SALT LAKE CITY — Nobody seemed to know exactly how it happened, just that out of a swarm of players in front of the Texas Tech goal, Utah’s Katie Rogers somehow punched the ball into the back of the net.
The golden goal in the seventh minute of overtime by the senior forward gave the Utes a 1-0 victory over the Red Raiders in a first-round NCAA game Saturday afternoon at Ute Field, propelling them into this week’s second round.
“It happened so fast I don’t know what happened,” Rogers said. “It just felt really good to win that game.”
“I didn’t see the goal go in. I just saw a big swarm of people,” added Utah coach Rich Manning. “I just heard the cheering, which was great.”
When pushed further, Rogers remembered a few more details, saying, “Somebody asked if I headed it. I don’t remember heading it, so I think the defender headed it down and kind of bobbled it. Then it landed at my foot and I just hit it and it went between the defenders legs and into the net.”
It didn’t surprise Manning.
“Katie’s been really dangerous on set pieces all year scored several goals,” he said. “I know that if she’s in the area, it has a good chance of going in.”
With the win, the Utes will move on to play Florida State Friday in Los Angeles, where fellow Pac-12 member USC is the host school.
Utah was playing in the NCAA Tournament for just the second time since joining the Pac-12 and a tournament home game for the first time in 10 years on the warm November afternoon.
From the start, the Utes dominated the action, possessing the ball on the Texas Tech side of the field for much of the first half. But despite outshooting the Red Raiders 6-3, with four corner kicks to none, the Utes couldn’t find the net.
Texas Tech came out with more energy in the second half, but the Utes took over in the final 15 minutes and had a couple of chances, but couldn’t convert.
Then in the final minute, the Utes came this close to having their NCAA dreams dashed when Texas Tech’s Tatum Barton got loose down the right side and fired a shot that Ute goalkeeper July Mathias knocked down. With Mathias out of position, Barton got a second chance, but this time Ute defender Natalie Wells was there to stop the goal chance.
“July and Natalee made great plays at the end of regulation,” said Manning. “When you play a tournament-quality team, they’ll get a chance or two and you’ve got to be ready to make the play and that was huge.”
The Utes had a few minutes to regroup before the overtime started and took advantage.
“After regulation ended we all got together and said ‘we’ve got too keep this momentum going and keep this energy up,’” said Rogers. “In the overtime we kept pushing and fighting and finally got one.”
Manning is thrilled his team has a chance to move on in the tournament and play a team like Florida State, ranked No. 10 in the nation, and he’s confident about his team’s chances.
“I’m so excited and happy that we get the opportunity to play a program like Florida State at this time of the year when the games are so meaningful,” Manning said. “This is how your program grows. We have great confidence in these games. We’re excited for the opportunity to show our stuff.”