SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For the first time since joining the Big West Conference in 2012, Sacramento State (8-8-2, 4-5-1 Big West) will host a first round Big West Tournament game facing UC Riverside (9-9-1, 4-5-1 Big West) at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hornet Field.
Tickets for the game will be $10 for adults, $7 for youth and seniors, and $5 for students. However, the first 100 college students with a valid school ID will receive free admission. Fans unable to attend can watch a live video stream and follow live stats via the links above and the Big West Tournament Central page.
The winner of Saturday's game will advance to play at CSUN on Wednesday, Nov. 9, at 7 p.m. in the semifinals. The Matadors earned a bye into the second round after claiming the Big West South division title. The Big West Tournament championship game will be played next Saturday, Nov. 12.
Big West Tournament Breakdown
Sacramento State earned the right to host a Big West Tournament First Round game by finishing in second place in the Big West North division with 13 points. The Hornets ended up finishing one point ahead of UC Davis and two up on Cal Poly but had clinched the No. 2 seed prior to the final game of the regular season. UC Santa Barbara claimed the regular season North title for the fourth consecutive year with a league-high 21 points.
UC Riverside had the same conference record as Sacramento State (4-5-1) but finished in third place in the South division, two points behind Cal State Fullerton. The Highlanders finished three points ahead of UC Irvine for the final postseason qualifying spot in the division. Cal State Fullerton hosts UC Davis in the other first round tournament game at 7 p.m. Saturday. As division champions, UC Santa Barbara and CSUN will host semifinal games against the two first round winners next Wednesday.
The Hornets and Highlanders will be meeting on Hornet Field for the second time this year. In the lone regular season meeting between the teams on Oct. 8, Sacramento State outshot UC Riverside 15-8 but the Hornets put just two of their 15 shots on goal while the Highlanders scored on two of their four shots on goal for a 2-0 win.
A First For Sure
Sacramento State and UC Riverside will both be playing for their first ever Big West Tournament win on Saturday. The Hornets are making just their second appearance in the postseason since joining the league in 2012, having lost at UC Irvine, 2-0, in their only previous Big West Tournament game in the 2014 first round. UC Riverside is 0-3 all-time in the tournament, losing games in 2011, 2013, and 2014.
Sacramento State has won four straight home postseason games. Those wins all came in 2010, when the team won three home games in the MPSF (Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) Tournament to win the title before recording a 2-1 victory over Santa Clara in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Hornet Field. As a member of the MPSF Sacramento State won two consecutive league titles, in 2009 and 2010, and in both instances went on to win a first round NCAA Tournament game.
Scouting UC Riverside (9-9-1, 4-5-1 Big West)
UC Riverside began Big West Conference play 4-0-1 but lost five straight games to end the regular season. The Highlanders still entered the final day of the regular season with a chance to claim the regular season Big West South title, but a 1-0 loss in overtime at CSUN paired with a Cal State Fullerton draw placed them third. UC Riverside scored 10 goals in its first five Big West games but just one total goal in its last five. Each of the last five losses came by just one goal, however, with 1-0 finals in four of them. Goalkeeper Vincent Morales ranks fifth in all of NCAA Div. I with 99 saves this season but also has the second best goals against average in the league (1.13). Midfielder Romario Lomeli, who led the team with five goals and nine assists for 19 points, was named all-Big West first team while two UCR defenders, Stephen Copley and Philipp Dominique, made the second team. Sacramento State is 3-6-3 all-time against UC Riverside with a 3-3-1 record at home.
Seven All-Big West
Seniors Alex Bettencourt and Nate Nugen and juniors James Del Curto and Paul Geyer were named all-Big West second team to lead a record-high seven Hornets honored by the conference on Tuesday. Senior defender John Quintanilla was named all-Big West honorable mention while Mac Harrington and Christian Webb were selected to the Big West all-Freshman team. The Hornets had not received more than three all-Big West honors in a year through their first four seasons in the conference. The total number of all-conference honorees is also the most for the program since 2009.
Senior Day...Take Two
Sacramento State's huge senior class thought it played its final home game Oct. 26, but the 10 earned another home game on Saturday. The group has combined for 17 of the team's 20 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 39 of the team's 62 points this season, with Bettencourt tallying six goals, Nugen five, and Ramirez scoring four. The team has also been led defensively by seniors including John Quintanilla, Argenis Ramos, Andrew Gosselin, Preston Davis, Javier Muñoz, and Bert Corona, and goalkeeper Philip Bru.
Sacramento State has been ranked as high as No. 89 in the NCAA Div. I Ratings Percentage Index (RPI) this season. Currently the Hornets are the third highest ranked team in the Big West, behind only UC Santa Barbara and CSUN, at No. 103. RPI takes into account a team's record, its opponents record, and the record of it's opponents opponents. Sacramento State has several wins over high RPI teams this year, including nationally ranked Utah Valley and Loyola Marymount, and played a challenging non-conference schedule before having success in the highly competitive Big West Conference.
Sacramento State is 9-5-2 on Hornet Field over its last 16 matches and the team has a home win over a ranked team in two consecutive seasons. The 2016 squad has tallied 12 goals in nine home games this season to go 5-3-1.
On Oct. 24 junior goalkeeper James Del Curto was named Big West Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season. He became just the 10th player in Big West men's soccer history to win three Player of the Week honors in one season.
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.
Coming Through in the Clutch
Senior forwards Alex Bettencourt and Nate Nugen are tied for second in the Big West and tied for 37th in NCAA Div. I with three game-winning goals apiece this season. All three of Nugen's game-winning goals have come in Big West Conference play, as he scored the game winner in three of the team's four Big West wins.
Two Will Do
The Hornets are undefeated this year and 13-2-1 since 2014 when scoring two or more goals. The team has been able to win when scoring just one goal as well, as it has in seven 1-0 wins over the last three seasons.
The 1-1 tie between Sacramento State and UC Santa Barbara Oct. 12 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.
Sacramento State is undefeated (3-0-1) since the 2012 season playing at Causeway rival UC Davis. The Hornets are also 3-1-2 overall against the Aggies over the last three seasons, winning the season series in two of the three years.
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.
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.
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.