THIS WEEKEND - SPARTANS CONCLUDE SEASON ON SENIOR NIGHT
The San Jose State University men’s soccer team concludes the 2008 season at home inside Spartan Stadium this weekend. The Spartans host the Sacramento State Hornets (8-8-2, 3-6) on Saturday night, November 15, with kick-off set for 7:00 p.m.
San Jose State, a winner of three straight matches and unbeaten now over its last five, at 4-0-1, has already assured itself of an above-.500 mark at 8-5-4 overall. Currently at 4-4-1 in the MPSF, the Spartans seek an above-.500 league record for the first time since going 7-2-1 and finishing in second by one point behind eventual national runner-up New Mexico in 2005.
San Jose State is 6-1-2 at home in 2008, including 4-1-2 inside Spartan Stadium. Sacramento State is 2-4-1 outside of the state capital. The Spartans dropped a narrow 1-0 decision at Hornet Soccer Field in this season’s earlier meeting between the teams, on October 5.
A victory on Saturday night would assure the Spartans of no worse than an outright third-place finish for the second year in a row. If San Jose State wins, and New Mexico earns no more than a single draw in two home matches against Air Force and Denver, it would own a share of second. Denver clinched its first MPSF crown last Sunday, November 9, when the Spartans knocked off the four-time defending champion Lobos at home, 1-0.
Six seniors will be recognized prior to the start of the Sacramento State match on Senior Night. That group is made up of fifth-year Spartans Richard Mann and Gavin Wenyon, alongside Hiroki Akiyama, Ed Brand, Sam Shore and Lewis Sweeney.
San Jose State is not expected to receive an at-large bid when the 48-team NCAA Championship field is announced on Monday afternoon, November 17.
SAN JOSE STATE UNIVERSITY (8-5-4, 4-4-1 MPSF)
vs. SACRAMENTO STATE (8-8-2, 3-6 MPSF)
SPARTAN STADIUM, SAN JOSE, CALIF.
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 15, 7:00 P.M.
Live stats are available for the San Jose State-Sacramento State match at SJSUSpartans.com. Just click on Live Stats under Live from the top menu bar on the front page. Fans can also click on Schedule/Results from the men's soccer home page and access the live stats from there.
The San Jose State men’s soccer program will say goodbye to six standout players on Senior Night on Saturday, November 15. Hiroki Akiyama, Ed Brand, Richard Mann, Sam Shore, Lewis Sweeney and Gavin Wenyon will be recognized prior to kick-off against Sacramento State, which is slated for approximately 7:00 p.m. Akiyama, Brand and Mann are the team’s tri-captains this year. Mann and Wenyon are the program’s elder statesmen, each in their fifth year.
SPARTANS GET PAST REBELS, LOBOS
San Jose State continued its late push into the upper half of the conference standings with a pair of dramatic home wins last week. Head coach Gary St. Clair’s troops first got by UNLV, 2-1 in overtime, at Spartan Field on Friday, November 7. Nick Cukar tallied both goals, including the sudden-victory game-winner at 92:41, with Dan Addiego picking up his first collegiate assist via a throw-in from the left side. Cukar’s opener came at 36:33, with assists going to Oscar Yniguez and Colby Moore.
On Sunday, November 9, inside Spartan Stadium, it was Cukar again providing the game-winner in a 1-0 triumph over New Mexico, as San Jose State officially ended the Lobos’ four-year reign atop the conference and handed Denver the outright crown. Cukar’s goal came at 4:38 off first-time feeds from Sam Shore and Hiroki Akiyama. Lewis Sweeney had to make just two saves to earn his fourth shutout of the season in net. The Spartans put together arguably their best game of the season defensively, and maybe even overall, limiting New Mexico to just nine shots, only two of them on goal, and virtually no significant chances to get on the scoreboard.
SAN JOSE STATE (8-5-4, 4-4-1) vs. SACRAMENTO STATE (8-8-2, 3-6)
(SJSU Leads Series, 14-6-2)
Sacramento State got off to one of the best starts in program history this season, as the Hornets were undefeated over their first six matches, with five shutout wins by the combined score of 9-0, four of those contests at home, and just a neutral-site, 1-1 affair with a then-undefeated UC Irvine side (12-1-6) now rated first in the region. Since then, Sacramento State is just 3-8-1. The Hornets were ranked as high as sixth at one point in the NSCAA/adidas Far West rankings. They are coming off a home weekend split against New Mexico (1-2) and UNLV (2-1), with both matches going into double overtime. The UNLV winner came from Matt Foy at 103:39.
The Hornets are currently led in scoring by senior forward Blake Nunes, who has 15 points from six goals and three assists. Redshirt freshman Chris Bettencourt has added three strikes and helped on two others, while senior defender Omar Martinez has collected a team-best five assists. Bryan Oliver has seen a majority of the minutes in goal. The freshman leads the MPSF in almost every goalkeeping category, including goals-against-average (0.87) and shutouts (5).
San Jose State leads the all-time series between these teams, 14-6-2, and holds a 9-4-1 advantage since the turn of the century. The Hornets did, however, take this year’s previous meeting, 1-0, in Sacramento, Calif., back on October 5 in the 2008 MPSF opener for both squads. San Jose State and Sacramento State were beginning the MPSF’s double round robin slate against each other for the fourth year in a row. The lone goal came at the 76:07 mark on a header by redshirt junior defender Zach Tuss, the first of his career. San Jose State is 5-1 against the Hornets since 2000 when the teams have started the conference season against each other, and has won five of the last seven meetings over the past four years, including both in 2007, 2-1 on October 7, and 1-0 in the season finale on November 18. Sacramento State, which joined the MPSF in 1992, swept the two-match series in 2004.
Sacramento State head coach Michael Linenberger is 125-209-33 in his 20th year at the helm.
NICK CUKAR NAMED MPSF CO-PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Nick Cukar was named Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Brine Co-Player of the Week for the week of November 3-9. It was the second weekly conference honor of his college career, and the third by a Spartan player this season. The junior midfielder tallied all three of the Spartans’ goals, which included two game-winners, in a pair of narrow home victories. Cukar produced his second career two-goal game in a 2-1 defeat of UNLV at Spartan Field on Friday, November 7, the second score coming at 2:41 of the first overtime period. He then notched the fifth-minute winner in a 1-0 victory over four-time defending MPSF champion New Mexico inside Spartan Stadium on Sunday, November 9. He has scored the last four Spartan goals in all.
Nick Cukar has been on an absolute offensive tear of late. The junior has scored each of the past four Spartan goals from his position as an outside midfielder, over the past three games, which include all three-game winners during San Jose State’s season-long three-game win streak. He now leads the team and is second in the entire MPSF with eight goals scored. He also paces the Spartans in total points with 16 from those eight strikes, and is atop the MPSF chart with six game-winners. Cukar is the team’s active career leader in goals scored, with 14. Nine of those scores were to win matches.
San Jose State is on a five-match unbeaten streak with one game to go on its 2008 regular-season schedule. The Spartans are 4-0-1 during this stretch, including a current three-game win streak. Both the winning and unbeaten stretches are season longs. All four victories have been by a single goal, with three of them by the identical shutout score of 1-0.
The last time the Spartans went unbeaten over five games was to start the 2005 campaign, when they started 3-0-2, beginning with a scoreless home draw with Stanford (9/1). They last won three straight contests in 2007, when they beat Cal State Bakersfield, 2-0 (9/26), College of Charleston, 4-0 (9/30), and Sacramento State, 2-1 (10/7), all at home.
Should San Jose State defeat Sacramento State this Saturday night, November 15, it would mark its first four-game winning streak since 2005. That year, the run of four successes was capped by a 3-2 overtime shocker at then-second-ranked New Mexico (10/16).
COUNTING ON CUKAR
In 2008, San Jose State has produced a quartet of 1-0 shutout victories, and the lone goal has come from junior midfielder Nick Cukar all four times. Three of those four matches were at home, against USF (9/10) in double overtime, Air Force (10/19) and New Mexico (11/9). The Spartans also blanked Air Force by that score away from home (11/2).
The only game which featured a 1-0 scoreline in favor of the Spartans a year ago, also saw Cukar notching the only goal, in the season finale at Sacramento State (11/14).
SEARCHING FOR SECOND
San Jose State, picked to finish in a tie for third in the preseason MPSF coaches’ poll, still has an outside shot of placing second for the first time since 2005, despite getting off to an 0-4 start, with all four defeats by one goal, as the MPSF’s only team to start the league slate with three successive road matches. The Spartans finished second in 2005, just one point behind eventual national runner-up New Mexico.
San Jose State would have to beat Sacramento State at home in its finale on Saturday night, November 15, and have New Mexico pick up no more than a single tie in a pair of home matches against Air Force (11/14) and Denver (11/16) in order to attain a share of second. Otherwise, a win over the Hornets assures the Spartans of third-place outright for a second straight year.
CLOSE GAMES IN BALANCED MPSF
Of its nine Mountain Pacific Sports Federation matches to date, the Spartans have tied one, a 3-3 draw at champion Denver (10/31). Each of the other eight matches, during which San Jose State went 4-4, were decided by one goal. The Spartans lost each of their first four MPSF matches by a single score, and have won four of their last five by that same, narrow margin.
FOUND A CONNECTION
Senior holding central midfielder Hiroki Akiyama has five assists on the season, second on the team behind junior striker Colby Moore’s six. All five of those helpers have come on goals by Nick Cukar. In fact, all four times that Cukar has produced the lone goal in a 1-0 Spartan victory this season, Akiyama has been in on the score. Three of those four times, and on four of his five assists on the year, Akiyama provided the final pass to Cukar. When Cukar scored in the second overtime to top USF, 1-0, at home back on September 10, Akiyama fed sophomore teammate Ricky Dorrego, who in turn got the ball to Cukar for the winner.
With its 1-0 home defeat of New Mexico inside Spartan Stadium on Sunday, November 9, San Jose State now has produced six shutouts in 2008, earning wins in all six. The shutout total is the Spartans’ largest in a single season since they posted six in 2003, when they last made the NCAA Championship field. They had blanked five opponents in each of the past three years.