PLEASANT HILL, Mo. -- High school soccer teams get their kicks by scoring goals.
They've accomplished that and more at Pleasant Hill High School, where the Chicks (19-1) are about to begin the postseason. They've been winning games and inspiring others too, along with a team leader who plays in memory of a lost loved one. The Chicks are also our FOX4 HyVee Team of the Week.
This soccer club has learned to lean on each other, especially when times get tough. Pleasant Hill Senior Mackenzie Dimarco said these teammates helped her survive the hardest time in her life.
Eight years ago, her father, David Dimarco passed away. The elder Dimarco, who'd been a radio personality and salesperson, finished his battle against Mesothelioma, a form of lung cancer, in March 2011. It was a tragedy that took a toll on a 10-year old girl's life.
"It was like, wow this is really happening. There's nothing we can do about it. At least he's in a better place now. At least, he's not in pain," Dimarco said on Friday.
Mackenzie said she's been playing in honor of her dad. She said she often thinks about him during Pleasant Hill soccer games, and she aspires to make him proud. It's a safe bet that he is.
When the grief after his death grew, Mackenzie depended on her teammates for emotional support. Many of the same girls who were her teammates in 2011 are her present day soccer teammates nowadays.
"I was there with her when her dad died," Adelynn Link, Pleasant Hill's midfielder, said. "It was harder for her earlier on, but now, she knows she's loved and she has a purpose."
"I think he's watching over me and he's cheering up in the stands," Dimarco said.
The pitch has become her second home. Mackenzie can claim 292 goals scored in her high school career, ranking her second all time in Missouri history. Pleasant Hill`s season could have an inspirational finish of its own. The Chicks are ready for the postseason, ranked number one in Missouri Class 2. Mackenzie Dimarco is headed for Emporia State on a soccer scholarship.
"She's very determined. She sets her mind to do something and she does it," Al Iantonro, Pleasant Hill's soccer coach, said. "It's not something you can coach. It's just a pure natural talent that she has. They come along once in a lifetime."
The Chicks begin the postseason against Booneville on Monday. Longtime Pleasant Hill Coach Iantorno, 77, will retire at the end of the season, having spent 60 years working in the metro's soccer community.