NORTHRIDGE, Calif. – After 90 scoreless minutes, 20 more scoreless minutes of overtime, and a best-of-five PK shootout nothing was decided, but on the sixth PK attempt CSUN goalkeeper Kevin Marquez made a save and senior Patrick Hickman converted to put the Matadors through to the conference title game while ending Sacramento State's season.
Officially recorded as a 0-0 tie as no goals were scored over 110 minutes of play, the two teams both went 5-for-5 from the penalty spot to force sudden-death PKs, where the Matadors made it a perfect 6-for-6 to advance. The top seed in the Big West South division, CSUN (8-6-5) will host the Big West Tournament title game on Saturday against Cal State Fullerton, which scored a 2-1 upset victory at UC Santa Barbara on Wednesday.
Sacramento State ends the season with a 9-8-3 overall record, the team's first winning season since joining the Big West in 2012. The Hornets had their best conference season since joining the league, finishing second in the Big West North division, hosting a Big West Tournament game, and winning a Big West postseason game all for the first time.
"CSUN's a very good team and we congratulate them," Sacramento State head coach Michael Linenberger said. "I was really proud of my group this year. We got off to a tough start to the season and then we kind of found our form, and I felt we were pretty consistent the rest of the way.
"We were led by 10 seniors, and when this group came in was when we joined the Big West Conference. You look at where we are today competing in the Big West and one spot kick away from reaching the final. It took us a long time to even make the Big West Tournament, so I'm really proud of the guys and how far we've come."
The Hornets weren't just one PK make from reaching the Big West Final, they were one make away from HOSTING the final on Saturday. The Hornets owned the tiebreaker with Cal State Fullerton and with the Titans knocking off UCSB Sacramento State came agonizingly close to hosting the championship.
The first five Hornet PK shooters – Nate Nugen, Cylus Sandoval, Ivan Ramirez, Trevor Jackson, and Paul Geyer - all converted their chances with ease. The Matadors made their first five as well, though one shot hit the crossbar but bounced in. In the sixth round, senior Alex Bettencourt struck a ball well but Marquez guessed correctly and made the save on a dive to his right. Hickman, the Big West Defensive Player of the Year who, coincidentally, scored the only goal in CSUN's 1-0 win over the Hornets earlier this year, delivered the dagger again.
Though the game was scoreless through 110 minutes, it had its fair share of excitement. The Hornets had most of the early possession and had a few quality chances to take a quick lead. In the 16th minute senior Nugen had a break to the left of the CSUN goal and had a close shot stopped on a fine sliding save from goalkeeper Kevin Marquez.
CSUN had more of the ball in the last 20 minutes of the first half and came close several times, with Hornet goalkeeper James Del Curto making a superb leaping save on a rocket straight away from Shane Steffes. The Hornet defense blocked a couple shots in the box and senior John Quintanilla saved a goal clearing a ball off the line in the 34th minute.
Del Curto continued to make sensational saves one after another in the second half. His lunging denial in the 64th minute and a strong sliding stop in the 72nd minute kept the game scoreless. The Hornets had some good looks as well but the visitors were unable to place a shot on goal after the first half.
Sacramento State missed just wide on a pair of chances early in the first OT before the Matadors came close to a winner hitting the crossbar in the 94th minute. Del Curto made his sixth save in the second overtime period to force PKs.
CSUN had a 21-12 advantage in shot count for the game and were 7-3 in shots on goal. Corners were 5-4 in favor of the Matadors while the home team finished with a 17-9 count in fouls.
Sacramento State loses 10 tremendous seniors that continued to elevate the program through each of their seasons as Hornets.