IRVINE, Calif. –Isaac Ikyurav scored the game-winning goal in the 84th minute and the Sacramento State men's soccer team won, 2-1, at UC Irvine on Friday evening, capping a historic game with a thrilling finish.
The Hornets (4-4-1, 1-0 Big West) won their debut in the Big West Conference after spending the last 20 years in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
"This is a heck of a start for us in the Big West," said head coach Michael Linenberger. "It's always tough to win games on the road, especially conference games in front of big crowds. This was an important win for our program."
The Anteaters (3-6-1, 0-1) dropped their conference opener in front of an announced crowd of 1,670 after claiming the Big West regular season title in each of the previous two seasons.
Sacramento State's first goal of the Big West era tied the game up in the 30th minute. Alex Lopez dribbled down to the end line where he crossed the ball to the top of the box. Gabe Silveira collected the pass and fired a shot that skipped off the leg of a sliding defender and went over the head of UC Irvine keeper Elliot Farmer.
Despite the importance of the game-tying goal, it will be the Hornets' second score in their conference debut which will be remembered most.
With just over six minutes left in the game, Ikyurav took the ball near the right side of the box and beat his man to the inside. Near the top of the box the Benue, Nigera, native was one-on-one with the keeper and fired a shot to the top left of the goal and out of the reach of Farmer.
"Every good team has a player who is constantly a threat and that's what Isaac is for us," Linenberger added. "He has incredible speed and quickness and is great with the ball at his feet. He is very dangerous."
The Anteaters had chances to tie up the game in the final three minutes, but Sacramento State keeper Bryan Oliver made two big saves to seal the win. Oliver finished with seven total saves and one goal allowed.
UC Irvine had a 15-9 edge in shots and 8-3 advantage in shots on goal while the Hornets took two more corner kicks (6-4).
This conference debut went better than the last time the Hornets opened up play in a new league. After moving to Div. I in 1991, Sacramento State joined the MPSF in 1992 but lost 3-1 at home to Washington in its first league game.
The Hornets will stay on the road this weekend to face CSU Northridge at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The Matadors defeated UC Davis, 2-0, on Friday night.