By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The grinding force of Taylor Timko's attacks on the soccer goal comes out in her coach Jim Stachura’s voice as he describes them.
It’s not so much something technical – although the Pontiac Notre Dame Prep senior has plenty of skill – but more a mix of athleticism, vision and drive that sets the all-state midfielder apart from most in Michigan this spring.
“And the more and more she gets denied something she wants,” Stachura said, “the more and more she’ll try it.”
In a word – is “relentless” the right one?
“That was our team word last year,” Timko answered, noting the irony of the question.
“Relentless” can have a negative connotation, meaning strict or harsh. But this is relentless in a good way – determined, unyielding, and at times unstoppable.
On Tuesday, Timko became the 41st player in MHSAA girls soccer history to score 100 goals, netting three in Notre Dame Prep's 6-0 win over Madison Heights Bishop Foley.
She has 13 goals in six games this season, to go with 39 goals as a junior, 29 as a sophomore and 21 as a freshman.
“The best part of soccer is definitely scoring. I think it’s cool that that’s the point of the game,” Timko said. “If you have a shot, I say definitely take it. It’s like anything; if there’s an opportunity there, take it and run with it. It’s kind of a motto, I guess.”
She’s made the most of many as she enters the heart of her final high school spring.
Timko made headlines this fall as the kicker for a Notre Dame Prep football team that finished a solid 8-3 with help from her left leg. She was named Homecoming Queen, accepting the crown in football uniform during halftime of the Fighting Irish’s Sept. 27 game against Detroit Loyola.
She’s also a decorated track standout, as a freshman taking third in the 400 meters and running on the fourth-place 1,600 relay at the MHSAA Lower Peninsula Division 2 Final, then running on the third-place 1,600 relay as a sophomore. And she’s a nearly straight-A student, even as AP calculus is making that pursuit a little tougher of late.
But soccer certainly is her best game, and her impressive scoring totals have come against some of the toughest competition in Michigan. Last season’s schedule included the top-two ranked teams in Division 2 – Detroit Catholic League cross-division rivals Livonia Ladywood and Bloomfield Hills Marian – plus another top-10 Division 3 team in Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard and eventual Division 1 champion Troy.
But Timko and classmate Lindsey Klei keyed an offense attack that drove the Irish all the way to the Division 3 championship game – which despite a 1-0 loss to Grand Rapids South Christian made prophetic a conversation Stachura had with a coaching friend as Timko was just about to take off on her 100-goal career four years ago.
“He said, you know, when you get someone who’s going to score 20 goals for you, you’re going to play in a state final,” Stachura recalled. “Just having a goal scorer like that gives you the missing link. We've always had some good players ... but getting the girls to rally around her has been a big key.”
After the 21-goal debut, Stachura thought Timko’s total might fall some the next season because Notre Dame Prep graduated two all-staters including now-Oakland University contributor Katrina Stencel. But Timko scored eight more that spring than the one before, and then upped her total another 10 goals in 2013 – even as the schedule was toughened.
Many of those goals have come on her go-to move, a fake right and cut to a shot with her left foot. She likes headers too – admitting, a little tongue-in-cheek perhaps, that at 5-foot-7, “I've got hops,” she said.
Timko also has three assists this season and 39 for her career, and should push to end up among the MHSAA career points leaders as well before this spring is done.
“Thinking back to my freshman year, I never had specific goals of what I wanted to accomplish. Just everyday stuff on the field – at practice being the best player type of things,” Timko said. “Even for a particular season, I didn't say I want to score 20 goals this year; it’s more game to game goals.
“It’s such a blessing how far we've been able to come, and the things we've been able to accomplish. I can honestly say I never expected this.”
But she’s played a huge part in – as Stachura said earlier this year – setting a standard both on the field and in her school.
Timko will head to the University of Michigan this fall to play soccer but also because she’s an outstanding and hard-working student. Her childhood aspiration was to become a veterinarian, but she’s leaning now toward something in the medical or kinesiology fields – “somewhere I could help people,” she said.
She’s a member of the National Honor Society, Students Against Destructive Decisions and her school’s Varsity Club, and serves as a student ambassador for Notre Dame Prep and math tutor to classmates.
“She’s somebody both the boys and girls can look up to – the guys give her street cred because she played football, and the girls see a great athlete and a role model,” Notre Dame Prep assistant athletic director Dean Allen said. “Some kids maybe in general get big heads on their shoulders, as stud athletes. But she's really humble."
Football was “inspiring,” allowing Timko as the kicker to observe the intensity she works to bring to the soccer field. She also learned a valuable lesson about pressure – what it takes to come through when, as a football kicker, she had only one shot at the goal and only a few seconds to execute.
Timko is loving serving as soccer captain for a third straight season, especially as she gets to share those duties with classmates Klei, Bella Galloway and Lauren Gunterman.
And that lesson in pressure could pay off big as she and the Irish continue pursuing the one prize they were denied at the end of last season.
Remember what Stachura said about when Timko gets denied?
“Relentless is definitely a way to live,” Timko said. “Everyone faces obstacles, and there are easy solutions too. But you have to keep pushing through.”
PHOTOS: (Top) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Taylor Timko moves the ball upfield during last season’s Division 3 Final. (Middle) Timko (22), with her teammates and coach Jim Stachura, pose with the congratulatory sign she received from them after scoring her 100th career goal Tuesday. (Middle photo courtesy of Pontiac Notre Dame Prep High School.)
Be The Referee is a series of short messages designed to help educate people on the rules of different sports, to help them better understand the art of officiating, and to recruit officials.
Below is this week's segment – Soccer Overtime - Listen
Soccer games in the postseason have one big noticeable difference from the regular season. In the postseason, games cannot end in a tie – so games go to overtime and possibly a shootout.
Here’s how that works:
If the game is tied at the end of regulation, it will go to overtime, which is two 10-minute periods played in its entirety. There is no sudden death or golden goal winner. If there is a winner at the end of the 20 minutes, that team wins and advances to the next round. If there’s still a tie, we move to a shootout.
In the shootout, the teams alternate taking five penalty kicks. If it’s still tied after five kicks, they each kick until the tie is broken.
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