SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Riding a four-game unbeaten streak, Sacramento State (4-3-1) enters Big West Conference play with a pair of road games, playing at UC Irvine (2-7-0) at 7 p.m. Thursday and at CSUN (3-4-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Scouting UC Irvine (2-7-0)
UC Irvine is the lowest scoring team in the Big West and one of the lowest scoring squads in the country, having tallied just six goals in nine games this season with no multi-goal games. The Anteaters are averaging just 4.3 shots on goal per game and have allowed 18 goals. UC Irvine picked up 1-0 wins against Grand Canyon and Oregon State but lost to Loyola Marymount and Portland, two teams the Hornets have defeated this year. Goalkeeper Elliot Farmer is averaging 3.86 saves per game but has a 2.08 goals against average. Sacramento State is 6-8-2 all-time with a 3-2 overtime win last season against UC Irvine, which was tied for second in the South division and earned a first place vote in the preseason Big West Coaches' Poll.
Scouting CSUN (3-4-1)
CSUN has also had some troubles offensively, scoring just five goals in its first seven games, and his been shut out four times. The offense came alive in their last game, however, as the Matadors put up a 4-1 win at CSU Bakersfield on Sunday. In two other games against common opponents of the Hornets, CSUN took a 1-0 loss at Utah Valley and played San Diego to a 1-1 draw. The star of the Matadors has been goalkeeper Kevin Marquez, who leads the Big West with a .769 save percentage and leads the league and ranks 22nd in the nation with 5.00 saves per game. CSUN has allowed at least one goal in every game this season but has given up multiple goals in just two games. The Hornets and Matadors have split their last four meetings while CSUN has an 11-4-0 all-time advantage.
Big West Time
Conference play begins with two weeks of interdivision matchups before the Hornets will play home-and-home games against the three other teams in the North division. UC Santa Barbara was picked to win the North and Cal State Fullerton was picked to win the South in the preseason Coaches' Poll, but both enter conference play with losing records. In fact, Sacramento State and UC Davis are the only Big West teams that start the conference season with winning records.
Raise the Copa
Sacramento State won the semi-annual Copa De Causeway tournament, upsetting No. 15 Utah Valley, 3-2, and tying Saint Mary's, 1-1. The Hornets were the only team in the tournament, which also included UC Davis, that did not lose a game. Seniors Ivan Ramirez, Alex Bettencourt, and Argenis Ramos and junior Paul Geyer were named to the all-Tournament team.
Ivan on Fire
Ivan Ramirez was named Big West Offensive Player of the Week after tallying three goals and an assist to lead the Hornets to the Copa De Causeway crown. He had a hand in all three Hornet goals in the 3-2 upset of #15 Utah Valley, scoring the first and third goals and assisting on the second. He also tallied the lone Hornet goal on a PK in the 1-1 draw vs. Saint Mary's. In his last three matches the senior midfielder has four goals and two assists for 10 points; only three other Big West players have more than 10 points for the entire season.
Sacramento State is now 7-2-2 on Hornet Field over its last 11 matches and the team has a home win over a ranked team in two consecutive seasons. The 2016 squad has tallied nine goals through its first four home games of the season to start 3-0-1.
Triple Players of the Week
The Hornets have had a Big West Player of the Week honor for three consecutive weeks. On Sept. 12 junior James Del Curto was named the Defensive Player of the Week, on Sept. 19 senior Alex Bettencourt was chosen as Offensive Player of the Week, and on Monday Ivan Ramirez collected the Offensive honor.
Senior forward Alex Bettencourt leads the Big West and is tied for fourth in NCAA Div. I with three game-winning goals. He scored the game winner in each of the first three Hornet wins of the year, including a winner in the 90th minute against Portland. He scored his fourth goal of the year in Sacramento State's 3-2 upset of No. 15 Utah Valley.
Two Will Do
The Hornets are undefeated this year and 11-2-1 since 2014 when scoring two or more goals. The team has been able to win when scoring just one goal as well, as it did in the victory at Loyola Marymount and in four 1-0 victories over the last two seasons.
Sacramento State's senior class, which totals 10 players, has tallied 10 of the team's 11 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 27 points while the rest of the team has nine points this year.
Living Out West
Sacramento State's eight non-conference games were 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 played four straight games against schools from the West Coast Conference. The team then played two more WAC opponents and wrapped up with WCC member Saint Mary's. The Hornets also faced a sixth WCC team, Santa Clara, in a preseason exhibition game. Sacramento State finished 2-1-0 against the WAC and 2-2-1 against the WCC schools.
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.
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.
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.