In their first season in the Big West, the Hornets (7-4-1, 4-0 Big West) won their fourth straight league game and fifth straight contest overall. Head coach Michael Linenberger's squad - which next hosts Cal Poly on Oct. 12 - is one win away from matching the program record five-game conference win streak set in 2009, when the Hornets went 6-0-1 to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season title.
The win improved Sacramento State's home record to a mind-boggling 23-3-7 over the last four seasons. Only one of those three losses was to a conference opponent.
The win also gave the Hornets a clean sweep of the Big West South Division - CSU Fullerton, CSU Northridge, UC Irvine and UC Riverside. The North Division - Sacramento State, UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara and Cal Poly - went a combined 11-4-1 against the South. After finishing the South Division portion of its Big West schedule, the Hornets will now play a home-and-home against each of their North Division foes. The top two teams from each division will advance to the Big West Tournament. Currently the Hornets (4-0) lead the North ahead of UC Davis (3-1), No. 3 UC Santa Barbara (2-1-1) and Cal Poly (2-2). The highly ranked Gauchos lost their first match of the season to CSU Northridge, 1-0, on Sunday night.
While the Hornets' offense struck twice early in a 2-1 win over CSU Fullerton on Friday, Sunday's game against UC Riverside was a grinding, physical affair.
Neither team scored in the first half and in the second half the game started to get chippy. After two yellow cards were issued in the first half, four yellows and three red cards were handed out after halftime.
UC Riverside was given two of the three reds, which had them playing 9 vs. 11 for almost 10 minutes until the Hornets were issued a red card in the 80th minute.
The Highlanders' second red was called after an intentional hand ball by Aaron Long on a shot by Isaac Flores in the 72nd minute. Alvarez connected on the ensuing penalty kick for the lone goal in the game. The Hornets are 2-for-2 on PK attempts this season.
Overall in the game, UC Riverside had a 16-14 edge in shots (7-5 shots on goal) and a 9-8 advantage on corner kicks.
Sacramento State goalkeeper Bryan Oliver made seven saves in the clean sheet and now sports a sterling 0.48 goals against average with 24 saves and two shutouts in four conference games.
The Hornets play just one game next weekend. Cal Poly will visit Hornet Field on Friday for a 4 p.m. kickoff.