SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Behind a five-save performance from freshman goalkeeper Josh McNeely and goals from forwards Achille Campion and Ismaila Jome UC Santa Barbara recorded its third straight shutout victory by defeating UC Riverside 2-0 on Sunday evening.
Now on their longest win streak of the season at three games, the Gauchos have recorded shutout wins in three straight for the first time since 2010. Now at 7-4 (2-0 Big West), Tim Vom Steeg's squad sits atop the Big West North Division after the first week of conference play. UC Riverside fell to 5-4-2, 0-2 with the loss.
It didn't take long for UCSB to get ahead against the Highlanders on Sunday, as the Gauchos were able to grab a goal within the first minute of the match.
Back on defense, senior Daniel Welsh played a ball up the field to senior forward Goffin Boyoko, who settled the pass before lobbing a through ball into the box to fellow forward Achille Campion. The French striker let the ball take one bounce before setting and blasting a first-touch shot past keeper Ashkan Khosravi, who was making his first appearance of the season.
Just 37 seconds in, it was by far the earliest goal scored by the Gauchos this season.
Spotted a goal so early, UCSB ratcheted up its defensive pressure throughout the first half, resulting in just three UC Riverside shots for the period, two of which were on frame.
That low-offense trend continued through the early stages of the second half, but one free kick changed all that. Taking the kick at around the halfway line, UCR defender Eric Gonzalez lofted a ball all the way to McNeely, who was able to get a glove on the shot despite the crowded box. McNeely did not get all of it however, and needed to make a pair of impresive close-range stops on Highlander shots before completely escaping the danger.
The Calabasas, Calif. native made three of his five saves for the day on that one stretch of play. His personal record improved to 6-3 after the win.
After that danger, UCSB had several dangerous counterattacking threats. One such opportunity led to the Gauchos' second goal. Trying to play a ball back to his keeper, a UCR defender instead deflected a ball off his own teammate and back towards UCSB's forwards.
Jumping on the turnover, freshman attacker Ismaila Jome advanced on the Highlanders goal. With Campion and Boyoko running down the wings and occupying the two remaining UCR defenders, Jome took advantage and curled a left-footed strike just inside the left post for his first career goal.
"The fact that we're now finding ways to win is the real takeaway for this team," said Vom Steeg postgame. "We stayed focused and composed at the back even after getting that early goal."
Still the team leader in assists with five, Jome is now third on the team with seven points. Campion reclaimed his place at the top of the UCSB scoresheet with his goal giving him his 10th point.
This week, the Gauchos will travel south to face Big West rivals CSUN and UC Irvine in their first road games in over a month. Friday night's matchup against Cal State Northridge will pit the two conference division leaders against each other, while the Anteaters, Sunday's opponent, were ranked as high as No. 18 in the country last week before splitting their first two conference games.
Full coverage of those matches, including live video/audio coverage as well as up-to-the minute stats, can be found here.