Birmingham-bound Roadrunners take aim at UAB


SAN ANTONIO – Opening up another two-game road swing in Alabama, the UTSA soccer team (5-6-2, 0-3-1 AAC) heads to Birmingham looking for its first American Athletic Conference win on Thursday at PNC Field in a pivotal matchup against the UAB Blazers (4-4-4, 0-1-3 AAC). Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN+. 

Broadcast and Live Stats 

  • Thursday night’s game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ for subscribers. James Hardy and Joel Wallace will be on the call in Birmingham. 
  • UAB live stats can be found via HERE. 

Catching up with the Roadrunners
The Roadrunners are looking to shake off a four-game slide while in Birmingham, aiming to capture the program’s first league win in the inaugural American Athletic Conference season. However, any one of the last five games could have turned in UTSA’s favor – just one match saw an opponent (North Texas) hit more than a single goal, there was one AAC draw and UTSA is averaging just 1.00 goals against average in the last five and 0.85 on the season. In the most recent outing at SMU, the Mustangs edged the Roadrunners, 1-0, holding up a 15th-minute score by Peyton Annen, while using their sixth-year star keeper to fend off a bevy of UTSA attacks in the second half – including a 59th-minute save of a Maci Geltmeier strike and UTSA’s final push from Deja Sandoval in the 86th minute. It was an exceptionally physical game and SMU only barely edged out UTSA in shots by a 10-8 margin.

Offense at a Glance
 UTSA is getting its shots on attack, but none have found paydirt lately. The Roadrunners average 12.0 shots per game as a team and are shooting .417 on goal.
 20 different UTSA players have taken a shot this season (65 percent of the 31-player roster), with 18 unique players going on-target and 11 different players scoring a goal.
 Still in front of the UTSA scorers, Northwich, England freshman Sophie Morrin has three goals on 11 shots
 Graduate defender Sabrina Hillyer also has two goals and two assists, leading the attack with 17 shots – logging a team-high eight shots on goal.
 Junior midfielder Olivia Alvarez and junior defender have 14 shots apiece, with six and seven on target, respectively.

Taking on the Keeper
Freshman goalkeeper Jasmine Kessler opened her collegiate career with a string of games with not more than one goal scoring – and has turned that into a single outing with two goals in her seven starts since being thrust into action this year. Since arriving from Klein Collins High School in Spring, Texas, she’s only allowed six goals total, against 57 shots taken (27 on goal), while holding a 0.857 goals against average. Kessler has 19 saves and a .760 save percentage.

Defensive Considerations
The Roadrunners’ defense has an NCAA 64th-ranked .846 goals against average and have only allowed multiple goals in three of their 13 games.
 UTSA has recorded five shutouts to date.
 The Roadrunners have outshot opponents 156-107 on the year, with just 49 opposing shots on target and an 8.2-shot per game average.
 Kessler ranks 74th nationally and fourth in The American with a .857 GAA.

Series history
These teams weren’t the most-frequent annual opponents, despite sharing membership in Conference USA. The series will see its eighth iteration on Thursday, in the first meeting since a pair of tightly-contested outings last season. After capturing a 0-0 draw vs. the Blazers in Birmingham during the regular season, UTSA used a 1-0, double-overtime victory in the C-USA Tournament opener to springboard into an eventual conference tournament title. The Blazers lead the series 3-2-2 and these teams will play in Birmingham for the fifth time – where UAB holds a 2-1-2 advantage.

Scouting the Blazers
UAB is sitting at 4-4-4 and are also chasing their first AAC win after three ties in conference play. UAB’s last victory was on Sept. 7 in a 1-0 topping of Tennessee Tech. Since then, it was a 3-0 loss to South Alabama, three consecutive AAC draws and a 1-0 home loss last Thursday vs. USF. Breaking what looked like another draw, Signe Markvardsen scored in the 79th minute for the Bulls’ game-winner.

The Blazers are averaging 9.6 shots per game – below the barrage of the past three UTSA opponents, Memphis (19.3 spg), North Texas (17.5 spg) and SMU (10.3). However, UAB has found the goal enough to force out draws and average 0.92 gpg, notching a score in six outings – while recording six shutous and allowing a single goal in four more contests. Junior forward Carlyn Presley has three goals and 20 shots to lead the team, while graduate forward Morgan Halliwill has two goals on just seven shots.

In goal, Eve Beyer and Anika Toth have been tag-teaming the position with six starts apiece. Beyer has a 1.00 GAA but a team-high 29 saves and an .829 save percentage. Toth has only allowed three goals, recording a 0.53 GAA with 15 saves and an 0.833 save percentage.

UP NEXT: The road swing continues as far east as the regular season will take UTSA this year, heading to Philadelphia for a Sunday matchup at Temple (2-8-3, 0-4-0 AAC), marking a 1 p.m. CT kickoff at the Temple Sports Complex.