SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After picking up three points on the road to open Big West play last week, Sacramento State (5-4-1, 1-1-0 Big West) plays its first home conference games this week, hosting Cal State Fullerton (5-6-0, 1-1-0 Big West) at 4:00 p.m. Thursday and UC Riverside (6-4-1, 1-0-1 Big West) at 3:00 p.m. Saturday at Hornet Field.
Saturday's game will be the team's annual alumni celebration. In addition, fans attending the game on Saturday will be able to exchange their complimentary game program for free admission at the Sacramento State Football homecoming game, with kickoff following the soccer match at 6 p.m. at Hornet Stadium.
Scouting Cal State Fullerton (5-6-0, 1-1-0 Big West)
Cal State Fullerton opened Big West play at home last week and picked up a 2-1 win over Cal Poly before a 2-1 overtime loss against UC Santa Barbara. The Titans have both scored and allowed 15 goals through 11 games and lead the Big West with 6.18 shots on goal per game. Picked to win the Big West South division in the preseason Coaches' Poll, Fullerton has lost three of its last four games. Senior Alex Heilmann, who is 6-3, ranks second in the Big West in is tied for 15th in NCAA Div. I with seven goals this season while also ranking second in the league in points and game-winning goals, but no other Titan has scored more than two goals this year. The Hornets are just 2-6-0 all-time against Cal State Fullerton but are 2-0-0 at home, including a 1-0 double overtime win the last time the teams met in Sacramento in 2014.
Scouting UC Riverside (6-4-1, 1-0-1 Big West)
UC Riverside's record should be 5-4-2, but a 2-2 tie at San Jose State ended up being credited as win for the Highlanders as the Spartans had to forfeit the game because they used an ineligible player. The Highlanders began league play last week with a 2-2 draw against UC Santa Barbara and a 1-0 win over Cal Poly at home. UC Riverside was unanimously picked to finish last in the South in the preseason Big West poll, but the team knocked off No. 20 Gonzaga and beat San Diego 2-0 and has only two losses this year in regulation time. Goalkeeper Vincent Morales has been under heavy fire as he ranks sixth in NCAA Div. I with 54 saves this season and is second in the Big West with a .783 save percentage. Offensively UCR is second in the league with 17 goals with nine different players scoring goals this season. The Hornets are 3-5-3 all-time against the Highlanders with a 3-2-1 home record.
Big West Time
The Hornets opened Big West play with a 2-1 win at UC Irvine before a narrow 1-0 loss at CSUN on a late goal. Interdivision play concludes this week, and the division that earns home field advantage for the Big West Tournament is up for grabs. After this week the Hornets play each of their three Big West North division mates twice over the next three weeks. The top three teams in the final division standings qualify for the Big West Tournament.
On a Roll
Sacramento State had a five-game unbeaten streak come to an end at CSUN, but the squad is still 4-1-1 over its last six games after starting the season 1-3-0. In the last six games the Hornets have outscored their opponents 11-8, averaging nearly two goals per game.
In the September 27 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Far West regional poll Sacramento State was ranked No. 8. The team defeated two of the other teams in the regional ranking, No. 7 Portland and No. 9 Loyola Marymount. The ranking was the first the Hornets have received in the regional poll since the 2011 season.
Junior goalkeeper James Del Curto matched the NCAA Div. I single game high this season with 14 saves in Sacramento State's 2-1 win on Thursday night at UC Irvine. He notched eight saves in the first half and six in the second half to tie his career high, which was set last year in a similar win over the Anteaters in Sacramento. For the effort he earned his second Big West Defensive Player of the Week honor of the season.
Sacramento State is 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.
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 Sept. 26 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. Over a three game stretch, starting with the San Jose State game on Sept. 18, the senior midfielder had four goals and two assists for 10 points.
Players of the Week, Every Week
The Hornets have now had a Big West Player of the Week honor in four consecutive weeks. James Del Curto earned his first on Sept. 12 before seniors Alex Bettencourt and Ivan Ramirez took home the Offensive Player of the Week honor over the next two weeks. Del Curto picked up his second Defensive honor on Monday.
Senior forward Alex Bettencourt leads the Big West and is tied for 10th 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 12-2-1 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 11 of the team's 13 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 30 of the team's 43 points this season.
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 were 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.