Sacramento State's goal of winning the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) title in 2005 may seem farfetched with nationally ranked New Mexico in the conference, but the Hornets are coming off an impressive season and are returning eight starters, so a run for the NCAA Tournament might not be out of the question.
The quest will start on Sunday afternoon as the Hornets hone their skills for the first time in 2005 with an exhibition match against Cal State Stanislaus at 4 p.m. at Hornet Field. The match is part of a doubleheader which features the women's team playing Chico State at 1 p.m.
"New Mexico is still the team to beat," Sacramento State head coach Michael Linenberger said of the Lobos, who were ranked sixth in the country by College Soccer News.
"But we feel we can give New Mexico and Denver a run for their money. Our goal is to win the conference. It may be a lofty goal, but it is certainly not unrealistic."
The Hornets finished third, behind New Mexico and Denver in the MPSF last year, posting a conference record of 5-7 and 6-12-1 overall.
"It is nice to have continuity coming into this season," Linenberger said. "We had a good season last year and bringing back experience and maturity is always nice. If the returners can blend with the newcomers, this could be a nice team to watch."
With its blend of returners and newcomers, the 2005 Hornets team, at least on paper, could be the best in program history. "This is a very big class with a lot of experience at the state regional and national levels," Linenberger said. "It is accomplished group and we will see how quickly they can adapt to the play and speed of collegiate soccer."
The class includes freshman Jeff Buddenbohn from St. Francis HS. The 6-foot-4 inch defender will start as a central defender for the Hornets. The Sierra Madre native is one of the Hornets' most tenured recruits. In March, he spent time in the US Under-18 national team camp.
The first NSCAA high school All-American brought into the program, he also played on the Region IV ODP and the Cal South ODP team.
The Hornets' schedule prior to conference play includes several out-of-region opponents such as Adelphi, Long Island and Dayton, while the season and home openers will be played against traditional West Coast opponents. The season starts Thursday, Sept. 1, at Saint Mary's before the team plays host to Oregon State on Monday, Sept. 5, in the home opener.
"The schedule has a little bit of a different look to it," Linenberger said." It is a nice change of pace to play different types of teams."
With one of their most experienced and deepest teams in program history, the Hornets are looking to surprise opponents in 2005, including conference foes New Mexico and Denver, who were voted to finish first and second in the MPSF, respectively.