SACRAMENTO, Calif. – After nearly two weeks of intense training the Sacramento State men's soccer team will host its first of two exhibition games at Hornet Field on Saturday at 5:30 p.m. against Stanford. The Cardinal are ranked No. 20 in the preseason Top Drawer Soccer rankings and will provide an exciting first test for the Hornets.
"These few weeks have been tough but I feel like the team has really come together fast and we feel like we're a tight family now," freshman defender Javier Muñoz said. "We want this to be a good season and it starts with the preseason; we have to work as a team and start building chemistry from day one. We feel like we're at a high level right now and we want to show it Saturday against Stanford."
Muñoz is one of 14 newcomers on the 2013 Hornet roster with just nine players that saw game action last year and two redshirts returning this season. The squad lost eight of its 11 starters from 2012 but brings in an exciting recruiting class that 25th-year head coach Michael Linenberger says could be the best class the program has ever seen.
"We're cautiously optimistic," said Linenberger when the team opened training last week. "We feel we have a very good recruiting class - perhaps our best ever - but we are young. We have some very exciting players that are fun to watch play and are very creative. We think it's going to be an exciting group."
Leading the young players will be the team's three returning starters, who are all seniors in 2013. Forward Isaac Ikyurav and midfielders Gabe Silveira and Almog Strikowski as well as returning goalkeeper Cesar Castillo and defender Nate Barr form the Hornet upper class that are looking to mentor the young nucleus of the team into a championship contender.
"I've seen a lot of talent out here and everyone has been working hard," said Ikyurav, who on Thursday was named a Preseason Big West all-Conference selection. "The new guys are very talented and creative and play with a lot of pace. It blends into what we already had and together I think we look really promising."
After a solid 5-4-1 conference mark and falling just shy of a postseason berth in their first season as a member of the Big West Conference, the Hornets are looking to move up the conference table in their second season but face a tough field in the conference's North Division. UC Santa Barbara, UC Davis, and Cal Poly will be battling with Sacramento State for division supremacy, with all four teams fielding solid rosters with lofty goals as they kick off the 2013 season. Paired with four more talented teams in the Big West South Division, the conference shapes up as one of the premier groups of men's soccer programs in the country.
The Hornets play their first exhibition contest of the year against a former conference mate. Sacramento State and Stanford faced off every year from 1992-1999 as members of the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) before the PAC-12 (then PAC-10) added men's soccer in 2000. The Cardinal and the Hornets have played three matches since splitting as conference foes, with Sacramento State earning a 1-0 win the last times the team met in 2010. The Cardinal has not played a regular season match in Sacramento since 1998.
General admission tickets for Saturday's contest are just $5 with free admission for youth 12 and under and for fans 65 and over. The ticket booth at Hornet Field will open one hour prior to game time while fans can also purchase tickets in advance HERE.