SFA Ladyjacks to test Aston’s Roadrunners at ‘The Sawmill’

Coach Karen Aston at UTSA women's basketball practice at the Convocation Center on Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022. - photo by Joe Alexander

Karen Aston has added some talented new players to the roster for her second season at UTSA . – Photo by Joe Alexander

The second season in Karen Aston’s tenure at UTSA opens in one of the most iconic locales in the state for women’s basketball.

Aston’s Roadrunners are set to play today in East Texas at Nacogdoches. They’ll tip off at 5:30 p.m. at Johnson Coliseum, affectionately known as “The Sawmill,” the home of Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks.

Leading a team with a revamped roster, including eight newcomers and five freshmen, Aston will face a daunting challenge. The Ladyjacks have won 100 games over the past four seasons. They’ve won back-to-back regular-season championships.

The first of the two titles came in the program’s last year in the Southland Conference, in 2020-21, followed by another championship last season in the Western Athletic Conference. After both seasons, the Ladyjacks reached the NCAA tournament.

Last year, SFA finished 28-5. In an interview last week, Aston suggested that it wasn’t ideal for her team, with so many freshman, to play against such an established program in the opener.

“I mean, for this particular team, would it have been better to have a home opener and settle in a little bit, since we didn’t have an exhibition game,” she said. “Yeah, I definitely think that. We had an exhibition scheduled and then it got canceled.

“I think it would have been good for this team to play under the lights (at home). But, you know, it didn’t work like that, and we’ll do our best to be as competitive as we can be.”

Last year, as the former coach of the Texas Longhorns laid the groundwork for her program in San Antonio, it was a struggle for much of the season. Aston’s Roadrunners lost by 27 points at home to SFA in the opener. They went on to finish 7-23.

This season, the Roadrunners have upgraded the talent level, adding transfers Jordyn Jenkins and Kyra White from Southern Cal. Freshman Sidney Love, the player of the year in San Antonio at Steele last season, is also expected to play a significant role.

Elyssa Coleman and Queen Ulabo lead the returning players.

“Well I think the players are ready to play, regardless of what goes good or bad,” Aston said. “Really, at this point, you just need to play. The monotony of practice and what you’re doing every day in practice is sort of at an all-time high until you play a game and get in front of a crowd and see if the things you’ve been working on are, you know, (whether) you can be successful with those things.

“Do you need to make changes? I mean, none of those assessments can be made until you get in there and play a real game.”

SFA women claim 77-50 victory over UTSA in season opener

Karen Aston. The UTSA women's basketball team lost its 2021-22 season opener to Stephen F. Austin 77-50 on Tuesday at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

First-year UTSA women’s basketball coach Karen Aston says her team needs to learn how to play consistently from play to play. – Photo by Joe Alexander

The UTSA Roadrunners pushed the pace and tried to run with the Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks. The Roadrunners played with a determined effort in Karen Aston’s first game as coach.

But while they showed up with the will to win, they couldn’t get that done. Not against an SFA team that showed off a talented group of players capable of challenging for a second straight trip to the NCAA tournament.

The Ladyjacks bolted to an early lead, forced 33 turnovers and cruised to a 77-50 victory Tuesday night in the season-opener for both teams at the UTSA Convocation Center.

“I thought we started the game off well and then a couple of things didn’t go our way,” Aston said. “So we started to get a little antsy and got passive. And they kind of smelled the blood a little bit in the first half.”

Aston said the Roadrunners need to learn how to play every possession.

“I thought we showed signs of some good things and then we’d turn back around and foul,” she said. “Or … not get back on defense. I think there’s a play-to-play aspect that this team just doesn’t understand right now that we’ll get to.”

LaPraisjah Johnson. The UTSA women's basketball team lost its 2021-22 season opener to Stephen F. Austin 77-50 on Tuesday at the Convocation Center. - photo by Joe Alexander

Lapraisjah Johnson led the Roadrunners in scoring with 13 points. She also had four rebounds. – Photo by Joe Alexander

Scoring leaders

UTSA: Lapraisjah Johnson 13.
SFA: Stephanie Visscher 15, Tasharian Robinson 11, Angel Scott 10.

Third quarter

SFA leads 57-36

Despite eight points and three rebounds in the quarter from Lapraisjah Johnson and a determined effort from Queen Ulabo and others, the Roadrunners couldn’t slow down the Ladyjacks. UTSA, trailing by 16 at the half, cut the lead to 13 early in the period but failed to get any closer. Tasharian Robinson nailed a three to ignite a 15-7 run for SFA.

Second quarter

SFA leads 38-22 at halftime.

Playing better at the outset of the quarter, the Roadrunners pulled to within 10 when Jadyn Pimentel knocked down a 3 from the top of the circle. From there, the offense went a little bit haywire. UTSA went 0 for 6 from the field in a lull that stretched to the halftime buzzer. The Roadrunners were called for a shot-clock violation on their final possession, their 20th turnover of the game to that point. Stephanie Visscher had four points and an assist for the Ladyjacks in the period.

First quarter

SFA leads 22-9.

Tasharian Robinson hit two 3-pointers in a furious 13-3 run to close out the first quarter for the Ladyjacks. SFA sank five of six from the field during the streak. UTSA played good defense early, holding SFA to 3 of 11 shooting at one point. But the Roadrunners committed 13 turnovers and couldn’t get much going offensively.


UTSA entered the opener under new leadership in coach Karen Aston, a former coach at Texas.
The Roadrunners are riding a streak of six straight seasons with losing records, including 2-18 last year.

UTSA also came in on a streak of 12 seasons without a trip to the NCAA tournament. In UTSA’s last NCAA appearance, in 2009, the team was 24-9 under coach Rae Rippetoe-Blair.

SFA played its opener coming off a 24-3 season last year and a trip to the NCAAs.

In the tournament, the Ladyjacks played in San Antonio at Greehey Arena and lost a heartbreaker, falling 54-52 in overtime to fifth-seeded Georgia Tech. Most of the players from last year’s team are back to try and make another run.

A longtime member of the Southland Conference, SFA has a new home in the Western Athletic Conference.