SALT LAKE CITY — Holly Daugirda couldn't have orchestrated a more thrilling way to score her first Pac-12 goal.
“I’m honestly on cloud nine,” said the junior, who scored the game-winning goal in Utah’s 1-0 overtime upset of No. 7 Washington State. “It was crazy. … It took me a second to realize, and then I just went insane. I was jumping everywhere. I was so excited. That was the first Pac-12 goal of my career, so it felt even better.”
Too often this season the Utah women’s soccer team has been on the losing side of a nailbiter. The most recent gut-wrenching loss came at Arizona, when not only did the Utes lose 1-2 in double overtime, but they also lost four starters to injury.
“Even going back to that very first game against Minnesota,” said Utah head coach Rich Manning. We lost with 10 seconds left. We have six losses, and they are all last-minute, overtime. … We just couldn’t get over that hump in clutch moments.”
With every heartbreak, the Utah players seemed to lose a bit of belief in themselves.
“We had kind of a rough start,” Daugirda said. “Preseason things were getting a little rough, and then the first two games in conference we lost. I was on edge, and I think everyone else was too.” Everything changed, however, after they managed to win four days after the heartbreak of Arizona with several players in new spots to deal with the injuries.
“We had to shift a bunch of things around, and we won the game at Arizona State,” Manning said. “Just winning that game against Arizona State with adversity changed the whole mindset and vibe of the team.”
Even the trainers noticed.
“They said, ‘The kids are so much different this week,’” he said “It just changed the energy. … The kids are very excited.”
That excitement got another shot in the arm Sunday afternoon when Daugirda and her roommate, Ireland Dunn, teamed up for the game-winning goal in overtime.
Daugirdia, who moved from defense to midfield last week, passed to Dunn on the outside.
“She passed it right through to me,” said the Skyline alum. “It was a perfect pass. I couldn’t have asked for anything better, honestly. … I just gave it a touch and it went straight in the net.”
Daugirda said as soon as Dunn made eye contact with her, she knew the pass was coming back to her in the middle as she moved toward the goal.
“I feel like we have that weird roommate connection,” Daugirda said with a laugh. “I saw her look up at me, and I knew she was passing right to me.”
Both Manning and his players felt confident heading into the home match against the top-10 team.
“We’ve beat them before,” Daugirda said, referring to her freshman season. “Last year we lost 3-0, and that hurt. We wanted to get back at them.”
The junior, who led her high school team to a state title, said the shift she feels is significant — and a bit familiar.
“I think everyone’s confidence is really high right now,” she said. “It feels familiar, sort of similar to my freshman year when we had a rough start and then an amazing season where we went to the Sweet 16. It feels similar, but there is also something a little different. I don’t know what it is yet.”
She is, especially after Sunday’s win, excited to find out.
The team’s next challenge comes in hosting Oregon State in their Power of Pink game at Ute Soccer field Saturday, Oct. 13, at 1 p.m.