SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State men's soccer team (2-7-3, 0-4-0 Big West) opens Big West North division play this weekend hosting Cal Poly (8-6-0, 1-3-0 Big West) at 4 p.m. Saturday at Hornet Field.
The Hornets will welcome back a large number of former players for alumni day. They will also be joined by former coaches as the program will honor head coach Michael Linenberger in a celebration of his 25 seasons leading the men's soccer team in a pregame ceremony.
Sacramento State is looking to open play within the Big West North division with a home win after going winless in four interdivision matches against Big West South foes. Cal Poly will provide a great challenge as the Mustangs lead all of NCAA Div. I with 33 goals scored this season.
"It's a big game; Cal Poly is three points ahead of us in the table and we're at home," Linenberger said. "We're expecting a great crowd with the alumni function and Cal Poly is a big draw anyway so we're hoping to have a great environment. Obviously we're not happy with the start to conference but we're only three points out of a playoff spot with six games to go, so there's still everything to play for."
UC Santa Barbara sits atop the division standings with 12 points at 4-0-0, but UC Davis has just six points at 2-2-0 and Cal Poly has three points with a 1-3-0 Big West mark through the interdivision portion of the season. The top three (of four) teams in the final divisional standings will qualify for the Big West Tournament.
"These points, because they're in our division, are actually more important than the points against teams out of our division," Linenberger said. "We still control our own destiny so we're excited about that."
While the Hornet offense has struggled with just one goal through four Big West matches, the team has remained strong defensively and has allowed two or fewer goals in nine of 12 matches this season and three of four conference games. Senior goalkeeper Cesar Castillo has performed admirably in the Hornet net this season in totaling a 1.46 goals against average despite facing a large number of shots.
Castillo leads the Big West by a wide margin and is tied for fifth in NCAA Division-I with 67 saves this season. He missed the Hornets last game at Cal State Fullerton on Sunday due to injury but he hopes to be back on Saturday. Redshirt freshman Teddy Sampson earned is first collegiate start in place of Castillo on Saturday and made four saves while allowing just two goals.
Sacramento State and Cal Poly have great rivalry dating back to the 1994 season. Cal Poly holds a 7-5-3 advantage in the all-time series but the teams have split the last four meetings, with each side earning one win and two matches ending in ties. The last two meetings between the teams in Sacramento have ended in ties and the Hornets have never lost to the Mustangs on their home field.
Cal Poly went 7-3-0 in non-conference play, including a 3-0 win at then-No. 6 UCLA, but has stumbled to a 1-3-0 start in the Big West. In addition to leading the country in goals the Mustangs are also second in points and fourth in assists. The team has scored just one goal over its last three matches, however, and ranks last in the Big West this season with 21 goals allowed.
Senior Mackenzie Pridham is tied for the seventh in the country with nine goals this season while teammate Matt LaGrassa has six goals and Ari Lassiter has five. The three-game losing streak for Cal Poly is the longest the team has had since 2009.