A QUICK RECAP
In its final weekend at Hornet Field this season, Sacramento State delivered two overtime thrillers. In the Hornets’ first match with then ninth-ranked New Mexico last Friday, Sacramento State overcame an early one-goal deficit to send the game into overtime. After the Lobos were awarded a penalty kick in the 36th minute that Brandon Barklage converted, New Mexico took a one-goal advantage into halftime.
Senior Ryan Rhoads nabbed the equalizer, crashing in from seven-yards out and heading in Pedro Lupercio’s cross in the 49th minute. Junior Kurtis Lindsey started the play from midfield, spotting Lupercio open on the right wing and delivering a ball over the top of the Lobos back line. Freshman goalkeeper Ryan Kenny made nine saves during the match and in the first overtime period used a one-handed stop to deny P.J. Wilson one-on-one.
Senior Eliot Ricks-Chambers gave trouble to New Mexico up top, forcing a one-handed save from Mike Graczyk in regulation before getting behind the Lobos defense and missing just wide in overtime.
Sunday’s 2-1 overtime victory against UNLV was no different, with both teams providing theatrics. Despite outshooting the Rebels 13-7, Sacramento State did not take the lead until the 87th minute when Rhoads again provided a lift. In his final collegiate match at home, the fourth-year senior struck a 30-yard blast to the upper right corner. But UNLV retaliated two minutes later with a goal from Ben Haugland. Sacramento State sophomore midfielder Josh Zimbrich ended the match in the 104th minute, chipping a ball into the box that deflected off a defender before finding the net.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Sacramento State ends its 2006 season on the road and with the opportunity to finish third in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation standings. A victory against San Jose State coupled with a loss or a tie by Air Force would secure the third spot for the Hornets, behind 21st-ranked Denver and 15th-ranked New Mexico. The Spartans, coming off a 3-0 shutout of UNLV and a 3-1 loss to New Mexico, also have a shot at placing third with a victory. Akiyama Hiroki leads the team with three goals and two assists. Goalkeeper Richard Mann has made 70 saves and has a 1.35 goals against average.
The Pioneers, currently ahead in the MPSF standings with 22 points and a 7-0-1 record, control their own destiny and are on pace to win the conference championship. Denver will have to hit the road to clinch the league’s title and automatic berth to the NCAA College Cup, visiting UNLV on Friday and defending champion New Mexico on Sunday. Denver has posted 10 shutouts this season, with six of those coming against conference competition. The Pioneers’ 1-1 tie with Sacramento State (Oct. 22) is the team’s only blemish on its conference record and the team’s only two goals surrendered to conference competition were both scored by the Hornets.
In order for New Mexico to continue its reign at the top of the MPSF, the Lobos will need a win and a tie coupled with two Denver losses or two victories and one loss and one tie from Denver. The Pioneers have not lost a match since a 2-1 result against Memphis on Sept. 17.
GOING OUT IN STYLE
Sacramento State senior Ryan Rhoads will finish his collegiate career on Friday night as one of the program’s most prolific goal scorers. Last week during his final matches at Hornet Field, the Modesto, Calif., native headed in the equalizer against New Mexico, before scoring the go-ahead goal against UNLV and earning MPSF Player of the Week honors.
It was Rhoads’ seventh goal of the season and 20th of his career. In his 69 career matches, Rhoads’ 20 goals rank second in program history. Add in his nine assists and Rhoads’ 49 career points are second all-time. Midfielder Pedro Lupercio provided the assist on Rhoads’ strike against New Mexico, giving the Dixon, Calif., native his fifth assist of the year and setting a new career-high for the fourth-year senior. Lupercio now has 10 career assists, ranking fifth in program history. The team’s only three-time conference honoree, senior defender Utodi Madu made the 66th start of his career against UNLV last Sunday. That mark ranks second in program history. Sean Melendez (1997-00) holds the record with 69 career starts.
Also hanging up their boots for Sacramento State this season are senior defenders Ismael Echeverría, Jesse Manton, and Eric Ortiz, midfielder Andrew Tamm and forwards Eliot Ricks-Chambers and Oscar Sandoval. Echeverría, one of the team’s more versatile players, has made 10 starts this year, filling in the midfield or on the back line, while Manton has been a consistent starter at left back. Ortiz and Tamm had their respective seasons shortened by injuries. Sandoval and Ricks-Chambers have served as two of the program’s more dangerous scoring threats the past two years. Combined, the duo has 19 goals, six assists, four MPSF Player of the Week honors, one College Soccer News Team of the Week accolade and one Soccer America Team of the Week nomination.
With a very experienced senior class departing, Sacramento State will focus on the future. A look at the defense and sophomores Zach Tuss, Adam Owens and Jack Jones already have plenty of experience. In the midfield juniors Kurtis Lindsey and Eli Millan (the team’s assist leader) will return along with starting left midfielder Josh Zimbrich, speedy freshman Emmanual Ochoa and junior Brandon Baggett. In fact, Millan’s six assists this year are the most for any Hornet in a single season since Ricky Rodriguez (2004).
Up top will serve as the biggest question mark, with freshman Zlatan Kuckovic the only forward returning. Ochoa is versatile enough to provide depth up top and has done so this season, along with freshman defender Shelby Johnson.
Sacramento State did not graduate a goalkeeper on the roster, with sophomores Nick Gargiulo and Andrew Gangnuss and freshman Ryan Kenny. Kenny, the Hornets’ starter in their last three matches, has made 52 saves this year and currently has a 1.10 goals against average. If the Fresno, Calif., native’s average reamins the same until the end of the year, his mark will rank third in single-seaosn program history, even topping Matt McDougall’s mark of 1.15 set a year ago.