Gauchos Clinch Playoff Spot with 2-1 Win Over Sacramento State
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Freshman winger Ismaila Jome scored his second career goal and assisted on another to lead No. 17 UC Santa Barbara to a 2-1 win over visiting Sacramento State on Tuesday night, becoming the first team to clinch a spot in the Big West Tournament while extending their best ever start to conference play with a sixth straight league win.
The playoff berth means that the Gauchos will be a postseason team for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons. The second-ranked team in the NCAA's RPI, UCSB has now won a season-best seven straight games. It is the team's longest winning streak since 2010, when they also won seven straight.
UCSB improved to 11-4, 6-0 after the win, while last place Sac State fell to 2-9-3, 0-6.
"I'm very excited we won tonight," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "We needed one player to step up in a big way and Ismaila did that tonight."
Against the Hornets, Jome was the star on offense for the Gauchos. His 75th minute goal broke a 1-1 deadlock and rescued UCSB from having to play a fourth straight overtime game for the first time in program history. Operating in space to the goalkeeper's right, the forward made a couple nice moves to get down the flank before whipping a cross into the box. His cross was deflected out by a Hornet, but Jome regrouped and snatched the ball back before it could be cleared. After juking past one Hornet, he sent a low shot past the diving keeper.
Jome was heavily involved in the game's opening goal as well. Moving down the right touchline in the 22nd minute, Kevin Garcia-Lopez found himself swarmed by Hornets defenders, so passed to senior midfielder Fifi Baiden. Working in the central midfield, Baiden switched the play and sent a long ball down the left side to Jome, who dashed down the wing before playing a ball through the box to senior forward Goffin Boyoko. The French forward met Jome's pass with a first touch left footed shot into the corner on the near post.
Boyoko, who has scored in two straight, is now tied for the team lead with six goals. UCSB is 5-0 this season when he tallies a goal. His seven shots and three shots on frame were both the highest outputs by a Gaucho this season.
Jome snapped a three-game pointless streak with his one goal, one assist performance. He is currently third on the team with 10 total points.
For the most part, the Gauchos dominated the rest of the first half following Boyoko's strike. Freshman goalkeeper Josh McNeely had to make a difficult save on a point blank Edwin Luna one-timer, but otherwise UCSB controlled the game, outshooting the Hornets 9-3 and drawing 12 Sacramento State fouls in the first half.
After the halftime break, the Hornets picked up their play and created several decent scoring chances, requiring McNeely to four saves throughout the night, Sac State eventually was able to produce the equalizing goal in the 53rd minute. After drawing a UCSB foul, Luna stepped up to a free kick from about 35 yards out. He sent a line drive shot to the corner of the net, just sneaking it under the crossbar to knot the score at 1-1.
After the equalizer, UCSB once again amped up the offensive pressure, earning a flurry of corner kicks before eventually going ahead for good.
UCSB will next play on Friday night when they travel to Cal Poly to take on the Mustangs. The Gauchos currently trail the Blue-Green Rivalry 2-1 but can pull even with a win against their central coast rivals. Just as important, UCSB needs just one win its remaining four regular season games to clinch the top spot in the Big West North Division and a bye in the first round of the Big West Tournament.