SACRAMENTO, Calif. - As the 2016 regular season winds down Sacramento State (6-6-2, 2-3-1 Big West) plays two more critical division games this week hosting Cal Poly (3-8-2, 1-4-1 Big West) at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday and playing at Causeway rival UC Davis (7-6-2, 3-3-0 Big West) at 3:00 p.m. Saturday
Big West Breakdown
With four games left in the regular season, Sacramento State is third in the Big West North division with seven points. The Hornets have a three-point lead over Cal Poly, but the Mustangs could pull even with a win on Wednesday. UC Davis has nine points and UC Santa Barbara leads the division with 14 points. The top three (of four) teams in the final division standings qualify for the Big West Tournament, and with a win on Wednesday the Hornets would have a two-win (six point) cushion over Cal Poly for third. Should the Hornets move up to second place they would host a first round Big West Tournament game for the first time since joining the league.
Scouting Cal Poly (3-8-2, 1-4-1 Big West)
Cal Poly received votes in the preseason NSCAA poll entering the 2016 season but has just three wins this season, though one of them was a 1-0 home victory over then-No. 6 UCLA. Cal Poly has scored just 11 goals in 13 games this season; four of the 11 goals came against Div. II school Fresno Pacific, so the team has tallied only seven goals in 12 games against Div. I opposition and has been shut out six times. Cal Poly has played four ranked teams, however, and picked up a 2-1 Big West win over UC Davis last week. Senior Justin Dhillon is the second leading scorer in the Big West with seven goals and three assists for 17 points, but the rest of the team has combined for four goals and 15 points. The Hornets are 6-12-3 all-time against the Mustangs and have not defeated Cal Poly at home since 2000.
Scouting UC Davis (7-6-2, 3-3-0 Big West)
UC Davis took a two-point lead over Sacramento State with a 3-1 victory last Saturday at Hornet Field. The Aggies led 1-0 into the 89th minute before a barrage of goals made the final tally 3-1 in favor of the visitors. UC Davis leads the Big West with a 1.10 goals against average, having allowed just 17 goals in 15 games this year, and leads the league with five shutouts. The Aggies are allowing only 10 shots per game with just 3.8 shots on goal per game permitted and goalkeeper Armando Quezada has a Big West leading 1.07 goals against average. Kristian Heptner leads the team with five goals and one assist and is tied for the Big West lead with three game-winning goals.
Sacramento State is 8-4-2 on Hornet Field over its last 14 matches and the team has a home win over a ranked team in two consecutive seasons. The 2016 squad has tallied 11 goals through its first seven home games of the season to go 4-2-1.
Sacramento State was undefeated (2-0-2) against Causeway rival UC Davis over the last two seasons before the Aggies claimed a 3-1 win last Saturday. In each of the two previous seasons the Hornets went 1-0-1 against the Aggies and Sacramento State is 2-0-1 in its last three games in Davis dating back to the 2012 season.
The 1-1 tie between Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara last Wednesday at Harder Stadium marked the first time the Hornets earned a point in Santa Barbara since joining the Big West in 2011. Perennially one of the toughest road venues in all of NCAA Div. I, the Hornets had been just 1-8-1 all-time at Harder with the only win in 1992 and the lone tie in 1998.
On a Roll
Sacramento State had a five-game unbeaten streak through the end of September and is 5-3-2 over its last 10 games after starting the season 1-3-0. In the last 10 games the Hornets have scored 14 goals, scoring nine of the 14 goals in the first half to get off to strong starts.
Sacramento State's senior class, which totals 10 players, has tallied 14 of the team's 16 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 34 of the team's 51 points this season, with Bettencourt tallying five goals and Nugen and Ramirez scoring four.
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 20th 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 and got the Hornet goal off a free kick in the 1-1 draw at UC Santa Barbara.
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.
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.
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.
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.