SACRAMENTO, Calif. - With six games remaining in the regular season Sacramento State (6-5-1, 2-2-0 Big West) opens Big West North division play at league-leading UC Santa Barbara (7-5-1, 3-0-1 Big West) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
Big West Breakdown
Sacramento State went 2-2-0 against the Big West South division and is tied with UC Davis for second place in the North division with six points. The Hornets and Aggies are four points behind UC Santa Barbara and have a five-point lead over Cal Poly, which went 0-3-1 against the South. The four teams we'll face each of the other teams in the division twice over the next three weeks, with the top three teams in the final division standings qualifying for the Big West Tournament.
Scouting UC Santa Barbara (7-5-1, 3-0-1 Big West)
UC Santa Barbara has been ranked as high as No. 5 in the nation this season, earning that ranking from Soccer America on Sept. 5. The Gauchos started the season 4-0 with a win at No. 18 Ohio State, but the team then lost five straight games to drop out of the rankings, though three of those five losses came against ranked teams. UCSB righted the ship entering Big West play, going undefeated against the South, and the team enters the week on a three-game winning streak. The Gauchos lead the Big West with 24 goals this season but have also allowed 22 with the second worst goals against average in the league (1.64). Kevin Feucht is the leading scorer in the Big West with eight goals and two assists for 18 points and Josue Espana leads the conference with seven assists. Sacramento State beat the Gauchos at home last season but is 1-8-1 all-time in Santa Barbara, with the only win coming in 1992.
On a Roll
Sacramento State had a five-game unbeaten streak through the end of September and is 5-2-1 over its last eight games after starting the season 1-3-0. In the last eight games the Hornets have scored 12 goals, scoring eight the 12 goals in the first half to get off to strong starts.
Sacramento State's senior class, which totals 10 players, has tallied 12 of the team's 14 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 32 of the team's 46 points this season, with each tallying four goals.
In the September 27 National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) Far West region 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.
Senior forward Alex Bettencourt is tied for the Big West lead and tied for 13th 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 this year in victories over Loyola Marymount and Cal State Fullerton and in four more 1-0 wins over the last two seasons.
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 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 8-3-2 on Hornet Field over its last 13 matches and the team has a home win over a ranked team in two consecutive seasons. The 2016 squad has tallied 10 goals through its first six home games of the season to start 4-1-1.
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.
Four Straight Players of the Week
The Hornets 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 Oct. 3.
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.
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.