SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Fall officially arrived at Sacramento State and the rain came down just in time for men's soccer's Big West Conference opener against perennial powerhouse UC Santa Barbara. Despite the weather and the tough opponent, Sacramento State won their league opener, 1-0, over the Gauchos.
UC Santa Barbara (6-5-0, 0-1-0 Big West) came into the week ranked seventh in the Far West Region. For Sacramento State (3-6-2, 1-0-0 Big West), the match was its sixth against nationally or regionally ranked teams this season.
The difference in Wednesday night's match came late as junior midfielder Matt Carnefix delivered the game-winning goal in the 79th minute.
The play started when Benji Kikanovic picked up a deflection and took it toward the near side of the box. As he closed toward the goal, all four Santa Barbara defenders in the area collapsed on him, leaving the far side of the box wide open for a charging Carnefix.
Carnefix received a soft pass from Kikanovic right near the top of the box. He took one touch to control the ball before striking it low into the near corner for the first goal of the night and his first of the season.
The duo had a similar opportunity just a few minutes later, but an excellent save by the Gauchos' keeper kept it a one-goal match. And although UC Santa Barbara put together a late push, they were unable to find the equalizer as Sacramento State took the match, 1-0.
In total, the Gauchos actually outshot the Hornets, 12-11, though Sacramento State held the edge in shots on frame, 6-5. Sacramento State also led in corner kicks, 6-3.
All 12 of UC Santa Barbara's shots came in the second half as the Hornets put together an excellent team effort to prevent good looks for the Gauchos through the first 45 minutes.
Throughout the first half, Sacramento State controlled the ball very well but was just unable to create the right opportunities. The opposite was true in the second half, where UC Santa Barbara seemed to control the ball more often, but Sacramento State created just enough opportunities to capitalize.
Carnefix took two total shots on the night, placing both on goal. Kikanovic, in addition to his third assist of the year, also took three shots (one on goal). Jack Larter, Justin Bedig, RJ Moorhouse, and Oscar Govea all added their own shots in the match, as well.
Freshman Ryan Curtis made the start in goal for Sacramento State and made a career-high five saves in the win.
Wednesday night's match was Sacramento State's first Big West Conference match of the year. They have now won three straight conference openers dating back to 2016. In addition to their conference opener, it was also just the team's fourth home match so far this season. The win was not only a big victory over a conference opponents, but it was a historic win for head coach Mike Linenberger, who clinched his 200th career win in the effort.
Big West play continues as the Hornets head out on the road to take on UC Irvine in southern California. That match on Saturday, Oct. 6, is scheduled for a 7:00 pm kickoff. More information can always be found by visiting the Men's Soccer 2018 Schedule online at HornetSports.com.