SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Sacramento State scored twice in the first seven minutes of the game and, after No. 15 Utah Valley equalized, took a 3-2 lead in the 41st minute then held the Wolverines scoreless in the second half for a 3-2 win on Thursday at Hornet Field.
Sacramento State (4-3-0) won its third straight game and handed the 15th-ranked Wolverines just their second loss of the year (6-2-0). Utah Valley had allowed just five goals in its first seven games of the season before the Hornets put three in the net in just the first half.
The Hornets beat a ranked team for the second consecutive year after knocking off No. 13 UC Santa Barbara, 5-2, in 2015. Utah Valley, a program that just began play in 2014, had never allowed more than two goals in a game in program history.
Hornet senior Ivan Ramirez had two goals and one assist and was involved in all three Sacramento State goals, scoring the first, assisting on the second, and scoring the third. The five points tied for the 8th most in a game in program history and were the most points for a Hornet in a single game since the 2010 season.
The early magic from Ramirez, a fourth goal of the season for senior Alex Bettencourt, and a strong defensive effort in the second half propelled the Hornets to the win as the team scored multiple goals in its third consecutive game.
"We got off to a dream start and we carried a lot of the game early," Sacramento State head coach Michael Linenberger said. "After we scored our second goal I thought our character changed and we got scared. They got themselves back in the game, but once they scored their second goal I thought we got our energy back. The goal right before halftime was huge and gave us a chance to regroup."
The dream start began just two minutes and seven seconds into the game when Ramirez had a shot blocked near the top of the box but sophomore Brad Bumgarner picked up the rebound and found Ramirez again for a finish in close.
Just over four minutes later, Ramirez and senior Nate Nugen connected passes to spring Bettencourt along the left side of the box, and the Hornet senior buried a grounder inside the far post. The score gave Bettencourt, the reigning Big West Offensive Player of the Week, a goal in his third straight game.
The Wolverines got one goal back in the 22nd minute when Karson Payton had a shot blocked in the box and the rebound came to Gui Leme for an open finish to the far post. Utah Valley tied the game less than five minutes later on a perfect high strike by Payton from above the box.
Junior Trevor Jackson set up what would be the game-winning goal as in the 41st minute he played a ball into the right side of the box and found Ramirez, who chipped the ball around the keeper and dribbled in front before putting the ball in past a pair of Wolverine defenders.
Utah Valley had some early chances in the second half and then played the last 20 minutes of the game with a man advantage when Nugen was shown a second yellow card. The Wolverines outshot the Hornets 10-0 in the second half but put just two shots on goal that were denied by junior goalkeeper James Del Curto.
"In the second half they carried almost the entire game," Linenberger said. "At the half we talked about not fouling and giving up set pieces and in the first eight minutes we probably gave them half a dozen chances. When Nugen got red carded I thought our guys dug deep and hung in there and we found a way to kill the game off. It's a fantastic win; I wasn't happy with our soccer playing in the second half but I was happy with our grit."
The Hornets had a 7-6 edge in shots in the first half while the Wolverines scored on their only two shots on goal in the opening period. There were five cards issued in the second half and the teams combined to commit 33 fouls in a very physical game.
Sacramento State has scored eight goals in its first three home games of the season after tallying just two scores in four road games. The Hornets are now 7-2-1 over their last 10 home games.
The game opened the Copa De Causeway, with UC Davis beating Saint Mary's 2-1 in overtime on its home field in the other match on Thursday. The tournament will conclude on Saturday when with the Aggies host Utah Valley in Davis and the Hornets host Saint Mary's at 4 p.m. at Hornet Field.