Charleston, S.C. – Opening the season at Blackbaud Stadium – the first privately-funded professional soccer stadium in the country – sophomore winger Ismaila Jome put in a display worthy of the pro ranks by providing assists on a pair of first half goals to pace No. 15 UC Santa Barbara to a 2-1 victory over Charleston in the first of the team's two scheduled games in the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Tournament.
Jome, who named a Preseason All-American and Mac Hermann Award nominee, hooked up with senior forward Reed McKenna in the 25th minute for the opening tally before finding Charlie Miller in the 37th minute for the eventual game-winner.
It was the second career multi-assist and third career multi-point game for the reigning Big West Freshman of the Year.
The win helped the Gauchos extend a pair of impressive streaks. UCSB has now won four straight regular season openers and is unbeaten in eight of their last nine. The team also stretched their out-of-state regular season unbeaten run to 12 games, including a five-match winning streak.
Also picking up an assists on UCSB's first goal was sophomore midfielder Drew Murphy, who led the team in helpers a year ago with eight. Murphy started the action by sending a ball to Jome near the left endline, then the winger whipped in a pass to McKenna, who headed in from about six yards.
McKenna's score continued his strong run of play, as the San Diego native had a goal and assist in UCSB's 2-0 exhibition win over Westmont last Saturday. The speedy forward has already matched his goal tally from 2013.
Operating from the left wing, Jome again found one of his forwards with a cross less than a dozen minutes later. This time it was Miller, who finished Jome's pass with a composed volley past Charleston keeper Brian Kilgallon.
Down by a pair at the half, the Cougars were able to successfully turn the pace of the game after the break and get a goal back.
Charleston's Erik Clark had the first truly dangerous chance for his team, but UCSB sophomore keeper Josh McNeely was up to the task with a diving stop of the well-struck 66th minute shot.
After threatening a number of times, Charleston finally got on the board via a 71st minute goal by Tanner Clay, who snagged a rebound of a Nico Rittmeyer shot and put it past McNeely.
The Cougars made the Gauchos collectively gasp in the 80th minute when a Rittmeyer volley struck the crossbar, but the ball stayed out and UCSB was able to rein in the Charleston attack from then on, managing possession for the final ten minutes.
Freshman midfielder Axel Mendez started for UCSB – he appeared off the bench against Westmont – and did well for himself by tying for the team-high with four shots, including a 77th minute screamer that required a sure-handed stop from Kilgallon.
Junior center back Brandon Brockway started against the Cougars after sitting out the Westmont game with an injury.
McNeely recorded five saves on the night – one off his career-high – to earn his first win of the new campaign.
The Gauchos will close the Olitsky Memorial Tournament on Sunday with a contest against Furman – the alma mater of US Men's National Team star Clint Dempsey – scheduled for a 9:00 a.m. PDT start. The Paladins were picked to win the Southern Conference after going 11-5-2 a season ago.