SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After more than a month of competition on the road, Sacramento State (1-3-0) finally plays on its home field for the first time this season hosting Portland (4-1-1) at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Hornet Field. The team will also host San José State (1-3-1) at 12:00 p.m. Sunday as part of a home doubleheader with the Hornet women's soccer team.
Sacramento State has played four regular season games and two exhibitions on the road over the last five weeks but will now play four straight home games leading into the start of Big West Conference play. Only once before, in 2002, have the Hornets opened the year with four straight road contests.
Scouting Portland (4-1-1)
Portland, which received votes this week in the NSCAA Top-25 poll, will be Sacramento State's fourth consecutive opponent from the West Coast Conference (WCC). The Pilots were picked to finish sixth in the preseason WCC coaches' poll but, after dropping their season opener to Wright State, are 4-0-1 in their last five matches with wins over Ohio State, Depaul, San José State, and Bradley. Portland did have its first four matches at home before a draw last Friday at Evansville. The Pilots have scored at least two goals in each of their last five games and are tied for 16th in NCAA Div. I with 12 goals this season. Jackson Jellah and Erik Edwardson each have three goals this season while Jellah also has two assists. The Hornets and Pilots have met just three prior times, with their last match in 2007, and Portland has won all three contests.
Scouting San José State (1-3-1)
San José State has played just one home game this season, a season-opening 3-2 win over Pacific, and is 0-3-1 on the road since then with a scoreless draw at UC Davis. The Spartans also took Portland to overtime before falling 2-1 and most recently took a 4-1 loss at No. 24 Stanford. San José State was picked fifth in the preseason WAC coaches' poll. Through five games the most notable stat about the Spartans is their number of bookings, as the team is tied for the national lead with three red cards and is tied for fourth in Div. I with 16 yellows. San José State has placed just 13 shots on goal in five games but has scored on five of them. Jonathan Colunga has a goal and two assists and goalkeeper Nedin Tucakovic is averaging 4.80 saves per game. San José State leads 20-11-3 all-time against Sacramento State but the Hornets have won two of the last three meetings.
Into the Win Column
Sacramento State picked up its first win of the 2016 season in shutout fashion, blanking Loyola Marymount 1-0 on Friday in Los Angeles. Senior Alex Bettencourt scored his first goal as a Hornet just three minutes and two seconds into the contest as Ivan Ramirez and Brad Bumgarner set him up for a blast home from the top of the box. Junior goalkeeper James Del Curto made seven saves and the Hornet defense limited the scoring chances for an LMU team that had been 2-0 at home this year and 19-6-2 at home over the last four seasons.
The Hornets open their 2016 home schedule after going 4-2-1 on Hornet Field last year, including a 5-2 win over No. 13 UC Santa Barbara. Sacramento State tallied 14 goals in its seven home games last year and had shutouts over Pacific and UC Davis. Sophomore Brad Bumgarner was especially lethal at home, tallying five goals and one assist with two game-winning goals, while eight other Hornets recorded home goals.
Defensive Player of the Week
Junior goalkeeper James Del Curto was selected at the Big West Defensive Player of the week on Monday. The Santa Rosa native led the Hornets to a 1-0 shutout win over Loyola Marymount with seven saves to record his fifth career clean sheet. He made five stops in the first half and two in the second, including a save off a scramble in the box in the final 10 seconds of regulation time. Del Curto, who led the Big West with 4.64 saves per game last season, was also chosen as the Federated Insurance Sacramento State Student-Athlete of the Week.
A Long Road to Home
In non-conference play Sacramento State began the season with four straight road games (after two road exhibition games) before playing its last four non-conference matches all at home. Only once before, in 2002, have the Hornets opened the year with four straight road contests. Last year the team began the season with three straight road games but did have two home exhibition games.
Senior midfielder Ivan Ramirez has assisted on each of the first two Sacramento State goals this season after he 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.
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 are in the midst of playing four straight games against schools from the West Coast Conference. The team will then play two more WAC opponents and wraps up with WCC member Saint Mary's. The Hornets also faced a sixth WCC team, Santa Clara, in a preseason exhibition game.
Sacramento State plays the entire 2016 season in the state of California. All 18 games will be played in the Golden State and 16 of the 18 contests are against other California teams. The only outliers are two Hornet home games, against Portland and Utah Valley. All 26 players on the Hornet roster went to high school in California.
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 returned 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.
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.
Big West Tests
A pair of Big West teams have appeared in the national rankings and both reside in the North division along with the Hornets. UC Santa Barbara is currently No. 13 in the NSCAA rankings. Cal Poly received votes in the NSCAA preseason poll while another of Sacramento State's opponents this year, Utah Valley, is No. 17 in the Top Drawer Soccer poll this week.
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.