SANTA BARBARA, Calif. – Despite a decorated college career that has produced multiple All-Region and All-Conference First Team honors, it wasn't until Sunday night that junior midfielder Ismaila Jome made the biggest play of his UCSB career, scoring a golden goal in the 93rd minute against South Carolina to break a scoreless tie and send No. 15 UC Santa Barbara to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in program history.
The third goal of the season for Jome, who has battled injuries all season, gave the Gauchos (14-6-2) the overtime win after being held without a score in regulation despite handily outshooting their opponents for the second consecutive game.
After their win, the Gauchos are now scheduled to travel to play at No. 2 overall seed Clemson next Sunday, Nov. 29, with gametime tentatively set for 3:00 p.m. Pacific.
"I thought we were ready to play tonight, I thought we performed extremely well," said UCSB head coach Tim Vom Steeg. "At the same time, I said that before the [1-0 loss] to Cal State Fullerton last weekend. Sometimes, you have a high volume of shots and nothing goes in for you until someone steps up and makes a big play. Ish did that for us tonight."
The ball seemed to be in the USC defensive end for the entirety of the overtime period, with the Gauchos getting in service but not being able to connect on any of the passes.
But like Vom Steeg noted, it took just one play for that all to change.
DePuy, who was covered tightly all night, was able to get a foot on the pass but didn't hit it squarely, leading to a deflection that was goal-bound nonetheless. Freshly substituted Matt McManis saved the day temporarily for the Gamecocks with a goalline clearance, but unfortunately for him that clearance went straight to Jome.
Chasing down the ball about 30 yards from goal, Jome turned and – seeing two defenders blocking his left – cut to his right. Just outside the box, Jome planted and curled a right-footed shot into the top right corner of the net to USC keeper William Pyle's left.
Had it not been for Pyle, the game would have likely been over much sooner.
The keeper made point blank saves on a Sam Strong header in the 79th minute and a Kevin Feucht bicycle kick inside in the box in the 37th minute as well as a diving stop of a Geoffrey Acheampong free kick at the 23:06 mark of the first half. He finished the night with seven saves overall.
On the night, UCSB outshot South Carolina by a margin of 15-5, including a 10-1 edge in the first half.
Like last week's frustrating loss to Cal State Fullerton, the Gauchos had a bevy of scoring opportunities but couldn't put a shot away.
After making a couple adjustments at the halftime break, South Carolina began to control more possession in the second half, leading to a 4-3 shot advantage. The Gamecocks held the Gauchos without a shot for the first 33 minutes of the interval.
UCSB rallied in the final minutes of regulation, creating close-range header opportunities for Feucht and DePuy, with the latter requiring a fingertip-save.
Feucht ended up leading all Gauchos with four shots, with DePuy just behind him at three. Nine different Gauchos recorded a shot on the night.
Making his first start since early September, sophomore keeper Brandon Berke made a pair of saves en route to his first shutout and victory of the campaign.
This will be the Gauchos' first trip to the Third Round of the NCAA Tournament since 2011. All-time, the Gauchos are now 12-2 in the NCAA Tournament at Harder Stadium, and they are now 4-4-2 in Tourney games that reach overtime.