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Florida Atlantic visits Park West for UTSA Senior Night

SAN ANTONIO – The UTSA soccer team (6-6-3, 1-3-2- AAC) kicks off its final home week on Thursday night at Park West, hosting the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls (6-5-4, 2-2-2 AAC) in a points-crucial American Athletic Conference tilt. The Roadrunners are celebrating Senior Night after the contest, honoring eight seniors playing their final week at home for the Blue and Orange. Thursday’s kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast live on ESPN+.

Broadcast and Live Stats 

  • Thursday’s game will air at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ for subscribers. Karl Shoening (play-by-play) and former Roadrunner Alyssa Blankenship (analyst) will be on the call from Park West.
  • UTSA live stats can be found via HERE. 

Catching up with the Roadrunners
The Roadrunners are coming off their best week in conference play this season, first earning a 1-1 draw at UAB to snap a four-game losing skid, followed by the first AAC victory in a 2-0 triumph at Temple. Jordan Walker accounted for two of the three UTSA goals on the 3,100-mile road trip, helping grant the Roadrunners four key points in the AAC standings. Adding the icing on the win over Temple, freshman Michelle Polo scored in the 84th minute for her first collegiate goal. Across six games in conference play, UTSA maintains a goals-against-average at 0.83 and is 0.800 overall on the season – ranking 49th nationally and fourth in the AAC.

Pulling in Some More Honors
For her efforts in Birmingham and Philadelphia, Walker was named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week, marking the second Roadrunner to earn top weekly honors this season – after Deja Sandoval was named Defensive Player of the Week following week one. At UAB, Walker scored the game-tying goal on a header in the 63rd minute, leading UTSA to its second AAC draw. At Temple, she pulled the keeper toward her and fired an eighth-minute score into the upper left corner for the game-winning goal, the second of her career – setting the stage for UTSA’s first program AAC win. In addition, rookie goalkeeper
Jasmine Kessler notched her first career appearance on the AAC’s Weekly Honor Roll.

Offense at a Glance
 Last week, UTSA snapped a scoreless string dating back to Sept. 10th and scored in consecutive games, notching their first multi-goal game since that same game against Stephen F. Austin – with four draws produced in the interim. UTSA is tabbing 11.4 shots per outing, with 5.0 on target per game, shooting .439 on goal.
 Proving the attack can come from anywhere when facing the Roadrunners, 21 different UTSA players have taken a shot this season (68 percent of the 31-player roster), with 19 unique players going on-target and Polo making it 12 different players scoring a goal.
 A junior forward from Burleson, Texas, Walker moves into a tie with Northwich, England freshman Sophie Morrin to lead the team with three goals apiece.
 Sabrina Hillyer also has a pair of goals herself, pacing the team with 18 shots, just a hair ahead of Walker at 17. Hillyer has eight shots on goal (.444 SOG%), while walker ties junior midfielder Olivia Alvarez with a team-best nine shots on target – Walker is at a .529 SOG% and Alvarez is at .500 SOG%.
In addition, Sasjah Dade has recorded 14 shots (five on target) and Morrin has 13 (five on target).
 Junior Jordyn Hyland has a team-leading five assists and ranks 54th nationally and third in The American with a 0.42 assist per game average. For overall assists, Hyland comes in at 97th nationally and third in the AAC.

Keeping Things Calm
It has been amazing to watch the development of Kessler in the net, meeting the challenge since being pushed to early-career action in the seventh game, only allowing one opponent to score multiple goals in the nine starts since. Picking up her weekly AAC recognition, Kessler allowed just one score in 180 minutes last week. At UAB, Kessler registered three saves and notched a career-high six saves at Temple – bringing her weekly total to nine. She also recorded her first career assist, dropping an 84th-minute free kick in perfect position to set up classmate Polo’s score late score against the Owls. On the week, Kessler recorded a .900 save percentage. Hailing from Spring, Texas’ Klein Collins High School, Kessler was a three-time District 15-6A Goalkeeper of the Year (2020-21, 2021-22) and kicked for the Tigers’ football team. This season, Kessler has only allowed seven goals against 74 shots (37 on goal). She has a .780 GAA, has 28 saves and her .800 save percentage sits on pace for fourth in the single-season record book.
Kessler ranks 58th in the NCAA and sixth in The American in GAA, while she also comes in at 107th nationally and sixth in the AAC in save percentage.
 Kessler has three shutouts this season.

Leading with Defense
UTSA’s Deja Sandoval, Alex Granville, Dade and Hillyer, join first-year center back Haley Lopez to bring a collective 291 career starts to an exceptionally experienced defense. The Roadrunners defense has logged six shutouts this season with six one-score games on the slate. UTSA is winning the shot differential 171-124 with a 75-59 advantage for on-target attempts, while producing 1.20 goals per game to an opposing 0.80.

Back in the House
Park West and UTSA’s home crowd have been good to the Roadrunners, helping with the meteoric ascent starting in 2021. The Roadrunners are averaging 819 fans per game this season at home, which ranks 76th in the NCAA and second in the AAC. UTSA is 4-2 at home in 2023 with a 16-4-4 (.750) across the past three seasons.

Last Rides
Representatives of five states with one from Canada, eight Roadrunners are set to be celebrated in a post-game ceremony on Thursday night at Park West. The group enters the week having made 267 individual starts in 432 individual games, accounting for a combined 25,000 minutes at UTSA. This group has been at the core of the recent rise of UTSA soccer and were big contributors to the 2022 Conference USA Tournament Championship, the Roadrunners’ first NCAA appearance since 2010 and two of the best consecutive seasons in UTSA history.

Avery Chaney (Midfielder/San Antonio, Texas) has played 37 games with 15 starts, logging two goals, four assists and 24 shots. She is a three-time UTSA Honor Roll member and received one Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll nod. Her degree is in Kinesiology with a concentration in Kinesiology and Health.
Mikhaela Cortez (Midfielder/Oak Harbor, Wash.) has played 16 games with one start. She was twice named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and has been on the UTSA Dean’s List. Her degree is in Medical Humanities with a Pre-Med concentration and a minor in Physics.
Marlee Fray (Forward/Coconut Creek, Fla.) has played 41 games with one start, scoring six goals with five assists as an important player off the bench – putting up 30 shots. She was named to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll three times, UTSA Honor Roll twice and once to the UTSA Dean’s List. Her degree is in Psychology.
 Alex Granville (Defender/Maitland, Fla.) has played 72 games with 39 starts. She has one goal and four assists on 19 shots. She was named four times to the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll and is wrapping up her degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Kinesiology and Health.
Mackenzie Kaufhold (Defender/Rockwall, Texas) has collected 49 appearances with eight starts. An academic star, she earned three Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals, with three C-USA honor roll recognitions, four appearances on the UTSA Dean’s List and one on the UTSA President’s List. Her degree is in Medical Humanities with a Pre-Advanced Practice Provider concentration.
 Sarina Russ (Midfielder/Lafayette, Colo.) has started 70 of 78 games played, scoring one goal with five assists; notching 38 shots. She has earned four Conference USA Commissioner’s Academic Medals with four C-USA Honor Roll laurels, four UTSA Dean’s List and two UTSA President’s List recognitions. She is finishing off her degree in Kinesiology with a concentration in Kinesiology and Health and a Business Administration minor.
Deja Sandoval (Defender/Albuquerque, N.M.) On the verge of becoming the program’s all-time leader in career games played and starts, she’s entering the week at 84 contests with 81 starts. She’s scored 10 career goals with six assists on 69 shots. A Biology major with a Business Administration minor, she is a two-time member of the Conference USA Commissioner’s Honor Roll. She also sits in a five-way tie for ninth in the program’s career goals and in a four-way tie for ninth in career points in the record book.
 Alissa Stewart (Forward-Midfielder/Burlington, Ontario, Canada) has started 53 times in her 56 games as a Roadrunner, scoring eight goals with seven assists on 47 shots, while sporting a .574 SOG%. An academic standout as well, she already has her BBA as a Finance and Economics double-major and is working on her Master of Business Administration with a Project Management graduate certificate. She was a College Sports Communicators Academic All-District honoree and was twice named to the Conference USA All-Academic Team with two C-USA Academic Medals, three appearances on the UTSA President’s List and once on the UTSA Dean’s List.

Series history
This matchup marks the eighth meeting between these programs. After tying the Owls in Boca Raton during the regular season last year, UTSA defeated Florida Atlantic in the 2022 Conference USA Tournament Final to win the C-USA Tournament Championship - Claiming a 3-2 overtime win that saw Fray score two goals on the Owls, including a 92nd-minute game winner in the first OT period. The series sits fairly even with a 2-2-3 divide heading into Thursday night.

Scouting the Owls
UTSA’s second game in a row facing an Owl-mascot opponent, FAU comes in at 6-5-4 and 2-2-2 in American play. The Owls tied North Texas, 1-1, on Sunday in Boca Raton, after dropping a 1-0 setback to SMU on Thursday.

The Owls average 1.13 goals per game and 8.00 shots per outing – going an NCAA 23rd-best .547 shot accuracy on 4.33 on-target shots per contest. Defensive-minded, FAU allows 1.078 goals per game and have five shutouts with four single-score games.

Sophomore forward Elin Simonardottir tops the squad with five goals on 19 shots, sporting a .632 SOG%. Four other Owls have two goals apiece, while freshman forward Olivia Bori leads with four assists. Taking the reins in AAC play, senior keeper Lexi Gonzalez holds a 0.79 GAA with a 3-2-2 record, 29 saves and an 0.829 save percentage.

UP NEXT: The Roadrunners close out their home slate on Sunday with a Pink Out for Breast Cancer Awareness against South Florida. The Bulls and Roadrunners are set for a 1 p.m. kickoff. USF is 8-5-1 and leading the AAC Eastern Division with a 4-1-1 record, facing Rice in Houston on Thursday.