Riptide rolls into title game in first season playing varsity soccer

Goalkeeper Allie Walker is one three girls in the starting lineup of Charleston Charter's boys soccer team.

Grace Beahm

COLUMBIA -- The Charleston Charter School for Math and Science plays Christ Church on Saturday for the boys Class A state soccer championship. It will be a matchup of teams with contrasting histories.

Christ Church has won 11 state titles, including 10 in a row heading into Saturday's 11:30 a.m. match at Memorial Stadium. They are the Goliaths of Class A soccer. Charleston Charter, meanwhile, is in its first season of varsity competition.

Riptide coach Hayne Painter knows the odds are long for his team. But that's not always a bad thing.

"We don't have anything to lose," Painter said. "No one expected us to be here. We don't have any pressure on us. I talked to the kids and they are calm. They don't feel any pressure."

Charleston Charter's roster includes three girls in the starting lineup. Among them is keeper Allie Walker, who recorded eight saves and her fourth shutout of the season in the Lower State championship victory over the Governor's School.

"She's just an athlete," said Painter, who is in his first year as coach of the Riptide. "She came here from Charleston Collegiate. I haven't talked to her or asked, but I heard she even played football there. She was all-region in volleyball and now she's all-region in soccer. She's quite an athlete. She gets by on athletic ability. She doesn't have a lot of goal keeping coaching. A lot of what she does is by instinct."

The other girls who start are Hannah Garcia and Elena Mpougas.

"The boys didn't make any judgments until they saw the girls play," Painter said. "If the other team gets physical, the girls will get physical right back."

The boys are talented, too.

Cullen Bagwell has scored important goals all season, and the playoffs have been no exception.

He scored the only goal of the match in the 20th minute against the Governor's School. He also scored on a penalty kick in overtime to defeat Branchville, 2-1.

"The victory over the Governor's School was big for the kids' confidence," Painter said. "It's the first time we faced a team that was better than us, technically," Painter said. "They had good skills, but we held our own."