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Junior Bobby Conner anchors a young defensive back line for the Gaels.
Junior Bobby Conner anchors a young defensive back line for the Gaels.
MSOC | Saint Mary's Set To Host NorCal Rivals
Release: Thursday 09/11/2013 
by SMC Athletics

MORAGA, Calif. -- Although its season just began two weeks ago, the Saint Mary's men's soccer team conducts its final two non-conference home games at Saint Mary's Stadium this weekend.

The Gaels host UC Davis in a 4 p.m. match on Thursday, then welcome Sacramento State to campus at 4 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.  Single game and group tickets are available by calling the SMC Athletic Ticket Office at (925) 631-GoTx or by clicking on the tickets link on SMCGaels.com.

For those unable to attend, the match will be streamed live via subscription service Gaels Live.  Real-time statistics will also be available on SMCGaels.com.

At Thursday's game, Gael Force members can win prizes as part of the regular "Gael Force Full Force" promotion and SMC students living on campus can compete in a season-long dorm competition.  Saturday is Family Day with halftime activities and opportunities to win prizes.  In addition, the department will recognize student-athletes from its 17 intercollegiate sport programs in a special halftime ceremony.

"UC Davis and Sacramento State are teams we play every year and they both have become good rivalry games," said SMC head coach Adam Cooper.  "We want to be the best team in Northern California and winning these games are important to us."

Saint Mary's enters the weekend with a 2-1 record, the only blemish being a 2-1 overtime setback last weekend at (now) 11th-ranked CSU Northridge.  The Gaels opened the season with a pair of convincing home victories, taking a 3-0 decision against Air Force and a 2-0 shutout against LIU Brooklyn.

After just two weekends of the season, the Gaels are the top-scoring team in the West Coast Conference.  SMC has scored six goals in its first three matches and has a league-leading seven assists.  

Individually, redshirt freshman Carlo Eikani shares the WCC lead for overall points and goals and leads the league in goals per game.  He scored twice on the first weekend of competition and was named the WCC Player of the Week.

Freshman Rafael Sanchez and sophomore Jake Stenberg share the WCC lead for assists with two apiece, while junior goalkeeper Andre Rawls is the conference leader in saves.

"We are getting better at moving the ball and playing the way we want to play," said Cooper.  "We are improving every day.  Guys are working hard and finding ways to score goals.  Against Air Force, we scored three very good goals.  Against LIU we scored two incredibly good goals.  And, at Northridge we scored another great goal.    Different guys are stepping up and everybody is playing their role."

A challenging opening schedule leaves UC Davis with a 1-3-0 record coming into Thursday's match.  After dropping a pair of road games at Portland (0-1) and Oregon State (0-2), the Aggies rebounded with a 1-0 win over Seattle in its home opener last week.  On Sunday, UCD lost a 2-0 decision at home to CSU Bakersfield.

"If you look at UC Davis' season so far, they haven't gotten the results but they've been dominating teams.  They have outshot their opponents by an overwhelming margin but they just haven't found the back of the net.  They are a very, very good team - a very experienced team.  They are hungry for results so I expect a very competitive match."

Following Thursday's match, the Aggies will become even more familiar with WCC competition by hosting San Francisco on Saturday and traveling to San Diego and Loyola Marymount next weekend.

Sacramento State enters a home game Thursday against San Francisco with a 1-1-1 overall record.  The Hornets won a dramatic 1-0 double-overtime victory at San Jose State to open the season, then dropped a 3-0 decision to CSU Bakersfield in their home opener.  On Sunday the Hornets overcame a 1-0 deficit to salvage a 1-1 home draw against Seattle.

Following this weekend's matches, Saint Mary's travels to Evanston, Ill. to play 24th-ranked Northwestern and Northern Illinois at the Lakeside Classic.