March 26, 2017

Men’s soccer falls in Big West semifinals after penalty-kick shootout

Sacramento State senior forward Alex Bettencourt kicks the ball to a teammate against UC Riverside at Hornet Field on Nov. 5. (Photo by Matthew Dyer)

Sacramento State men’s soccer team’s postseason run comes to an end after being defeated by Cal State Northridge by way of penalty kicks (6-5) Wednesday night at Matador Soccer Field.

The Hornets and the Matadors were able to create scoring opportunities as both teams attempted 33 shots combined, but were unable to capitalize and score through 110 minutes of play which forced the game to transition from overtime to a penalty-kick shootout.

“It’s a fun way to win a game, but a cruel way to lose one,” Sac State head coach Michael Linenberger said. “I am very happy with my group and how they performed in the pressure situation.”

Hornets’ senior forward Nate Nugen started off the penalty kicks for Sac State and was able to convert. Sac State then connected on its next four penalty kicks, but junior goalkeeper James Del Curto was unable to come up with a save on the defensive end as the Matadors answered each penalty kick with one of its own.

“Before the PKs, we huddled up and told ourselves ‘win or lose we will remain brothers,’” Sac State senior forward Ivan Ramirez said. “We were not going to put the blame on any particular individual no matter the outcome.”

Taking the sixth penalty kick for the Hornets was team-leading goal scorer and senior forward Alex Bettencourt, whose shot ended up being blocked by Matador goalie Kevin Marquez on a diving save to his right.

The next and final penalty kick for the Matadors was taken by senior defender Patrick Hickman, who fired his shot in the bottom left corner as Del Curto was unable to deflect. Del Curto, who earned all-Big West second team honors on Nov. 1, was busy all evening as he recorded seven saves including an important stop in the second overtime period that kept the game tied at zero.

“We had some opportunities that we missed out on,” Nugen said after leading the Hornets in shots attempted on the evening with three, and picking up a yellow card in the 99th minute of the game. “But we had a good collective effort so there is no hard feelings towards anyone.”

Sac State ends the year with a final record of 9-9-3 (4-5-1 Big West) which is an improvement over last year’s 6-10-2 (3-6-1 Big West) final record.

“This was the furthest we’ve ever made it in the Big West Tournament,” Linenberger said. “Despite the fact we’re losing ten seniors, I believe we have a lot of good young players and I expect us to go further next season.”

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Noah Alvarez

Noah Alvarez is a senior at Sacramento State where he is majoring in communication studies. Noah is currently a sports writer for the State Hornet. He joined the student-run organization in fall 2016. Noah is also the Sports Director in charge of broadcasting Hornets' games for KSSU, Sac State's student-run radio station. In 10 years, Noah sees himself working as a college football play-by-play broadcaster for a sports network. He got into sports broadcasting after being a three-sport athlete in high school. Noah can be reached at [email protected]

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