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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Sac State men’s soccer suffers a pair of one-goal defeats

The Hornets have lost three consecutive games
Cam Hanson
Sacramento State midfielder Stacy Holmes moves the ball downfield against Saint Mary’s forward/midfielder Maxwell Farnum on the Hornet Field, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2023. The Hornets played a frustrating game on defense against the Gaels.

Sacramento State’s lack of offense cost the Hornets two games last week, but their keeper showed why he’s one of the best in the country.

Junior goalkeeper Mac Learned had a career week that ended with 18 saves with eight saves against Saint Mary’s Gaels and 10 saves against San Francisco. His performances over the last two games kept the Hornets in both games.

Thursday: Saint Mary’s 3 vs. Sacramento State 2

Sac State had a tough outing in their loss against Saint Mary’s Gaels.

Learned recorded season highs against the Gaels with 22 shots faced, 8 saves and 3 goals allowed. Learned was constantly under duress with the majority of the game being played on the Hornets side of the field, Learned had to play his best game of the season to keep the match competitive.

“Obviously, as a keeper, I love making saves,” Learned said. “I love stopping the ball, helping my team out. You know, kind of doing my job and it feels good.”

The goalkeeper’s will was tested early on when Gael’s junior forward Riley Lynch went up one-on-one against Learned and took a shot at the goal down the middle and scored a little under four minutes into the game.

Learned received help from his teammates three minutes later when senior defender Jaime Robles played the ball up to senior forward Austin Wehner. Wehner fought off a defender and took a shot at the left side of the goal to even things up with a score of 1-1.

“We got off, obviously, to a bad start,” Sac State head coach Michael Linenberger said. “[We] gave them a goal four minutes in or whatever it is. However, we responded pretty well by equalizing a couple minutes later.”

The Gaels took the lead back around the nine-minute mark when Lynch passed the ball up the middle to junior forward Wade Muttitt, who took a shot at the goal and scored in the right post, making the score 2-1 in favor of the Gaels.

Linenberger said that this goal disappointed him, due to the defense not being able to “kill that counter” because they had practiced that play a lot.

In the 11th minute, the pressure was once again on Learned as Lynch took another shot on goal from the farside and Learned dove to the ground to make the save. Learned stayed down this time as his teammates came to check on him.

“A year or two ago, he probably would have come out of the game, but he’s a lot tougher now,” Linenberger said.

In the second half, the Gaels took ten shots with three being saved by Learned. The Hornets had no shots.

Eventually, the inevitable happened, and the Gael’s sophomore forward Maxwell Farnum got a goal with an assist by senior midfielder Timothy Stephens.

“Obviously, I was a little mad that I was getting a little bit too much action,” Learned said. “As a team, we need to work on trying to limit their chances.”

Linenberger was also not happy with the performance of his team. The game ended with a drastic differential in shots. The Hornets had 12 to the Gaels 22.

“For me, this was maybe the most disappointing performance of the year for us so far,” Linenberger said. “The scoreline doesn’t indicate the game today. I thought Saint Mary’s was a lot better than us.”

With less than two minutes left in the game, the Hornets scored the final goal of the match with senior midfielder Cody Sundquist taking a shot after being assisted by Wehner.

Although the game was disappointing for the Hornets, they plan on getting their season back on track on Sunday against San Francisco.

“I will sacrifice my body to not let goals in, so I’m fine with it,” Learned said.

Sunday: San Francisco 1 vs. Sacramento State 0

Sac State suffered their third consecutive loss after falling to San Francisco by a score of 1-0.

San Francisco grabbed the lead just four minutes into the game. Sophomore forward Zane Alafranji was credited with the goal after he hit a cross into the penalty box and it deflected off of a Sac State defender for a goal.

It looked as if it were going to be a long night for the Hornets after going down early.

RELATED: RECAP: Sac State men’s soccer split two games on road trip

But as it’s been for the last three games, it was once again the Mac Learned show on Sunday night. The junior goalkeeper made 10 saves on the night – a career-high and was responsible for keeping the scoreline close.

After this 10-save performance, Learned’s save tally on the season moved to 49 – which also bumped him up to the top spot for total saves in all of Division 1 men’s soccer.

“I always feel okay with him in between the three posts,” junior defender Bryan Gutierrez said. “I always have full faith in him – he’s a great goalkeeper and a person who’s been keeping us in the game.”

Despite Learned’s incredible effort in goal, the Hornets did not have similar success when it came to attacking San Francisco’s goal.


In the first half, Sac State only recorded a total of two shots, with only one of those being on target. Whereas San Francisco took 14 shots in the first half, with six of them on target.

“First half, I thought we played maybe our worst half of soccer of the season,” Linenberger said. “Slow starts are killing us. We gotta get it figured out and figured out quick.”

San Francisco did a great job of making the Hornets uncomfortable every time they had possession.

“Every time that the ball did get up to the forwards, we had men on us immediately and it was tough for us to play out of that pressure in the first half,” senior forward Austin Wehner said. “In the first half, we were not playing the football that we kind of wanted to.”

Despite the rough first half, Sac State came out strong in the second half and looked like a much better team than they did in the first half.

A change in tactics played a big role in Sac State’s improved play in the second half. In the first half, the Hornets used a 4-2-3-1 formation, but in the second half, they switched to a 4-4-2.

The switch to playing with two strikers allowed Sac State to put more pressure on San Francisco’s central defenders.

“The second half, I thought we played one of our best halves of soccer,” Linenberger said.

Sac State took a total of five shots with two of those being on target – a big improvement from the two total shots they had in the first half.

Sac State’s best opportunity to equalize the game came just seconds before the full-time whistle.

Sophomore defender Lucas Gimenez hit a cross that found junior defender Alejandro Padilla, who then headed the ball to sophomore midfielder Stacy Holmes, who had a great look on goal but San Francisco’s junior goalkeeper Eric Waltz was there to make the important save.

The Dons’ defense held strong throughout the entire 90 minutes and that save with seconds left in the game was symbolic of how good San Francisco was on Sunday night.

Sac State will now return home to face San Jose State on Friday at 4 p.m. This will be their last match before conference play begins.

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About the Contributors
Joey Aguirre
Joey Aguirre, Sports Editor
(he/him) Joey Aguirre is in his second semester at The State Hornet. He is a passionate sports fan and wants to pursue a career in sports media.
Ryan Lorenz
Ryan Lorenz, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Ryan Lorenz is in his second semester at The State Hornet. He is a former Sports Editor for Cosumnes River College's publication, The Connection. He has a strong passion for sports and plans on having a career in sports media.
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