ESU freshman Mackenzie DiMarco (3) reacts to scoring the game-winning goal in overtime to lead the Hornets to a 1-0 victory in their regular season finale on Sunday afternoon. The score gave DiMarco her eighth game-winner of the season and a new single-season record at ESU with 18. Emporia State will begin postseason play on Friday by hosting Northwest Missouri State in the first round of the MIAA Tournament.

Bryan Sailer attempted to brace his new forward for a different level of play when she arrived at Emporia State.

He knew that Mackenzie DiMarco, arriving after a storied career at Pleasant Hill High School in Missouri, would become an impact player at ESU, but to what degree, that could only be anticipated.

She easily earned a reputation as an elite scorer after recording 305 career goals in high school, helping her team claim a third-place finish at the Class 2 State Tournament in both of her upperclassman seasons.

But such gaudy numbers? In the highly-competitive MIAA, things wouldn’t come nearly as easily as averaging more than three goals per game.

Well, it hasn’t, true enough. But her performance has still exceeded anyone’s dream.

On Sunday afternoon, in just her 18th game, DiMarco has broken the program’s single-season record with 18 goals, keeping an average of one per contest. She leads the MIAA in goals scored this season, two ahead of Central Missouri’s Makayla Toth and Central Oklahoma’s Kelsie Eason.

She now is just two goals shy of tying the MIAA single-season record, set just last year by Central Missouri’s Jada Scott, who tallied 20 in 23 games.

“I told her 10 or 12 would be a great season and she’s what? At 18? She got to the point I thought (of) very, very easily,” Sailer said. “She’s just fast and ... presents matchup problems for people in the back, especially when you try to guard her 1-on-1 with no help and it’s a tough task for any defender.”

Only one of her teammates, senior Kennedy Hoffman, has as many goals in her four-year collegiate career, with a matching total of 18. That also matches the second-highest career total for ESU.

In just one season.

“She’s special, just as a freshman,” senior midfielder Tanna Benefiel said. “She’s already breaking school records, anybody that sees her play or watches her knows that she’s special and that if you give her any space, she’s probably going to get it done. She’s been huge for us this year.”

ESU is guaranteed but one more game, the first round of the MIAA Tournament, at 2 p.m. Friday. Another win would prolong the Hornets’ season at least one more day. The Hornets are also on the bubble for a potential return to the NCAA Central Region Tournament, pending the outcome of the next two weeks of postseason play.

That would certainly allow more opportunities for Emporia State — and for DiMarco to continue on a trek to history.

“We’ve got a goal scorer that could turn and make a play on any given instance and it helps,” Sailer said.

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