SAN ANTONIO – Continuing their outstanding home efforts with a Sunday victory in the Battle of I-35, the UTSA soccer team (3-1) tries its hand at the road with the longest trip of the early season, taking in the first of two away contests this week on Thursday at Grand Canyon (2-1-1). The Roadrunners and Lopes will meet for the fourth time with a 7 p.m. PDT (9 p.m. PDT) kickoff at GCU Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona. Thursday’s game is slated for broadcast on ESPN+.
Broadcast and Live Stats
Getting on the Front Foot
The Roadrunners have opened up with three wins through four contests for the third year in a row and fourth time in six years under head coach Derek Pittman. UTSA is fresh off an important regional win, toppling Texas State in the Battle of I-35 on Sunday, 1-0. Though possession time and shot differential didn’t sway toward the Roadrunners, a strong defensive effort proved to be crucial after freshman Sophie Morrin finished off a two-part assist from Deja Sandoval and Olivia Alvarez for the game-winner. UTSA fended off five shots on target with five saves from junior keeper Mia Krusinski and limited the Bobcats’ chances in the 18-yard box.
After starting out the year 2-0 on victories over Central Arkansas and McNeese with a combined 7-1 scoring margin, the Roadrunners faced an absolute battle in their first road test, falling in a tense rematch at Kansas State – the Wildcats fresh off a 0-0 draw with then-No. 18 Northwestern.
The Roadrunners are outshooting opponents 61-31 through four games with 10 saves and a pair of clean sheets in the books. UTSA has logged a .492 shot on goal percentage with a .769 save percentage.
Putting in Numbers
A frequent and soon-to-be-again representative of Republic of Ireland’s National Team, Morrin is the lone Roadrunner to reach two goals through four games, as UTSA has spread the scoring around to seven different players. In her 251 minutes and four starts to open her rookie campaign, Morrin has scored on both of her shots on goal out of four total attempts, locking in a .500 shot on goal percentage.
Sharing the Love
With 12 assists and 3.0 assists per game, the Roadrunners remain atop the American Athletic Conference list in both stats, while ranking 18th in total and 21st per game in the NCAA standings. Leading the way, fifth-year defender Alex Granville and junior midfielder Jordyn Hyland are tied with three assists apiece, tying for the top individual spots in the AAC and 14th in the nation. Hyland is first in the AAC at 1.00 per game and eighth in the NCAA, while Granville is the AAC No. 2 and 30th nationally. In total, eight different Roadrunners have logged an assist through the first four games.
Averaging 15.25 shots per game as a team with 7.5 shots on target per outing, UTSA applies a lot of pressure for opponents. Pacing the Roadrunners, graduate defender Sabrina Hillyer has racked up nine shots, with five on target and a .556 SOG%. Just a step behind, junior forward/midfielder Jordan Walker has eight, with four on goal and a .500 SOG%. Mixing the angle of attack, 14 Roadrunners have taken an on-target shot this year and UTSA splits a pretty even balance in timing of its attack, going 33-28 for shots in the second half versus the first.
Life Between the Pipes
So far, all 360 minutes in goal have been claimed by Krusinski, coming in as UTSA’s most-experienced goalkeeper. She now has 13 consecutive starts, dating back to last season. One of three players named to the American Athletic Conference Preseason Watch List, Krusinski has 10 saves, a .769 save percentage, a 3-1 record and 0.75 GAA, claiming two shutouts. She entered the season with an 8-3-1 record and four shutouts in 11 starts (14 games) last season, recording a .771 save percentage with a team-best 37 saves – following her transfer from Florida Gulf Coast. She grabbed a career-high 11 saves in the NCAA Tournament match against TCU and recorded 10 saves in the three-game 2022 Conference USA Tournament Championship stretch, earning a spot of the All-Tournament Team last November.
Grand Canyon and UTSA are meeting for the fourth time and the Roadrunners are a perfect 3-0. These teams have only played one previous time in Phoenix, a 4-0 UTSA victory in 2019. In the last outing in 2021, GCU outshot UTSA by eight but the Roadrunners used two scores early in the second half to come away with a 2-1 triumph.
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 returned 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 Morrin, who both have been among the starting lineup each outing, averaging 84 minutes and 63 minutes, respectively. Grad transfer Maci Geltmeier (42 mpg) and freshmen Brittany Holden (35 mpg) and Maddie Reynolds (35 mpg) have also seen significant time off the bench.
At the helm for the Roadrunners, Pittman has a UTSA record of 42-36-12 (.533) and 93-103-30 (.478) overall across stints at three institutions.
Early Regional Appearances
UTSA appeared in the first weekly rankings by the United Soccer Coaches with not only its earliest appearance in a South Region poll, but also the highest ranking in program history – coming in at third in the South. In the second week of rankings, UTSA sits at No. 4 in the South after falling to K-State and SMU knocking off 25th-ranked Tennessee.
Scouting the Lopes
Likely one of the best and most underrated programs UTSA has on the non-conference slate, Grand Canyon is off to a 2-1-1 start, dominating Bakersfield (5-0) and Wright State (4-0), with a narrow 2-1 loss to Mississippi State and a 1-1 draw at Arizona.
The Lopes went 11-7-2 last season after going 16-4-2 in 2021 with a WAC Championship and an NCAA Tournament appearance – big strides being made under fourth-year head coach Chris Cissell.
Six players have logged at least one of the Lopes’ 11 goals on 62 shots, but senior forward Gianna Gourley is dominating the scoring column. Gourley has five goals through four games, ranking ninth in the NCAA in goals per game with nine shots on goal. Named to the 2022 All-WAC first team, she’s coming off the best offensive season in GCU history – boasting 18 goals and six assists a year ago. The year prior, she racked up 10 goals in her first year after transferring from Iowa.
Senior forward Bekah Valdez also has a pair of goals and a pair of assists, ranking second in team scoring, while sophomore midfielder Leah Pirro has been the setup with a team-high five assists. The Lopes have a .468 on-target percentage as a team.
Much like UTSA, GCU has only allowed three goals in four games, and also like the Roadrunners, have a single keeper in the minutes. Junior DeAira Jackson has 16 saves, a 0.75 GAA and an .842 save percentage to go with her two clean sheets. She’s in her first GCU season after two years at Cal State Fullerton.
Leading GCU, Cissell is 37-21-6 (.625) and 307-141-40 (.670) after long successful stretches at Kansas City and William Jewell.
UP NEXT: UTSA’s westward swing continues as the Roadrunners head to Riverside, California for Cal Baptist (2-1) on September 3. UTSA is next at home on September 7 against Texas A&M-Commerce for Military Appreciation Night and Youth Camp Reunion.