SACRAMENTO, Calif. - The Sacramento State men's soccer team opens the regular season Friday at CSU Bakersfield. Kickoff against the Roadrunners is set for 7:30 p.m.
Scouting CSU Bakersfield
CSU Bakersfield went 7-6-6 in 2015 and finished in fifth place in the WAC. The team returned six starters but has 15 newcomers this year and were picked fourth in the preseason WAC Coaches' Poll. Like the Hornets, the Roadrunners played two exhibition games on the road, falling 2-0 at Pacific before a 1-0 loss at Cal. CSUB held Cal scoreless over the last 73 minutes of the game but was only able to place two shots on goal. Among the returning Roadrunners is junior forward Julian Zamora, who led the team with eight goals last year and was an all-WAC second team selection. The Hornets are just 1-3-1 all-time at Bakersfield and 4-5-3 overall. The teams played to a 1-1 draw in Sacramento last season.
A Veteran Squad
Sacramento State has 10 seniors and six juniors on its 2016 roster, among the most veteran sides for coach Michael Linenberger in his 28 seasons with the program. The team returned nine starters from last season, five of which are now seniors and three of which are juniors. The Hornets return 17 total letter winners, having lost just three seniors in 2015.
Sophomore Brad Bumgarner earned some preseason accolades as he was named to the Preseason all-Big West team. As a redshirt freshman last season Bumgarner was named to the Freshman all-Big West team after leading the Hornets and tying for second in the league with seven goals and three game-winning goals. Bumgarner scored on three of his first four career shots on goal and totaled four goals and one assist in Big West play.
A Long Road to Home
In non-conference play Sacramento State begins the season with five straight road games (after two road exhibition games) before playing its last four non-conference matches all at home. The Hornets never leave the state of California, however, and have just one flight trip. The team also remains in California throughout the Big West conference schedule.
Starring in Goal
Junior James Del Curto, who is recovering from offseason surgery, led the Big West and ranked 23rd in NCAA Div. I last season with 4.64 saves per game. He was also fourth in the league with a .730 save percentage and made a career-high 14 saves, including several highlight-reel stops, in Sacramento State's 3-2 win over UC Irvine. The 14 stops were the most that any Div. I keeper made last season, with four goalies having made 13 saves in a game.
The men's soccer program became the first team from Sacramento State to travel internationally, going for a nine-day trip to Costa Rica this past January. The team played four games against professional Costa Rican teams and went 2-1-1 with an aggregate score of 7-4. The group, comprised of 22 student-athletes and six staff members, also toured the country and participated in community service events during a memorable visit.
Living Out West
Sacramento State's eight non-conference games are against teams from just two "west" conferences, the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) and the West Coast Conference (WCC). Following the season opener at WAC school CSU Bakersfield the Hornets will play four straight games against schools from the West Coast Conference. The team will then play two more WAC opponents and wrap up with WCC member Saint Mary's. The Hornets also faced a sixth WCC team, Santa Clara, in a preseason exhibition game.
Big West Tests
A pair of Big West teams appear in the preseason national rankings and both reside in the North division along with the Hornets. UC Santa Barbara is No. 13 in the NSCAA/Continental Tire poll and came in at No. 23 in the Top Drawer Soccer poll. Cal Poly received votes in the NSCAA poll as did another of Sacramento State's opponents this year, Utah Valley.
Senior midfielder Ivan Ramirez tied for the fifth most assists in a season in program history with six helpers last year. The six assists were the most that any Hornet had since the 2010 season and he ranked second in the Big West in assists per game.
The Hornets had two All-Big West selections following the 2015 season. Midfielder Paul Geyer was all-Big Sky honorable mention as he played and started in 17 of 18 games despite battling injuries and played 1,482 minutes, second overall on the team and the most among all non-defenders. He also contributed a goal and an assist while redshirt freshman Brad Bumgarner, who tied for second in the league with seven goals, was named to the all-Freshman team.
For the second consecutive year Sacramento State won its season series against Causeway rival UC Davis in 2015. In each of the last two seasons the Hornets went 1-0-1 against the Aggies, having last lost to them in October 2013. Over the last four meetings the Hornets have allowed just three UCD goals with two shutouts.
Big West Progress
In its fifth season as a member of the Big West Conference, consistently one of the top men's soccer conferences in the nation, the Hornets are looking to qualify for the Big West Tournament for the second time in the last three years. Sacramento State finished ahead of Cal Poly in the Big West North to earn its first berth in the conference tournament in 2014 and was in contention for the postseason going into its final game last year.
Downing the Gauchos
The hallmark moment of Sacramento State's 2015 season was a 5-2 home upset win over No. 13 UC Santa Barbara. The win was the first for the Hornets over a ranked team since 2011 and was the highest ranked opponent defeated by the team since a 2-0 win over No. 10 UC Irvine in 2010. The five goals, scored by five different Hornet players, were also the most the team has scored against a Div. I opponent since 2010.
Scoring Spread Out
Ten Hornets scored goals last year and 13 players earned an assist. Brad Bumgarner had seven goals while Ivan Ramirez led with six assists. Seven players recorded both goals and assists in 2015.