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Roadrunners muscle past Central Arkansas in 5-1 season-opening victory

SAN ANTONIO – The UTSA soccer team (1-0) kicked off its 2023 campaign on Thursday night at the Park West Athletics Complex with an all-gas, no-brakes dominant victory over visiting Central Arkansas (0-1). The Roadrunners commanded the pace of play to the tune of a 21-1 shot differential, defeating the Bears, 5-1, and extending their all-time series lead to 7-0.

Thursday night proved to be the top crowd of the Derek Pittman era filled almost every corner of Park West, as UTSA attracted 1,397 fans to catch the Roadrunners against the Atlantic Sun foe.

The Roadrunners went right to work on the Bears, scoring on their second corner of eight on the night, as Jordyn Hyland brought the ball across the set to Sabrina Hillyer, leading a clean header from Deja Sandoval in just the ninth minute.

Only eight minutes later, Hillyer recorded her second assist, placing the ball perfectly for a vicious Sasjah Dade header past UCA goalkeeper Kajsa Pruner in the 17th minute.

With time ticking away in the closing seconds of the first period, Zoë Lam capitalized on a deflected shot, slipping a third goal past Pruner and sending the Roadrunners to the locker room with a 3-0 advantage on the 44th-minute goal - notching the first score of her career.

The smothering UTSA press held the Bears without a shot into the 59th minute, but a penalty kick provided a chance for UCA to trim the deficit, as Kelly Van Gundy slipped one in, making it a 3-1 game. That kick stood to the final whistle as the lone shot for the Bears on the night.

Although Central Arkansas kept UTSA off the board for the first 24 minutes of the second half, the Roadrunners rebuilt and expanded their lead in the back half. At 69 minutes, UTSA got numbers in the box as Brittney Holden brought the ball across and Alex Granville used a header to tip the ball out - setting Alissa Stewart for a clean shot on second half keeper Lenja Kenstell.

Jordan Walker sealed off the UTSA scoring in the 84th minute after Sarina Russ collected a great tackle and steal, driving deep into UCA territory before yielding to Walker, who buried it in the net for a 5-1 final advantage.

The Roadrunners limited the movement of the Bears in a very physical game, claiming a 56 percent time of possession while only ceding time on their half during 31 percent of Central Arkansas' possession time.

UTSA: Deja Sandoval (9'), Sasjah Dade (17'), Zoë Lam (44'), Alissa Stewart (69'), Jordan Walker (84')
UCA: Kelly Van Gundy (59')

Quoting Coach Derek Pittman
"Really proud of our team and how they handled the game. Central Arkansas is a good team. I know coach Jeremy and Derek are going to get that team rolling and they're going to be a threat in the ASUN; I expect that to be a quality win for us moving forward. We challenged our kids to come out on the front foot, we challenged them to be better than we were last weekend – they did that. We talked all week long about how set pieces can be the difference-maker early in the season and they did that tonight to get two goals off corner kicks. Disappointed that we gave up a goal, but I'd rather learn those lessons in wins than in losses, and our kids will pay attention to those details to avoid that in the future."

Up Next
The Roadrunners wrap up the week at home, returning to Park West on Sunday for a 1 p.m. matchup with McNeese State. The Cowgirls opened up with a 3-1 setback at Texas State on Thursday and travel to San Antonio for the 10th meeting in the all-time series.

- UTSA -