Vashaun Newman

Roadrunners to open 2023 season hosting UTSA Invitational

SAN ANTONIO — The UTSA volleyball program will officially begin the 2023 season on Friday, as the team hosts the UTSA Invitational, with a 10 a.m. match against Texas Southern starting things off in the Convocation Center, ahead of a 7 p.m. Orange Out contest with Missouri State that will see the first 50 fans in attendance receive a free Let's Go 210 t-shirt. In addition to the Friday night festivities, UTSA will also honor program legend McKenzie Adams. Adams was recently announced as a member of the athletic department's inaugural hall of fame class, thanks to a career featuring a pair of All-America honors, as well as two conference Player of the Year accolades. Saturday, the Roadrunners will conclude the tournament as they battle Texas A&M-Commerce, with first serve set for 2 p.m.
UTSA enters the season with a refreshed roster for coach Carol Price-Torok's second season at the helm, as the Runners' boast eight newcomers, including four first-year students. Among notable transfer students is sophomore Mia Soerensen, who headed to the Alamo City following a stint at Kent State, where she was a MAC All-Freshman selection. Soerensen totaled 198 kills, with the Golden Flashes at a .259 percent clip. Also boasting collegiate experience, UTSA welcomed junior Faye Wilbricht, who spent a pair of seasons at Texas A&M prior to donning the Navy and Orange, as well as senior Aliah Giroux from Southern Miss and Ellie Turner, who spent time at both Oregon State and Blinn. 
The Roadrunners return plenty of offensive firepower, with all three of the team's top attackers returning, including senior Cansu Günaydin, who logged a team-high 270 kills last season, with sophomore Katelyn Krienke sitting second at 167, and senior Alicia Coppedge not far behind logging 166. Additionally, Coppedge was the team leader in blocks with 79 across 24 matches. 
UTSA posted an 8-18 record last season and will look to improve as they open the campaign at 10 a.m. on Friday against Texas Southern. The Lady Tigers went 9-19 in 2022 and, similarly to the Roadrunners, returned their leading blocker in the form of Chenise Cook, who averaged 0.60 blocks per set. They also bring back the tandem of Dallas Balanay-Flores and Alaiyah Fields, who set the table for TSU, as Balanay-Flores topped the team with 459 assists, and Fields logged 241 helpers of her own. However, The Lady Tigers lost their top two attackers as Thalia Cordero Moreno and Danielle Lilley each graduated and reloaded with eight newcomers on the roster. Additionally, TSU was picked to finish sixth in the SWAC preseason poll. 
The Runners' will then battle Missouri State at 7 p.m. as they host their annual Let's Go 210 Orange Out, which asks fans to pack the convocation center and don orange while cheering on the squad in their first prime-time matchup of the new year. The Bears compiled a 9-21 record last season, including a 6-12 mark in the Missouri Valley Conference. That marked the first time in head coach Steven McRoberts' tenure that the Bears finished the season with a losing record, as McRoberts holds an impressive .687 career winning percentage and over 600 career wins across stops at Lubbock Christian, Central Arkansas, Tulsa, Ole Miss and at Missouri State. The Bears will have to replace Manuela Ibarguen, who was issued first-team All-MVC honors after amassing 339 kills. Morgan Sprague and Kate Owen represent critical returners for the squad as Sprague recorded 1,146 assists for the 47th-most across the NCAA, while Owen was the team leader in digs at 469.
The tournament will conclude with the final match seeing UTSA take on Texas A&M-Commerce at 2 p.m. on Saturday, with first-year head coach Joe Morales inheriting a roster that went 11-23 last season in what represented its first as an NCAA Division I institution. Morales is no stranger to the Convocation Center as he served as an assistant on the UTSA staff in 2021 and will be looking to return the Lions to the postseason for the 12th consecutive season. TAMUC brings back three regular starters from last year, most notably Essence Allen, who did so in 31 out of 34 matches while posting 221 kills and 39 blocks last season. Reese Fetty and Yasmin Figueiredo also represent the other regular starters to return.
Keep up with UTSA Volleyball all season long on goutsa.com, and by following the program on Facebook at /UTSAVBall, Twitter @UTSAVolleyball, and on Instagram @utsa_vb.