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UTSA hosts renewed rivalry with North Texas Thursday at Park West

by Michael Stambaugh

SAN ANTONIO – Back at Park West for the second consecutive game, UTSA soccer (5-4-2, 0-1-1 AAC) welcomes North Texas (7-2, 1-1 AAC) to San Antonio, refreshing the long-time rivalry in the American Athletic Conference era. In this 13th series meeting, the Roadrunners are hosting Run As One student-athlete night and kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. kickoff for the live broadcast on ESPN+. 

Broadcast and Live Stats 

  • Thursday night’s game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ for subscribers. Karl Schoening (play-by-play) and former UTSA forward/midfielder Alyssa Blankenship (analyst) will be on the call. 
  • UTSA live stats can be found via HERE. 

Special Events
Thursday's game is set to be soccer’s annual Run As One Game, inviting all UTSA student-athletes to use this game to come out as a group and support their fellow Roadrunners.

Catching up with the Roadrunners
UTSA’s faceoff with the league’s top team and two-time defending champion, the final margin was Razor thin. Taking on Memphis last Thursday at Park West, the Roadrunners put the 12th-ranked Tigers on their heels early and put a strong defensive product on the pitch. Memphis finally broke through in the 42nd minute with an almost unstoppable goal into the upper left corner to set up the 1-0 setback. The Tigers were averaging 20.0 shots per game and 3.12 goals per game, while UTSA held them back to just 11 shots and the single goal.

Taking the Lead
UTSA’s offense hasn’t funneled through a targeted set of strikers in 2023. Instead, opponents have had to contend with attacks from a variety of directions – specifically, there are 19 different players with shots on the year, 18 players with an on-goal shot and 11 different players logging a goal. The Roadrunners are averaging 12.45 shots per game and 1.36 goals per game.
 Fresh off a week-long journey to play with the Republic of Ireland U19 National Team in Wales and Northern Ireland, freshman Sophie Morrin is back as UTSA’s leading scorer with three goals on nine shots.
 Graduate Sabrina Hillyer is leading the Roadrunners with 16 shots, putting eight on target for a .500 SOG% - she has two goals.
 Junior Jordyn Hyland tops the squad with four assists, ranking 71st in the NCAA and third in the AAC.
 Morrin, Hyland and Hillyer are in a three-way tie with six points to lead UTSA.

Rookie at Work
Freshman goalkeeper Jasmine Kessler has risen to the occasion since taking over in goal during her first season out of Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas. She’s made the past five consecutive starts and has only allowed three goals vs. 39 shots taken (18 on goal), producing a 0.60 goals against average. Kessler has 15 saves and an .833 save percentage – putting her on a similar pace to Dacia Webb’s 2010 season at UTSA – which ranks second in the single-season records for save percentage. Her experience as a Texas 6A high school football kicker is frequently on display, as she can flip the field with her boot at any time.

Defensive Experience Making a Difference
Working with a very experienced back line that has a collective 235 career UTSA starts, the Roadrunners have only allowed multiple goals in two of their 11 games. They’ve outshot the opposition 137-89 on the year, with just 42 opposing shots on target. Long-term defensive players have given the Roadrunners extra chances with their play; Deja Sandoval, Alex Granville, Sasjah Dade and Sabrina Hillyer and while transfer Haley Lopez has jumped right into the lineup and made a huge impact.

Series history
Thursday will mark the 13th overall meeting between these programs with a long rivalry throughout UTSA’s time in Conference USA. This is the fifth time for UNT visiting San Antonio. The Mean Green lead the overall series 7-5 and the games split last season after UNT earned the 3-1 win in Denton, but the Roadrunners won out in the neutral matchup, 2-1, advancing to the C-USA Tournament final and eventually the championship. The series is split at 2-2 in San Antonio, with last bout going to UTSA in a 1-0 overtime victory in 2021.

Scouting the Mean Green
Projected in the top tier of The American West Division, North Texas is holding up their end with a 7-2 record. They did drop their opener to highly-ranked Memphis, 2-0, but quickly rebounded with a 6-0 bashing of Rice to end the week. On Monday, the Mean Green moved up to No. 30 in the NCAA's RPI ranking and earned a pair of coaches poll votes. 

Similar to Memphis, the Mean Green log 3.11 goals per game and rack up 18.1 shots per outing; holding opponents to a 1.00-goal average. Tag-teaming for the lead, Summer Brown and Jenna Sheely both have six goals for UNT on 23 and 21 shots, respectively. Three other players have logged four goals apiece. In goal, Maddie Ogden has started all nine contests, registering 34 saves on a .791 save percentage. She has four solo shutouts, two combined shutouts and a 1.11 GAA.

UP NEXT: A second consecutive single-game week gives UTSA a few days to rest and prepare for UTSA’s October opener next Thursday at SMU for the first meeting with the Mustangs since 2014.