A Union Strengthened By UTSA Athletics

by Sean Cartell

SAN ANTONIO – Former UTSA baseball player Jonathan Tapia vividly remembers his first trip to Disney World with his then-girlfriend, former UTSA soccer player Alyssa Blankenship. 

“I remember every single thing that we did,” Tapia said. “The only time I could ever go on a trip was in December and she and her family asked if I wanted to go to Disney with them. That whole week, I was like a little kid in a candy shop. It was one of the best times of my life.” 

This past November 11 – and many trips to Disney later – Blankenship and Tapia, high school sweethearts both from the San Antonio area, were married at the Magic Kingdom. Officiating the ceremony was Beth Noteware, UTSA Assistant Athletics Director for Academic Services. 

Noteware had served as Tapia’s academic advisor for five years and Blankenship’s for more than two. Blankenship also worked as a graduate assistant and later academic coordinator in the Roadrunners’ Student-Athlete Academic Services division. 

“It was a big honor that they entrusted their wedding day to me,” Noteware said. “The fact that their families also trusted me and were excited about it really meant a lot. The fact that it was at Disney – Alyssa literally looked like a princess. The wedding was very much like a fairy tale.” 

The relationship between Blankenship and Tapia has followed a similar storyline. 

The two have dated since their high school days in Northwest San Antonio – Blankenship at Brandeis High and Tapia at O’Connor. Neither had planned to attend UTSA together, but both got offers to play for the Roadrunners and decided to stay close to home. 

Their support of one another has been a constant throughout their time together. 

“It’s really just being there for one another and communicating,” Blankenship said. “We’re both in school and playing soccer and baseball are also like full-time jobs. You understand that’s the person you’re coming home to and that’s what they’re going through. A key part of it is really just being each other’s biggest supporters.” 

Tapia echoed similar sentiments and fondly reflected on Blankenship’s travel to watch him play summer baseball throughout the country, including destinations as far away as Kansas.

“Baseball is basically a year-long thing,” he said. “Alyssa was always there for me and was at every single game she could be at. In the summer, I would travel and play summer baseball. She would attempt to make at least one of the games. In my heart, one of the biggest things has been that we’ve supported each other and been there for each other.” 

Both Blankenship and Tapia excelled in the classroom in addition to their chosen sports and both were multi-time honorees to the Conference USA Academic Honor Roll. Noteware became a mentor to them and her impact extended far beyond their academic performance. 

“Not only did she help guide us academically, but she also helped us as young adults just navigating through college,” Blankenship said. “Anything I needed, she was always there. She’s a great role model and really made an impact in just the five years with us. I really appreciated that.” 

Tapia, just like 45 percent of UTSA’s general student population, was a first-generation college student. He found Noteware’s guidance throughout the experience to be invaluable. 

“I was the first one in my family to graduate from college, so nobody else in my family knew about college,” Tapia said. “Beth was a big influence on me. I honestly went to her for every little thing. She is always there for you and her door is always open. She has always just been that adult presence who helped get me through college.” 

When Blankenship first asked Noteware to officiate the couple’s wedding ceremony, Noteware wasn’t sure she was serious. 

“I had never done it before; this was all new,” Noteware said. “It’s been kind of a new trend in weddings – especially destination weddings - to have someone in your life do the ceremony rather than a preacher.” 

Noteware sought the advice of her hometown minister in Perry, Okla., to prepare her for the big day. 

“Last summer when I was home - I have a great relationship with my preacher at home - I sat down with him and asked, ‘How do I do this?” Noteware said. “He gave me something that one of his professors had given him when he was in theology school. It was just kind of an outline of everything they go through in each wedding.” 

For Blankenship and Tapia, there was no one they’d rather have perform the ceremony. 

“It was a no-brainer,” Blankenship said. “We had really connected with her and she became one of our friends. Her personality and who she is, we wanted her to be part of our special day and to have that role.” 

Blankenship and Tapia, both of whom have entered into successful careers, reference their time as student-athletes at UTSA as being paramount in their lives. 

This past month, Blankenship opened a new chapter when she started as a claims adjuster at USAA, one of San Antonio’s largest employers. 

“I got my undergraduate degree at UTSA, I got my master’s and a graduate certificate, and I played five years,” she said. “To me, it was just a huge step in my young adulthood. It really helped develop me as a person. With Coach [Derek] Pittman and his leadership and core values, I carry those values out and us a lot of what UTSA has instilled in me in my every day of my life. I am appreciative of the opportunities I was given and the people I have met.” 

Tapia is now a criminal background investigator and credits UTSA for preparing him for his current role. 

“UTSA has come a long way ever since I started school, especially with the RACE building” Tapia said. “I feel old looking back now from 2017 to when I last played. Football and soccer have won championships and we finished in second place in a good baseball conference. I can’t thank UTSA enough for allowing me to be part of athletics and to get an education.” 

As they move forward in this next phase of their lives, Blankenship and Tapia will always have their UTSA careers and a special wedding day to reflect back upon. 

“I tried to soak up everything I could,” Tapia said. “Having Beth be there for us and do that for us was really a treat. I know she enjoyed it as well. It was the best thing.”