By Chip Mundy
Special to Second Half
MASON – Grand Rapids South Christian girls soccer coach Jason Boersma likes to shift senior Kayla Diemer between playing defense and forward.
Boersma let out a hearty laugh Saturday afternoon when Diemer was asked which position she preferred. He anticipated the response.
“I like to put the ball in the net,” Diemer said. “It’s my favorite part.”
Diemer must have loved playing in the MHSAA Division 3 championship game, as she scored the only goal in South Christian’s 1-0 victory over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep at Mason High School.
Diemer broke a scoreless deadlock in the 64th minute when she took a pass from freshman Cierra Buist and beat the goalkeeper for her 12th goal of the season. The Sailors made it hold up for the first MHSAA girls soccer championship in school history.
“Kayla got the goal; she deserves it,” Boersma said. “She’s been a leader on this team all year. She’s a top player, she plays defense, and she’s been willing to change her role.
“She loves to play forward, and we got her up there for a little while (Saturday), and it paid off.”
Diemer played it off almost matter-of-factly.
“I was in the right place at the right time, I guess,” she said. “It was a perfect pass from Cierra. I think there was a defender on me, and I just tapped it to the side. It was just a blur.
“I just saw the goalie and got it past her.”
Both teams came into their first championship game riding hot offenses. South Christian had outscored five tournament opponents 20-3, while the Fighting Irish outscored six opponents by a combined 28-4 score.
“That was the one time that they really executed what I had heard about them and did exactly what they wanted to do,” Notre Dame Prep coach Jim Stachura said about the goal. “That was the only time in the game that they did exactly what they wanted to do.
“Their size and speed definitely was the difference in the game. We just didn’t have enough of the size and speed. We don’t have the athletes to match up with them. The bottom line is athletically they were just tough, and a lot of girls were physically spent at the end of the game.”
One of South Christian’s priorities was containing Notre Dame Prep’s Taylor Timko, a junior who already has verbally agreed to play at the University of Michigan and had 39 goals coming into the game.
Timko had a few chances, including one from directly in front of the net in the first half. She missed wide left on that shot, and in the 75th minute she was stopped by South Christian goalkeeper Emily Blankespoor, a junior who registered her 15th shutout and said she didn’t know it was Timko who was 12 yards in front of her ready to shoot.
“Things happen so fast that I wasn’t paying attention to who it was,” she said. “I just knew they were going to shoot, and my gut reaction was that you have to make the stop.
“I dove to my left. I stopped it with my left hand, and it went a little bit in front of me, and then I jumped on it. My defense is really great, and they’ve been great all season for me, so it’s just about you have to react, and if it goes in, you can’t do anything about it”
Although Blankespoor did not know who was shooting, Boersma certainly did.
“Our goalie came up with a monster save,” he said. “On the bench we just thought, ‘Oh no, here it is, 12 yards out, this girl’s a scorer,’ and she put it right on the net.
“(Timko) is a great player. You can see that left foot she has, she hit some rockets, and she missed one. We talked all day about forcing her to her right, and she got three good cracks with her left, which is what we didn’t want to happen.”
Although South Christian seemed to dominate play with the ball being in the Notre Dame Prep end most of the game, the Fighting Irish held a 6-3 edge in shots on goal.
“I thought we did a really, really good job considering the fact that we left more goals on the field,” Stachura said. “It’s a bummer it turns out those lost opportunities were just a little wide.”
South Christian, which entered the game ranked No. 1 in Division 3, finished the season 22-1-3, while the second-ranked Fighting Irish ended 21-3-2.
“To end the season in this fashion with a state championship, this is what these girls have been looking for for years,” Boersma said. “We have a lot of these girls who are leaders, and they said in the fifth grade they wanted to do it. To have it happen is a dream come true. Their team effort as a whole – our team defense – we’ve had nine goals on us this year.
“What a year, a boys championship and girls championship. This is special.”
PHOTO: Grand Rapids South Christian’s Kayla Diemer celebrates her goal, which ended up being the lone score in her team’s Division 3 championship win over Pontiac Notre Dame Prep. (Click to see more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)