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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

11 games without a win: Sac State men’s soccer loses to UC Santa Barbara

Hornets must win their last two games to have a chance at playoffs
Junior+goalkeeper+Mac+Learned+standing+up+the+pitch+against+UC+Santa+Barbara+Wednesday%2C+Oct.+18%2C+2023.+Learned+has+86+saves+this+season%2C+which+is+the+most+for+any+Division+I+men%E2%80%99s+soccer+goalkeeper.
Jeff Liang, UC Santa Barbara Athletics
Junior goalkeeper Mac Learned standing up the pitch against UC Santa Barbara Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2023. Learned has 86 saves this season, which is the most for any Division I men’s soccer goalkeeper.

Sacramento State men’s soccer made it 11 games without a win and are on the brink of being eliminated from playoff contention after losing to UC Santa Barbara 3-0.

Although fog blanketed the entire pitch, Sac State’s offense was nowhere to be seen Wednesday. This was the fifth time the Hornets failed to score a goal in their last six games and the seventh time they’ve been shut out this season.

Santa Barbara struck early in this one. Fourteen minutes into the match, Santa Barbara midfielder Mikkel Goeling was there for the finish after senior midfielder Nemo Philipp’s cross deflected off of junior defender Caden Vom Steeg.

Goeling wasn’t done goal-ing there. Eight minutes later, he scored his second goal of the match after slotting his shot in the bottom right corner, leaving junior goalkeeper Mac Learned with nothing he could do to save it.

Sac State couldn’t generate much going forward. They had three shots on target in the first half, but like most of their shots this season, they did not pose much of a threat to the goalkeeper.

RELATED: Sac State men’s soccer scoring woes have led to a winless streak

Sac State’s scoring struggles have left head coach Michael Linenberger puzzled.

“We’ve had some fantastic training sessions and guys are scoring some great goals in training,” Linenberger said.

It is, of course, easier to score in training than it is in the game because the players are more relaxed. In the game it’s more tense, especially now that Sac State is playing in must win games.

“Maybe we haven’t handled the stress well enough in these games that because we tied so many games early on it’s been must win situations for us to stay in the hunt and so now there’s pressure and guys are thinking about it too much in games,” Linenberger said. “It’s puzzling because we have some good attacking players that can score goals.”

Things got worse for the Hornets in the second half. A penalty was awarded to the Gauchos in the 60th minute and redshirt junior midfielder Lucas Gonzalez was able to shoot the ball past Learned to make it 3-0.

Sac State’s overall performance declined in the second half. After taking four shots in the first half with two shots on target, the Hornets only had a total of two shots in the second half with one shot being on target.

Redshirt junior forward Titus Washington had the Hornets’ best chance of the game in the 86th minute. Washington had a one-on-one chance with Santa Barbara senior goalkeeper Leroy Zeller, but Washington’s shot was saved and just fell wide of the post.

Zeller’s lone save in the second half was enough to keep the clean sheet for Santa Barbara. It was a dominant performance from the Gauchos throughout all90 minutes.

“I feel like they did a really good job of playing as a team,” junior midfielder Ali Sasankah said. “I feel like at times, our boys were kind of not playing as a team. I feel like they just played overall better as a team than us tonight.”

In what’s been a disappointing season for Sac State, Mac Learned has been a bright spot for the Hornets and has emerged as one the best goalkeepers in the country. He had eight saves Wednesday and still owns the top spot in the nation for saves in Division I men’s soccer.

“I’m just trying to do my job and keep the ball out of the net,” Learned said. “I guess if I get a lot of saves and that’s good, that means I’m saving a lot of goals. It’s not something I really look at that much, I’m just trying to do the best for my team.”

While the Hornets currently sit in last place in the Big West Conference, they are still not officially eliminated from playoff contention. Sac State will need to win both of their last two games to have a chance at playoff qualification.

Next up for the Hornets is UC Irvine for the final home game of the season and senior day at Hornet Field Saturday at 3 p.m.

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About the Contributor
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.
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