SAN ANTONIO – Urged on by a fantastic Greek Life Night crowd at the Park West Athletics Complex, the UTSA Soccer Team (5-4-2, 0-1-1 AAC) put grit and determination on full display as they scapped out 90 minutes with the American Athletic Conference-leading No. 12 Memphis Tigers (9-1, 2-0 AAC). Although UTSA fought with everything to the final horn, the Tigers were able to edge the Roadrunners on a game-winning goal in the waning moments of the first half, setting the final score at 1-0.
The opening minutes of Thursday night’s AAC home opener set the tone that the Roadrunners didn’t show up to be pushed around. UTSA came out and pressed the Tigers, hard – an unfamiliar feeling for one of the top offenses in the country. Across the first seven minutes, the ball barely even crossed the center line into the Roadrunners’ half and UTSA was in full attack early.
Through the first 30 minutes, the possessions were virtually deadlocked and the Roadrunners were spending 71 percent of their attacks in Memphis’ half of the field – leading in shots, 3-2, off strikes from Avery Chaney, Alex Granville and Olivia Alvarez.
As the first half clock wound down, Memphis drove the field more heavily, only to be turned away each time by UTSA's defensive blockade. However, in the 42nd minute the Tigers used a throw-in along the right sideline to set up Saorla Miller for a power shot from 14 yards into the upper left corner of the Roadrunners’ goal off a Mya Jones assist.
Beyond the half, the Tigers further ramped up their attacks, but fell short each time on outstanding performances from the UTSA defenders; particularly Haley Lopez, Deja Sandoval and Sasjah Dade. However, UM also juiced up their defensive pressure, holding off UTSA from getting chances at the equalizer through the final 45 – and handing UTSA its first loss in AAC play.
The Tigers entered Thursday’s game averaging 20.0 shots per game and ranking seventh in the NCAA, holding the seventh-best scoring offense at 3.12 goals per game. However, the UTSA defense limited Memphis to only 11 shots and a single score with a stalwart effort in goal by freshman goalkeeper Jasmine Kessler in her fifth consecutive start.
Kessler finished with four saves, bringing her total to 15 with an .833 save percentage on her rookie season to date.
The Tigers were limited to one score for just the fourth time this season and were the highest-ranking opponent to visit Park West since 2015. The Tigers list at 12th in the United Soccer Coaches poll and appeared at No. 9 in the TopDrawerSoccer poll.
MEM: Saorla Miller (42’)
Quoting Coach Derek Pittman
"To go toe-to-toe with arguably one of the top 10 teams in the country, I’m extremely proud of our players and the effort they showed tonight. We’re always very dangerous on the counter-attack, but we’ve got to be cleaner in front of goal. We had some really good chances early on before Memphis made some adjustments. Full credit to Memphis, they are ranked where they are for a reason, but we’re capable and our players showed tonight they are willing to play with the top teams in the league. I thought they did a phenomenal job and need to hold their heads high – this is something we can continue building on.”
With the first single-game week of the season here, the Roadrunners skip Sunday and turn their attention to the next familiar foe – North Texas visits Park West for the fifth time next Thursday in the teams’ 13th meeting in the series. The victories split last season after UNT took the regular-season matchup and UTSA topped the Mean Green, 2-1, to advance to the Conference USA Tournament final. UNT is 7-2 after blowing out Rice on Thursday night.
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