GIRLS' SOCCER: Academic Magnet gunning for state championship game

Anchoring the Raptors’ defense is Baker Walls.

Academic Magnet girls soccer coach Anna Merriman and her team have one goal as the postseason kicks into high gear.

"I told the girls from the very beginning that our goal was state," said the first-year head coach. "Everything we did, everything we accomplished was geared toward the state. We've still got to get there. We have some tough teams to get past. But if we get there, I feel good about our chances."

Academic Magnet showed it had talent last spring when the Raptors knocked off Bishop England in a Class AA-A Lower State semifinal.

Kallie Peurifoy, who was a freshman last spring, scored three goals, including the game-winner with about eight minutes left in regulation, to lead Academic Magnet past the Bishops, 3-2. The victory ended the Bishops' bid for a ninth consecutive state title.

But the Raptors had a hard time getting up for the Lower State championship, and Waccamaw rolled to a 6-1 victory.

This season, the Raptors grabbed the No. 1 seed in the Lower State, but they still have to prove they're the best. Their next step is a game against Barnwell at 5:30 p.m. today at North Charleston High School.

Academic Magnet had a bye in the first round and blasted Wade Hampton, 13-1, in the second round on Wednesday.

"So far, so good," Merriman said. "I really had some concerns going into the game because we don't come out of the gate that quickly. I emphasized that this was the playoffs and we didn't know much about our opponent."

Peurifoy, Jenna Beauregard and Helen McDowell scored two goals apiece to lead the rout.

"Kallie is truly thrilling to watch," Merriman said of the team's top scorer. "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."

Summer Edwards and Beauregard are key players on offense from their center midfield postitions.

Emily Gossen, the team's keeper, has good range in front of the net.

"She has played very consistently and can make some of the most acrobatic saves I've ever seen," Merriman said. "Baker Walls is the center of our defense. I can trust her to shut down the best and fastest player from the opposing team, which is often their center forward."

If Academic Magnet and Bishop England win tonight, it will set up a showdown for the Lower State championship on Monday. Merriman, who was the junior varsity coach and an assistant on the varsity staff, said Academic Magnet gained more than a victory last year when the Raptors beat the Bishops.

"Last year, I told them they could beat Bishop England," she said. "I don't think it was until then that they realized how good they were. Since then, we have made strides to reach the top."