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UTSA hits the road with Kansas State rematch on Thursday

SAN ANTONIO – After a promising start in two home matches, the UTSA soccer team (2-0) heads north to Manhattan, Kansas for the first road tilt of the year. The Roadrunners will face the Kansas State Wildcats (1-0-1) on Thursday night in the rematch of an epic milestone victory for UTSA last August at Park West. The game is slated for broadcast on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with kickoff set for 8 p.m. due to forecasted weather.

Broadcast and Live Stats

  • Originally slated for 7 p.m. but moved due to an anticipated high temperature of 104, Thursday's match will air at 8 p.m. on Big 12 Now on ESPN+ with Brian Smoller (play-by-play), Oscar Montenegro (analyst) and Hanna Whetstone (sideline) on the call.
  • Kansas State will have live stats running through

Front Foot Forward
You couldn't ask much more from the Roadrunners through the first two games, first lighting up the scoreboard against Central Arkansas with goals from five different players in the 5-1 win, then the season's first clean sheet against McNeese, topping the Cowgirls, 2-0. Across both contests, the Roadrunners outshot the opposition 47-3 – yes, that's only three shots allowed in 180 minutes of play. The lone opposing score arrived via a penalty shot against Central Arkansas.

UTSA opens up the 2023 season at 2-0-0 as the first Roadrunners team to do it since 2016 – a team that won three of its first four.

In the early going, UTSA has not only produced a seemingly impenetrable defensive approach, but the Roadrunners have diversified their attack. Of the seven goals in the twine, each has been delivered by a different player: graduate student Sabrina Hillyer, junior Jordan Walker, graduate student Alissa Stewart, fifth-year Deja Sandoval, freshman Sophie Morrin, senior Sasjah Dade and junior Zoë Lam – pick your poison it seems.

Hillyer is among a trio of UTSA players tied in scoring with three points apiece, also notching an assist and taking a team-high seven shots with four on goal (.572 SOG%). Joining her at the top of the stat sheet, junior midfielder Jordyn Hyland has three assists; as does senior defender Alex Granville. Walker matches Hillyer's shot total at seven, also placing four on target with a .571 SOG%.
As a team, the Roadrunners have placed 25-of-47 shots on target for a .532 roster wide SOG%.

Series history
The Roadrunners and Wildcats have only met one previous time on the pitch – last season when K-State traveled to the Park West Athletics Complex in San Antonio. The Roadrunners earned their first win over a Big 12 program that afternoon, on August 28. UTSA took an early lead in the seventh minute and KSU countered with a tied game at 58 minutes. With time dwindling away to avoid a tie, 2022 All-Conference USA honoree and 2023 AAC Watch-Lister Sasjah Dade, launched the ball to the left side of the net past the diving Kansas State goalkeeper in the 88th minute for the game-winning goal. UTSA outshot Kansas State by 15 shots (five on target) to eight shots (one on goal).

Across the 18-year stretch of the program, UTSA is 1-35-1 against Big 12 teams – facing nine different programs. The Roadrunners held a draw with Baylor in 2007.

Forward From Here
Although the focus is now, it bears repeating that 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. For their success, the soccer team joined in with fellow C-USA Champions from the football team for a City of San Antonio celebratory boat parade on the River Walk.

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 have already earned opportunities for significant potential impact in the lineup, including Haley Lopez and Sophie Morrin, who both garnered starts and averaged over 66 minutes against the Bears and Cowgirls.

At the helm for the Roadrunners, Pittman has a UTSA record of 41-35-12 (.534), 92-102-30 (.478) overall across stints at three institutions.

Early Regional Appearances
With Tuesday's announcement of the first week rankings by the United Soccer Coaches, UTSA has not only made its earliest appearance in the South Region poll, but have now climbed to a program best at No. 3 in the South, behind only Memphis and North Texas – both conference-mates in The American. Last season's pair of rankings were the first in the program's 18-year history, reaching as high as fifth. After just one week, Kansas State is not yet in the Midwest Region top 10.

Not Just Polling
Moving beyond votes, UTSA has earned some early rankings on the pitch. The 2023 Roadrunners are among just 67 teams that have opened with a 2-0 record to start the season, and one of only three in the American Athletic Conference. Paced by an AAC-leading 47-3 shot differential across the first two non-conference contests, the Roadrunners lead or tie for the conference lead in eight other statistics: total points (24), points per game (12.00), scoring offense (3.50), total goals (7) shots per game (23.5), shots on goal per game (12.5), assists (10) and assists per game (5.0). For those stat categories, UTSA also comes in nationally at fifth in assists and assists per game, as well as 15th in total points, 15th in points per game, 16th in shots on goal per game and 17th in shots per game.

Individually, senior defender Alex Granville and junior midfielder Hyland lead the conference and tie for third in the NCAA in assists per game (1.50) and total assists (3). Likewise, senior defender Dade and graduate defender Hillyer have the game-winning goals to tie atop The American. Junior goalkeeper Mia Krusinski is third in the AAC and 81st nationally with a .500 goal against average, ranking fourth in the nation in GK minutes at 180.

Inaugural Honors
Marking the first week competing in the American Athletic Conference, senior defender Deja Sandoval made her stamp in the history books, becoming the first UTSA student-athlete of any sport to receive a weekly conference honor in The American. On Monday, Sandoval was named the first AAC Defensive Player of the Week after spearheading the brick wall of a defensive effort in opening week action. Leaning on Sandoval's leadership, the Roadrunners allowed only a single goal – a successful penalty kick. Sandoval played 179-of-180 minutes in her two starts and delivered the first goal of the season via a corner kick header against Central Arkansas. She took four shots, three of which were on goal. Joining her in recognition, Hyland was named among the AAC's Weekly Honor Roll.

Cross-State Connections
Unsurprisingly, the Roadrunners roster features 14 in-state players, but nobody is making a homecoming this week – with zero players from Kansas or Missouri. Kansas State on the other hand has a roster count at six from the Lone Star State – most notably including former Roadrunner Kiran Singh, a senior out of Cypress, Texas.

Singh spent the first three seasons of her career at UTSA, earning All-Conference USA and All-Region honors last year as the top scorer, with 20 points off seven goals and six assists. One of each came against KSU, as Singh scored the first goal of the game at seven minutes and then delivered the assist to Dade for the game-winner.

Scouting the Wildcats
Kansas State kicked off their season with a 4-1 win at Green Bay, rallying quickly from a 1-0 deficit in the opening 10 minutes to draw the game at 18' on the first of two goals for sophomore Jazmin Brown. The Wildcats fired off three more scores in the final 20 minutes, capped off by freshman Jo Sees. KSU wrapped up the first week in Evanston at then 18th-ranked Northwestern, where the battle of the Wildcats ended in a 0-0 draw and pushed the KSU record to 1-0-1. NU outshot KSU 19-3, while the sophomore keeper Murphy Sheaff closed out five saves.

Brown was on the All-Big 12 Freshman Team last season and racked the first two goals of her career against Green Bay to assume the early KSU scoring lead. Graduate defender and captain Aliyah El-Naggar and Sees account for the other two KSU goals, while Singh has two assists after two games.

Overall, the Wildcats lead opponents 30-22 in shot differential with 11 on goal for a .367 SOG% so far. Opponents have come away with seven saves to date against the KSU offense.

Mike Dibbini is in his eighth season leading the Wildcats, holding a 33-74-16 (.333) record and is 54-87-22 (.399) after starting out at Cal Poly Pomona.

UP NEXT: UTSA is back at home for a big one, hosting Texas State on Sunday evening for the Battle of I-35 at the Park West Athletic Complex. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m. in the 11th meeting in the series – which TXST leads 3-5-2, most recently played in 2019 in San Antonio. The Bobcats (2-0) face North Texas (2-0) on Thursday at home.