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Under relentless pressure up the middle from 3-seed Florida State, Utah soccer coach Rich Manning subbed in freshman midfielder Haylee Cacciacarne.
She was supposed to bolster the defense.
But in the 87th minute, the Layton native ran toward the box to head a loose ball back toward the Seminoles' goal. It took an arc over the outstretched hands of FSU keeper Cassier Miller with a trajectory as unlikely as Utah's own in this NCAA Tournament to give the Utes a 2-1 win and their first-ever berth into the Sweet 16 by sidestepping one of the nation's best teams.
Minutes after burying the biggest goal of her young career, Cacciacarne was still out of breath.
"I just went in there to try to help make a difference," she said. "I knew I had to get that ball back in. I didn't know it would be a goal."
The Utes (13-3-5) were floating on a cloud following Friday's postseason win in Los Angeles, having beaten a program that had been to the College Cup five straight times. In breaking the streak, Utah relied on set pieces to get two goals against the Seminoles defense, which had only allowed seven all year.
Junior Natalie Vukic was the first to strike, clearing a ricochet off a corner kick in the 14th minute. Florida State followed up with an equalizer four minutes later from Macayla Edwards, leading to a tense back-and-forth between two of the best defensive teams in the country.
The Seminoles tested Ute keeper July Mathias plenty, forcing her to make seven saves during the game. Manning started to feel his midfield defense lagging, and sensing a possible overtime, subbed in Cacciacarne with about 18 minutes to play.
The former Ms. Soccer honoree from Davis High hadn't played since Oct. 23 thanks to a formation change with fewer midfielders. But seeing her first postseason minutes, Cacciacarne picked an opportune time for her first career goal as a Ute.
"We've just been opportunistic this year, getting those scrappy goals on corner kicks," Manning said. "I think this just reinforces for our team that everybody matter. Everybody plays a role."
Utah's advancement to the third round almost seemed halted in the final seconds of the match: The Seminoles sent a ball in on a set piece, it bounced around then found the foot of a forward who launched it into the back of the net.
Manning said his heart stopped momentarily before he looked down the sideline to see an official holding up a flag signaling offside. The equalizer was called off with seven seconds to spare, and FSU couldn't muster up one more shot attempt.
The Utes play USC on Sunday in Los Angeles for the right to advance to the Elite Eight.