SACRAMENTO, Calif. - After its first ever Big West Tournament home game and Big West Tournament win on Saturday, Sacramento State (9-8-2) makes its first appearance in the Big West Tournament semifinal round playing at CSUN (8-6-4) at 7 p.m. Wednesday.
In the other Big West Tournament semifinal game, UC Santa Barbara will host Cal State Fullerton on Wednesday night. The winners of the two games will meet on Saturday to decide the league champion and the recipient of an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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 defeated UC Riverside, the No. 3 seed from the Big West South division, 2-1 last Saturday to advance to the semifinals.
CSUN (Cal State Northridge) earned the No. 1 seed in the Big Sky South and a bye into the semifinals. UC Santa Barbara was the No. 1 seed in the North while Cal State Fullerton, like the Hornets, defended its home field as the South No. 2 seed advancing on penalty kicks against UC Davis.
Final Destination Sacramento?
The highest seeded team to the reach the Big West Tournament final will be the host, but if the two teams are the same seed the tiebreaker goes to the team with the better regular season record against the opposite division. That means Sacramento State would host the Big West title game with a win and a victory by Cal State Fullerton over UC Santa Barbara, as the Hornets had a better interdivision record than the Titans. If the Hornets and Titans win on Wednesday, the final would be at 2p.m. Saturday at Hornet Field. If the Hornets and Gauchos win, the final would be in Santa Barbara. CSUN can only host the final with a win and UCSB loss.
Scouting CSUN (8-6-4, 5-2-3 Big West)
CSUN ended the regular season on a four-game unbeaten streak, going 3-0-1 to capture the regular season Big West South title and the No. 1 seed from the division. The Matadors are undefeated (5-0-2) at home this season, including a 4-0-1 record in home Big West games. CSUN is currently ranked ninth in the NSCAA Far West region poll and had three players named to the all-Big West first team, including Goalkeeper of the Year Kevin Marquez and Defensive Player of the Year Patrick Hickman. Marquez ranks ninth in all of NCAA Div. I this season with 89 saves and is second in the Big West with a .795 save percentage. Senior Juan Samayoa led the team offensively with six goals and six assists for 18 points during the regular season. The Hornets are 4-12-0 all-time against the Matadors but have won two of the last three meetings between the teams in Northridge.
The First Meeting
In the lone meeting between CSUN and Sacramento State during the regular season, the Matadors broke a late tie with a goal in the 82nd minute for a 1-0 win over the Hornets in Northridge Oct. 1. Big West Defensive Player of the Year Patrick Hickman scored the only goal of the game while the two teams combined for just six shots on goal, with four coming from the Hornets and just two for the Matadors. CSUN had a slim 12-11 lead in total shots for the game while corners and fouls both finished even.
The First Win
In the first home Big West Tournament game in program history, Sacramento State took an early lead and scored the only goal of the second half on an Ivan Ramirez penalty kick as the Hornets defeated UC Riverside, 2-1, in the first round of the conference tournament. The victory was the first Big West Tournament win for the Hornets since joining the conference in 2012. The Hornets were playing just their second postseason game 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.
Sacramento State has now won five straight home postseason games. Prior to the win over UC Riverside the previous four 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.
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 got an additional home game by the team hosting a Big West Tournament game. The group of 10 has combined for 19 of the team's 22 goals this year. Seniors Alex Bettencourt, Nate Nugen, and Ivan Ramirez have combined for 45 of the team's 68 points this season, with Bettencourt tallying seven goals and Nugen and Ramirez scoring five. 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. 101. 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 10-5-2 on Hornet Field over its last 17 matches and the team has a home win over a ranked team in two consecutive seasons. The 2016 squad has tallied 14 goals in 10 home games this season to go 6-3-1.
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 43rd 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 regular season Big West wins.
Two Will Do
The Hornets are undefeated this year and 14-2-1 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.