Raptors’ repeat bid falls short

Christ Church’s Sitton Furman (right) and Academic Magnet’s Emma Bradley battle for control of the ball in Friday’s state championship game. (Editor's note: Earlier versions of this caption misidentified Emma Bradley. The Post and Courier regrets the error.)

COLUMBIA — More than a few tears were shed as the Academic Magnet Raptors accepted their runner-up medals Friday afternoon after a 2-0 loss to Christ Church in the Class AA-A girls soccer state championship game at Memorial Stadium.

The Raptors were unable to defend last year’s state title, but coach Anna Merriman said her players, particularly eight seniors, have created an identity for Academic Magnet soccer.

“They have helped this program really make a name for itself,” said Merriman, whose team ended the season with a 21-4 record and Region 6-AA and Lower State titles. “And a lot of that is because of the core group of eight girls who have been here from the beginning.

“We are greatly disappointed that we didn’t win the state title today, because that’s been our goal from the start of the season. But that doesn’t take away from the fact that this is a marquee program now, and they made that happen.”

Christ Church, a Class A program from Greenville, certainly had respect for the Raptors. The Cavaliers lost by 3-1 to Academic Magnet in last year’s state title game, and paid plenty of attention Friday to the Raptors’ top scorer, junior Kallie Peurifoy.

“We tried to keep a defender on her at all times, just to frustrate her and hopefully keep her off her game,” said Cavaliers coach Chris Nichols, whose team had lost in the state finals the last three years. “She’s a great player, and a lot of their play goes straight through her.”

Christ Church’s top scorer, senior Meaghan Carrigan, was able to find the goal, scoring twice in the second half. Carrigan, who will play in college at Richmond, lined a shot inside the left post in the 47th minute to break a scoreless tie, then banged home the icing goal in the 74th minute.

The Raptors had their chances, knocking a shot off the crossbar near the end of the first half before Cavaliers keeper Cameron Beach pounced on the rebound. Beach punched away a Peurifoy shot late in the match and was credited with five saves.

Academic Magnet dominated the run of play in the first half, but freshman midfielder Jesse Dooley went out with a knee injury late in the half and was unable to return.

“That sucked some momentum out of us,” Merriman said. “We had the ball working down toward their goal a lot, and losing Jesse was a key loss for us.”

Merriman said the Cavaliers were more physical, and Christ Church was called for 10 fouls to just two for the Raptors. Academic Magnet had 12 shots to 10 for the Cavaliers, but couldn’t get the ball by Beach.

I think Christ Church just wanted it,” said Raptors senior Carlisle Dockery. “They wanted it really badly.”