LOS ANGELES – No. 23 Utah Soccer advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history with a 2-1 win over No. 10 Florida State on Friday. Natalie Vukic opened the scoring for the Utes before Haylee Cacciacarne netted the winner in the 87th minute.
“I saw the ball came off Katie’s (Rogers) head and I just wanted to get it back in the box,” Cacciacarne said. “I really didn’t think it was going to go in but I just wanted to keep it alive and get in back in for us to have a chance.”
The first goals of the season for Vukic and Cacciacarne knocked out a Seminole team that was the 2016 Atlantic Coast Champion, the 2014 National Champion and a College Cup participant the last five years.
“I can’t believe it, I’m speechless,” Vukic added. “To make history. No Utah team had ever made it this far. We have the jitters now because we are so excited to win and keep playing.”
— Utah Women’s Soccer (@UtahWSoccer) November 19, 2016
“We are just elated,” head coach Rich Manning said “Credit to FSU because they are a great program that played a great game. I have a lot of respect for what they represent. I am just really happy that our team gets to keep playing. We have rallied around Hailey’s (Skolmoski) message that we are the underdogs and we have to prove ourselves every time out.”
“We believed in ourselves the whole time,” July Mathias stated. “Going in, we knew about FSU and its tradition and we wanted to play our game. I thought we played the ball and passed out of the back really well. We just did our jobs today.”
FSU tested Mathias and the Utes from the onset as the sophomore stopped Deyna Castellanos in the first minute of action. In the 13th minute, Utah struck. On a Natalee Wells corner, Katie Rogers headed back across the goal to Vukic who alertly fired into the top of the net for a 1-0 lead.
After Mathias stopped Megan Connolly and Vukic flashed one wide, Macayla Edwards answered for FSU with a superb individual effort.
With the match tied, Wells unleashed a free kick into the wall and FSU countered into a chance for Kaycie Tillman. At the other end, Taylor Slattery got on the end of a ball into the box, but her header looped into the waiting arms of Cassie Miller.
Utah had a great chance to take the lead in the closing minutes of the half as Tavia Leachman met a corner with her head and some last-ditch Seminole defending kept the ball out of the net. Later, Max Flom let go on a shot from outside the area that drifted wide left.
— Utah Women’s Soccer (@UtahWSoccer) November 18, 2016
In the second half, Castellanos tested Mathias twice before Utah had its first chance. Hailey Skolmoski, working hard up front, made Miller work for a save in the 67th minute.
The Seminoles kept attacking as Mathias knocked away tries from Kristen McFarland and Natalia Kuikka before Castellanos struck the crossbar in the 82nd.
Utah never wavered and earned a corner when Slattery’s chance was knocked aside by Miller. Once again, Rogers got to the ball first and after a failed USC clearance, Cacciacarne headed back across goal for the winner.
Entering today’s contest, the ‘Noles ranked second in the nation with a 0.336 goals against average and had given up only seven goals during the 2016 season, the second fewest in the nation.
“At halftime, we just wanted to stay aggressive,” Manning added. “FSU is good at making adjustments in the game so we thought the picture of the match would change because. I think we got really important performances from a bunch of people, notably off the bench, and our seniors provided experience, composure and the will to keep going. The four of them played well and brought balance when things got hairy.”
Utah, making its seventh appearance in the tournament and second in four years, was one of six teams from the Pac-12 to earn a berth. The Utes placed fourth in the conference this season with its highest point total (22) since joining in 2011. Utah has also racked up 13 wins, it’s most since 2006.
Utah snapped a winless streak away from home against nationally ranked foes that lasted 26 matches and dated back to a 1-0 victory at No. 14 BYU on October 13, 2007.
The Utes will now play No. 7 USC on its home field at 12 p.m. PT Sunday for a right to move on to the national quarterfinals. The teams played out a 1-1 double overtime draw earlier this season in Salt Lake City.
Source: NCAA – Division I Soccer