COLUMBIA -- The Academic Magnet girls soccer team has made some huge strides the past two seasons.
The Raptors have a pair of playoff victories over perennial power Bishop England and now have their first Lower State championship.
Today, Academic Magnet aims for a whole new frontier. The Raptors can rule the state if they beat Christ Church in the Class AA-A state championship match set for 3 p.m. today at Memorial Stadium.
"If we bring all our talent and skills together, we can compete against Christ Church," first-year coach Anna Merriman said. "We can win. I talked to a couple of coaches from the Upstate, and they have had some really good results. But they aren't an unbeaten team. Like us, they've played some larger teams and have a few losses.
"So, there are some chinks in their armor. There are some areas we plan to attack."
The Raptors are 19-3-1 and have had an impressive playoff run. They had a first-round bye and pounded Wade Hampton, 13-1, in the second round. They topped Barnwell, 3-1, in the third round and edged Bishop England, 2-1, in the Lower State championship.
Academic Magnet needed overtime to defeat the Bishops. Sophomore all-state selection Kallie Peurifoy's goal with 6:02 left in overtime was the difference.
"Kallie is truly thrilling to watch," Merriman said. "When she decides she wants to score, there is not much another team can do to stop her. She has excellent ball control and great speed."
Christ Church has been just as impressive. The Cavaliers received a first-round bye and topped Emerald 6-0 in the second round. They followed that up with a 2-1 win over St. Joseph's and a 2-0 victory over Woodruff. The Cavaliers are playing in their third straight state championship and seventh overall. Their only state title came in 2001 when they beat Hanahan.
Academic Magnet is looking to become the second team in school history to win a state championship. The golf team captured the state title a year ago.
"If we do that, it would be amazing," Merriman said. "The whole school is excited. There have been a lot of congratulations and good-luck wishes. It's fun to be a part of it."