KAYSVILLE — Ever since it shocked undefeated Lone Peak in last year's 5A championship, No. 2 Davis has been on a mission.
With basically every core player returning this season and being loaded with numerous future D-I players, the Darts completely dominated their competition, outscoring them by a staggering margin of 109-8, en route to an unblemished 20-0 record, second straight 5A title and the second spot in national rankings.
“Our number one goal from the beginning of the season was that we were going to take state again. That was our top priority. After we got that first win against Lone Peak, we knew that we could go undefeated into the playoffs and do this — it feels amazing,” Deseret News’ Ms. Soccer and star Davis defender Haylee Cacciacarne said.
Cacciacarne was the stalwart center back anchor to the dominant back line of the Davis defense, which recorded 14 shutouts including three in four playoff games and successfully gave up less than 10 goals for the entire year, and she continued to come up big in high-pressure situations all year long.
“Our goal, as a defense, was we didn’t want to give up more than 10 goals. Our forwards score a lot, but we knew we couldn’t make us look bad by us getting scored on. That was our main goal — not to get scored on,” said Cacciacarne.
With such explosive players such as Ireland Dunn, Olivia Wade, Mikayla Colohan and Regyn Youngberg and an offense that racked up over 100 goals in 20 games, it's especially rare that the defense gets the glory, despite being the spark that ignites the offensive explosions.
And Davis head coach Souli Phongsavath knows just how vital that impenetrable defense — especially Cacciacarne, the foundation of the team according to him — was to his team's success.
“Haylee really was the heart and soul of our team back there. She, and the whole defense, had a very difficult job and had to stay focused the whole game. They didn’t let up at all and didn’t give up any soft goals. They were always the start of our attack for us and were just huge,” he said.
Handling the heavy pressures that came with everything the Darts were aiming to accomplish was not an easy task by any means.
Davis had a target on its back every time it took the field and withstood the constant onslaught of attacks it faced game in and game out, especially in the playoffs.
“One thing Souli always told us was not to let the moments be bigger than us, and I think that came into play a lot this season. Especially coming into the playoffs, with all that pressure on us, we couldn’t let it get to us. We couldn’t let the moments be bigger than us and that’s something we all really took in,” Cacciacarne said.
Despite failing to trail a single team throughout the entire season, the Darts had a lot of tough battles on their hands — situations the players handled much better than Phongsavath, he admits — and persevered every single time, including three one-goal wins in the playoffs.
“It was a big relief, if anything. It was a big weight off all our shoulders, especially for me. The girls handled the pressure a lot better than I did,” Phongsavath said. “Now is the time we are enjoying it, because of all the expectations we had. And that’s difficult to do — when everybody expects you to do something and you don’t do something, then you choke. The girls really pulled it off and they don’t get enough credit for that.”
The University of Utah saw the talent Cacciacarne brings and heavily recruited her just after her sophomore year.
The star defender officially and eagerly committed to play for the Utes and is excited for what promises to be a successful future as she prepares to make the same significant impact she did at Davis.
“I’m really excited. I’m just going to try to bring what I do best up there. I really just want to go give them all I can do as a player and be as good as I can for them,” Cacciacarne said.
Ryan Love is a full-time student and has been a part-time sportswriter for Deseret News since Oct. 2012.
Follow him on Twitter @RLove7724