will definitely challenge Gossen, who has allowed only six goals all season.

“Emily has been such a major component of this program, ever since her first year” Merriman said. “And it’s not just about her ability to stop goals, she’s also organizing the defense, and she doesn’t have to make as many stops if they’re not shooting as often on her. So her ability to tell the defenders where to be, who to mark, who’s going to shoot, helps make her job actually easier.”

While the offense is balanced, Peurifoy is special. She earned All-American status last spring despite being only a sophomore.

“Kallie is a huge target for us, and I think the biggest thing that we have to do is just utilize her in the right way,” Merriman said.

Today’s championship game is set for 3 p.m. at Memorial Stadium in Columbia.