Academic Magnet Raptors capture third title in four years

Academic Magnet has won three state championships in girls soccer in the last four years. (Wade Spees/Staff/File).

Academic Magnet's girls soccer coach Anna Merriman stopped short of calling her program a dynasty after watching her team capture its third state title in four years with a 4-1 win over Christ Church on Friday.

But, if the Raptors are not a dynasty, they are inching ever so close to being one.

Academic Magnet dominated play from start to finish and the top-ranked Raptors finished the season with a 22-1-1 record.

Christ Church, ranked second in the latest polls, finished at 17-4. The Class AA final was a rematch of last year's championship game, which Academic Magnet won, 2-1, on penalty kicks. There was no such dram in this one.

"I am super, super proud of these girls," said Merriman. "We said from the start that we didn't want to be a team that earned a chance to play in the finals but didn't bring it home. I knew we had the players and the talent but I wasn't sure if we had the stamina to survive this heat. I'm so proud of them. We executed perfectly."

It took 20 minutes or so for Academic Magnet to get in the flow of the game and once they did, there was no slowing them down.

The Raptors took a 1-0 lead in the 27th minute when Becca Bosch blistered the net on a free kick from 25 yards out. That was the score at halftime, but the Raptors turned up the heat in the second half.

"They had a few opportunities early where we got a little confused in the back but overall, defensively, we played very strong all day," said Merriman.

Maddy Carens scored in the 46th minute from 15 feet out, breaking free unguarded down the left side and deep into the box, putting the Raptors up, 2-0.

"We knew they were a good team going in but we were not ready for their speed of play," said Christ Church coach Chris Nichols.

Less than two minutes after Carens' goal, Marin Miller headed in a loose ball in the box for a 3-0 lead.

After Christ Church scored on Molly Crosswell's blast from 30 yards out in the 49th minute to cut the lead to 3-1, the Raptors put the game on ice in the 59th minute when Jesse Dooley delivered a perfect corner kick to the head of Alexis Polcyn, who bumped the ball past keeper Cameron Beach for a 4-1 lead.

"I think we need a few more years before we're a dynasty," said Merriman. "I think we need to keep the fire in our belly and continue to pursue this. I think four trips, with three wins, is really an awesome accomplishment, but I think we have a lot more left in this program for the future."