SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Sacramento State men's soccer team welcomed their Causeway rivals, the UC Davis Aggies, to Hornet Field Saturday in a critical, must-win season finale. With the postseason on the line for both teams, the tension and emotions ratcheted up quickly in Saturday's rivalry match before the Hornets fell at home, 1-0.
The loss moves the Hornets to 4-11-2 overall and 2-5 in the Big West. It also ends the Hornets' season, who came into their Saturday finale in need of a win or a tie to preserve their postseason chances.
For UC Davis, they improve to 10-4-3 overall (3-3-1 Big West) and will await results from around the conference Saturday night to determine their position in the postseason.
The fouls and cards started to pile up quickly on Saturday, with Sacramento State's Josh Dull picking up the first yellow of the match just seven minutes into play after arguing with the center referee.
In addition to Dull, Tone Andres was shown a yellow at the 61-minute mark after a tough collision with an Aggies attacker. Dominic Scotti was shown a red card, his first and just the team's second of the season, with just 1:01 remaining on the clock in regulation.
UC Davis had four yellow cards of their own as the two teams piled up 34 total fouls - 24 on the Aggies and 14 against the Hornets.
The match culminated with small scrum in front of the UC Davis goal in the 87th minute as yet another collision caused tensions to boil over and the shoving to begin. No cards or fouls were handed out, but the referees needed a few minutes to break up the huddle before resuming play.
It was a non-call, however, that proved the most critical of the afternoon. With freshman attacker Benji Kikanovic on a breakaway toward the UC Davis goal in the 17th minute, a late, high tackle made by the Aggies defender inside the box sent Kikanovic to the ground.
No foul was called as the UC Davis keeper picked the ball up off the ground and Kikanovic clutched at his ankle.
What arguably could have been a penalty kick opportunity for the Hornets instead turned into the loss of one of their best players. Kikanovic attempted to take the field in the second half, but managed just 15 minutes before again having to come off the field.
In total, UC Davis outshot the Hornets 13-9, including 10-5 in the first half. The two teams were nearly even in shots on goals though, with the Aggies holding a slight 5-4 advantage.
Scotti was responsible for three of Sacramento State's shots, including one on goal. Dull and Matt Carnefix each took two (one on goal) while Kikanovic took another, also on goal.
Both keepers made four saves, but it was freshman keeper Ryan Curtis who looked the more athletic in goal, making a number of spectacular diving and leaping saves for the Hornets. The one that got by him came on a fast developing play just two minutes into the second half.
Unfortunately, that one goal was the difference in Saturday's season-ending loss, as the Hornets will miss the Big West tournament for the first time since 2015.
Not everything was negative on Saturday, however, as Sacramento State celebrated their four graduating seniors. The team recognized Jack Larter, Josh Dull, Brad Bumgarner, and Dominic Scotti in a special pregame ceremony with their friends and families on the field.
Although the season is over for the Hornets, conference selections and awards are still to be announced and this Sacramento State team, composed of 16 underclassmen, is likely to be well represented.
Be sure to stay tuned to Sacramento State men's soccer for news on postseason recognitions, offseason developments, and more at HornetSports.com.