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UTSA opens 2023 season on Thursday hosting Central Arkansas

SAN ANTONIO – After wrapping up a promising two-match exhibition slate over the weekend, UTSA will begin its regular season tomorrow, August 17, as the first program in competition to kick off the American Athletic Conference era at UTSA. The Roadrunners host Central Arkansas at the Park West Athletic Complex at 7 p.m. The non-conference contest will be streamed live on

UTSA has seen some solid production out of newcomers and veterans alike in the exhibition games this fall, paced by a goal in each contest by freshman Brittany Holden. The Roadrunners played tough defense both times on the pitch and defeated Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 2-1, followed by a 3-0 shutout of the Cardinals from across town at Incarnate Word. Against UIW, the UTSA defense held the Cardinals without a shot until the 72nd minute – allowing only three total and just one on goal. Joining Holden in the goals column were freshman Sophie Morrin, freshman Maddie Reynolds and senior Deja Sandoval.
The Roadrunners are coming off one of the best seasons in program history, logging a 12-6-3 overall record with a whopping 7-1-1 (83.3 percent) mark at home. UTSA closed out the year in historic fashion, sweeping through three games at the Conference USA Tournament, defeating Florida Atlantic in overtime, 3-2, for their first conference tournament title since 2010 – earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament, where they battled fifth-seeded TCU to a 3-1 loss in Fort Worth.
The 2023 squad returns 16 from last year's team, including five starters and seven seniors. Though the Roadrunners had to replace 15 players, the latest crop of recruits has already earned opportunities for significant potential impact in the lineup.
Pacing the Roadrunners
One of three UTSA players on the American Athletic Conference Preseason Watch List and a 2022 All-CUSA third-team awardee, senior defender/midfielder Sasjah Dade sits in a tie for the most returning points, logging 13 off five goals and three assists, a .429 shot on goal percentage and playing 1,746 minutes. Dade tabbed three game-winners in 2022 and has started 47-of-50 games over the past three years. A stalwart performer last season off the bench, redshirt senior forward Marlee Fray also recorded 13 points off five goals and three assists (.500 SOG) while only playing 479 minutes across 22 games – recording a single start. Another AAC Preseason Watch-Lister, graduate student forward/midfielder Alissa Stewart notched 10 points on five goals a year ago in 22 starts. Senior defender Deja Sandoval started each contest and provided four assists with one goal. Also back in the mix are 22-game starters Sabrina Hillyer (Grad., Defender) and Sarina Russ (Sr., Midfielder).
After starting her career at Florida Gulf Coast, redshirt junior goalkeeper Mia Krusinski proved to be a key component of UTSA's success as one half of the Roadrunners' 2022 tandem in goal – taking over through the conference stretch with 8-of-10 league games under her belt. The third AAC Preseason Watch List honoree, Krusinski collected an 8-3-1 record and four shutouts in 11 starts (14 games), recording a .771 save percentage with a team-best 37 saves. Shining in the postseason finale, she racked up a career-high 11 saves in the NCAA Tournament match against TCU. Also grabbed 10 saves in the three-game Conference USA Tournament Championship stretch, earning a spot of the All-Tournament Team last November. She leads a three-keeper position group that includes newcomers Oregon State transfer Isobel Herrod and freshman Jasmine Kessler.
Building on a wealth of championship experience, UTSA also returns senior midfielder Avery Chaney (9 GS/20 GP), junior defender/midfielder Jordan Walker (6 GS/21 GP), junior midfielder/forward Olivia Alvarez (6 GS/21 GP), junior midfielder Jordyn Hyland (5 GS/11GP), senior defender Alex Granville (11 GP), senior midfielder Mackenzie Kaufhold (1 GS/19 GP), junior defender/midfielder Zoë Lam (14 GP), senior defender/midfielder Mikhaela Cortez (6 GP) and redshirt freshman defender Kendall Gouner (2 GP).
In addition to Morrin, Holden, Reynolds and Kessler, the Roadrunners added first-year players from the high school ranks in forward Tyler Coker, midfielder Makela Solbak, forward Hannah Warnken, midfielder Michelle Polo, center back Hollan Winton and defender Reagan Amberson. UTSA also bolstered its roster with Division I transfers Herrod, forward/outside back Maci Geltmeier (LA Tech) and defender Peyton Godbey (East Carolina) – as well as Seminole State-transfer center back Haley Lopez and incoming German junior Thandie Reinkensmeier.
The Roadrunners are coached by Derek Pittman in his sixth season with a UTSA record of 39-35-12 (.523), 90-102-30 (.473) overall across stints at three institutions.
Series history
Meeting the Bears for the seventh time, the Roadrunners hold a dominant 6-0 advantage in the all-time series against Central Arkansas – marking a 3-0 record both in San Antonio and in Conway, Arkansas. The last meeting between these teams was in Conway in Oct. 2011, when UTSA was still a member of the Southland Conference.
Scouting the Bears
Central Arkansas enters the 2023 campaign coming off a 6-9-4 mark a year ago, going 4-4-2 in the Atlantic Sun and reaching the semifinal with a close loss to second-seed FGCU. The Bears are led by 12th-year head coach Jeremy Bishop and Preseason All-Atlantic Sun Conference junior defender Gabby Thies, whose talent         on the backline helped the UCA hold 11 teams to one or fewer goals last season alongside along with returning sophomore defender Rylee Ellis. The Bears bring an experienced squad to San Antonio, including four multi-goal players and keepers junior Kajsa Pruner and sophomore Lenja Kenstel, who combined for four shutouts and 82 saves. Offensively, UCA has experience returning in senior Sydney Brough and junior Kelly Van Gundy, as well as forwards junior Anna Kerr (2 G/2 Ast) and sophomore Trace Pavatt (2 G/1 Ast). However, the strongest of UCA's offensive numbers from last season graduated with Taylor Lassiter and Sydney Brough.
While coaching the Bears, Bishop has collected a career record of 105-98-16 (.516).
Texas Ties
Naturally, the Roadrunners have a bevy of in-state talent – 14 players to be specific. However, the Bears' roster also features seven players from the Lone Star State; Josie Marshall, Kelly Van Gundy, Nina Mazzola, Ava Ronsky, Gabby Thies, and local San Antonio players, Alyssa Aultman and Emily Wissel-Littmann, out of Churhill High and Brandeis High, respectively.
UP NEXT: UTSA will have a quick turnaround and return to action on Sunday at Park West, August 20, hosting McNeese State with a 1 p.m. kickoff.