SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Coming off a 4-0 whitewash of Southern Utah on Sunday, the Sacramento State women's soccer team (7-6-2, 3-2-1 Big Sky) plays its final regular season road contests of the year against two quality opponents, facing Idaho State (5-6-2, 2-1-2 Big Sky) at 3 p.m. Thursday and Weber State (7-3-3, 3-1-1 Big Sky) at 11 a.m. Saturday.
"This weekend is huge for us," Sacramento State head coach Randy Dedini said. "We have to go on the road and get the results, and we have to have the mentality that we need to win both. This whole year we've preached one game at a time, and that's no more important than it is right now."
The Hornets enter the week tied with Weber State and Northern Colorado for second place in the conference with 10 points, meaning that if the playoffs started today the squad would be one of the four teams to qualify for the Big Sky Tournament. Northern Arizona is just behind with nine points while Idaho State has eight.
A key factor, however, is that Weber State, Northern Colorado, Northern Arizona, and Idaho State each have four matches remaining while the Hornets only have three. With a regular season finale against conference-leading Portland State at home next week, the two road matches this week against teams fighting for postseason berths will be critical not only for earning points but also in gaining the upper hand in any tiebreak scenario.
"Looking at each game we feel like we can beat both these opponents," said Dedini of the week ahead. "Our backs are against the wall and we'll see if we have the character of champions. If we do then we'll come out on top."
The Hornets are coming off an exhilarating win over Southern Utah in which senior forward Gabriela Trenton recorded the fifth hat trick in program history. Sacramento State had scored just four goals over its previous four matches but struck early and often against the Thunderbirds.
Alongside Trenton on the Hornet Front line, sophomore Alyssa Anderson is tied for the conference lead with seven goals and senior Jordyn Rolling is tied for seventh with four tallies. Rolling has been strong as of late, scoring three goals in the last four matches, but Anderson has just one goal over the last six games. She has, however, scored six of her seven goals this season on the road.
The Hornets now rank third in the Big Sky with 20 goals and second with 20 assists, but the team's final two opponents, Weber State and Portland State, lead the conference with each allowing less than one goal per game. Sacramento State has been strong defensively as well, ranking second in the conference with 91 saves and third with six shutouts.
Idaho State played to a 1-1 draw against Weber State last weekend and has conference wins this year over Eastern Washington and Southern Utah. The team is undefeated in home Big Sky matches at 1-0-2 but ranks last in the conference in shots and seventh in goals. The squad has been issued 21 yellow cards this season; by comparison no other team has more than 10 and Sacramento State has just three.
Junior Amanda Ellsworth leads the team and is tied for third in the Big Sky with five goals while sophomore goalkeeper Sheridan Hapsic ranks second in the conference with 6.08 saves per game. Sacramento State is just 3-10-3 all-time against Idaho State and hasn't won in Pocatello since 2005.
Weber State is the top defensive team in the Big Sky, having allowed just 13 goals and 0.94 goals per game while allowing only 3.9 shots on goal per match. The Wildcats had a surprising loss at Southern Utah but are unbeaten in their four other conference games and are 3-0-1 at home this season.
Sophomore Mackenzie Harrison leads the team offensively and is tied for third in the conference with five goals while senior goalkeeper Ryann Waldman is second in the Big Sky with a 0.93 goals against average, though she is last in saves and seventh in save percentage. Weber State has won the last two meetings between the schools after the Hornets had won the five previous matchups.