Under fourth-year head coach Steve Ballard, the UTSA Roadrunner soccer team is determined to finish what they have failed to do since soccer arrived at UTSA in 2006: win the Southland Conference Tournament (SLC).

The Roadrunners face a rough schedule as they play three Big XII teams; Texas Tech, Baylor and the 13th ranked Texas Longhorns.

UTSA was picked by the Sports Information Directors to finish second in the conference. The team features 17 players from last years’ lineup, which finished a game shy of the championship game.

Six players were named to the 2008 Southland Conference teams: juniors Veronica Najera, Ezinne Okpo and Chelsea Zimmerman and sophomore Allison Dillon were first-team selections, while juniors Celeste Carruth and Kim Selman received second-team honors.

Okpo was highly regarded last season as she finished on the first-team All-SLC and was second-team ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District.

UTSA brings in 16 new faces, blending in a mixture of experience and talented youth. UTSA was selected as having the top recruiting class in the SLC and 22nd of 70 teams in the Central Region according to SoccerBuzz.com.

“We’re excited about our team and the players we have coming back,” Ballard said. “Our returners have worked hard this off-season and I’m also looking forward to see what our new players will have for us.”

UTSA kicked off its season this past weekend in Houston by defeating the Houston Cougars in double overtime. Veronica Najera scored the game-winning goal in the 101st minute to defeat the Cougars, 1-0.

Sunday, the Runners were dealt their first loss of the season when they took on the Rice Owls, 5-1. Freshman Sheri Olayiwola scored her first collegiate goal and only goal for the Runners in the 87th minute.

UTSA’s first home game is Friday Aug. 29 vs. Texas Southern at 7p.m. at the Roadrunner fields.

They play one more home game against Texas Tech Aug. 31 before they go on a five-game roadtrip through September.

The Runners return home Sept. 28 to host the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs (TCU).

“We’re looking forward to a very competitive schedule both in non-conference and conference,” Ballard said. “Playing these teams confirms our commitment to building a championship program.”

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