The girls soccer program at Academic Magnet has become one of the state’s top programs over the last several years and the Raptors appear to be maintaining that reputation despite a change at the top.

Alister DeLong is in his first season of directing the powerhouse program, replacing former coach Anna Merriman, who left the school after last season. Merriman guided Academic Magnet to four state championships and a state runner-up finish over the last six seasons and Delong is picking up where Merriman left off.

Academic Magnet has won nine straight matches, all by shutout, since opening with a pair of losses in a preseason tournament. The Raptors are the top-ranked team in the latest Class AA/A state poll from the South Carolina Soccer Coaches Association.

In addition to losing the head coach, Academic Magnet entered this season having lost eight starters from a team that played for the lower state title last season.

“I am a bit surprised that we are playing as well as we are right now,” said DeLong, who came to Academic Magnet after eight seasons as the boys coach at Stratford. “Honestly I thought it would take us a little longer to come together. Not only am I a new coach but we have a lot of new players in different roles on this team.

"I thought we would eventually get to this point but I figured we would have a few more growing pains. I am very fortunate. I was handed the keys to a Ferrari and I am trying not to mess it up.”

The Raptors have already completed their Region 6-AA schedule and have easily secured the league title. The region offers little in the way of competition but DeLong has put together an impressive non-region slate of games that will challenge his team.

“We have great competition ahead of us and I am really looking forward to seeing how we compete and improve over the next month,” DeLong said. “We have to continue to develop as we move forward. We want to continue to play good soccer and stay focused. It’s more about what we do. I think when this team is playing well, we can compete with any team on any level.”

While Academic Magnet has explosive talent offensively, the strength of the team lies in the back line of defense. Anchoring that effort is sophomore keeper Maggie Van Thullenar who is already a verbal commitment to Auburn.

Aiding in the effort defensively are senior leaders Erin Schnell, Gabi Rauls and Maddy Turcotte.

“Having senior leadership in the back makes it easy to coach and Maggie is a tremendous, talented player in goal,” DeLong said.

Offensively, sophomore Riane Coman has 21 goals and nine assists and is among the state leaders in points. Sophomore Jourdan Gruber has eight goals and six assists and freshman Molly Dickerson has scored six goals early on.

Region 7-AAA basketball 

Bishop England swept the top honors in Region 7-AAA for the recently completed basketball season.

Boys coach Bryan Grevey and girls coach Paul Runey were tabbed as the region coaches of the year, while Brendan McHale and Rhetta Moore were the boys and girls players of the year.

Joining McHale on the all-region team were Christian Drummond, Ben Quinque and Leo Albano of Bishop England; Ta’Seon Johnson and Ra Anderson of Timberland; Jalen White and Khalid Lackings of Manning; Keyshawn Aiken of Lake Marion and Jalen Gibbs of Hanahan.

Bishop England’s Christine Egede, Allie Tucker and Josie Dennis were all-region selections in girls basketball. Other all-region picks include Dominique Hamilton and Anastasia Kinlaw of Timberland; Mahogany Green and Keyshaunna Walker of Manning; LaQuiyn Smalls of Lake Marion and Danielle Harper of Hanahan.

Statewide track standouts

Several local track and field athletes currently rate among the state’s best in their respective events.

Stratford’s Davonte Fuller has posted the top time in the state in the boys 400-meter sprint and the 400-meter hurdles. Wando’s Patrick Spychalski has the top time in the 3,200-meter run while Cane Bay’s Ronald Roderick has the top triple jump.

In girls track, Wando’s Zeniyah Lawrence has the state’s top time in the 200-meter dash and Summerville’s Angel Frank has the top time in the 400-meter dash. Summerville’s Imagine Patterson has posted the state’s top time in the 400-meter hurdles.

Many of the state’s top track and field athletes will be competing at this weekend’s Bob Jenkins Coaches Classic at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo. More than 80 schools will be represented at the meet, including athletes from Academic Magnet, Ashley Ridge, Bishop England, James Island, Porter-Gaud, Summerville, West Ashley and Woodland.

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