Jome’s overtime goal puts Gauchos in NCAA Sweet 16

Ismaila Jome chased down a cleared ball, dribbled past two defenders and ripped a right-footed shot from 20 yards for the game-winning goal in overtime, giving UCSB a 1-0 win over South Carolina in a second-round game of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Tournament on Sunday night Harder Stadium.

The victory before 2,519 fans advances the Gauchos (14-6-2)  to a Sweet 16 game at second-seeded Clemson next Sunday, Nov. 29. South Carolina ends the season at 12-8-1.

The sequence on the game-winner started with an Andy Perez pass to Nick DePuy in the box. DePuy didn’t get much on his shot at the top of the 6-yard box and the ball was cleared by the Gamecocks.

“I’m always looking for Nick when I’m on the right, to be honest,” said Perez, the team’s right fullback. “I was looking to actually hit it a little higher to get it to his head but I whipped it and luckily it got through and it went right to his foot. He got over (the top of) it a little bit so it bounced, took a little deflection and went right on the goal line and they made a good play to save it. Luckily, it went straight to Ish and he finished it off for us.”

The goal came in the 93rd minute.

Jome admitted he was surprised DePuy didn’t finish his chance to end the game.

“When Andy crossed it and it came to Nick, I thought, ‘OK, it’s a goal. … it’s over, we won,’” Jome said. “Nick mis-hits it and I’m, ‘OK, here we go again.’ I run over and chase the second ball.  I was going to cross it  but they had two defenders blocking me going left. I go, ‘Why don’t I just go right for once.‘ I’ve been practicing it since the spring, so I go right and I hit it and it goes in.”

It was a terrific shot that beat a solid South Carolina goalkeeper Will Pyle.

“Will’s done a great job all year,” said South Carolina coach Mark Berson.

But Jome’s shot was too good.

“It’s a wonderful way to progress past the second round, which has been kind of barrier for us the last couple of seasons,” said Jome.

“For a game like that, you’re just looking for somebody to put it in,” UCSB coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “We know Ish’s season has been tough with the left, so he at least picked the right foot to finish that one.”

The 15th-seeded Gauchos wanted to jump on the Gamecocks early. They came to Santa Barbara after surviving double overtime and a shootout against Furman in a first-round game on Thursday.

UCSB dominated possession and outshot the Gamecocks 10-1 in the first half but it had nothing to show for it. It was very similar to the 1-0 loss to Cal State Fullerton in the Big West Tournament final.

“It’s two games now where we’ve looked at the goalie and we haven’t done what we need to do to get it past him,” said Vom Steeg.

A relieved South Carolina came out hard in the second half and created some scoring opportunities.

“The problem when you throw the whole kitchen sink at somebody in the first half, which was the game plan, you expend a lot of energy,” Vom Steeg said.

“The key in the game was in the first half we were not able to keep possession; we were not able to take any pressure off ourselves,” Berson said. “We did lot of defending. We broke on them a few times, but the game was a little bit of chaos in the first half. They weren’t trying to keep it either. They were playing it up and playing it off their striker and they were successful at that. The second half we were able to take that away (balls to DePuy) and we able to put passes together and take pressure off ourselves and get some very good breaks and very good looks at them. That was our plan and the guys did a good job.”

The Gauchos regained control about 25 minutes into the second half and created some good scoring chances. But Pyle denied them.

Then Jome came through in overtime.

Now it’s on to second-seeded Clemson (16-2-2), which won its second-round game, 5-2, over Elon.

“I’m excited for this group to show up on Sunday down at Clemson,” Vom Steeg said. “In my opinion, they have been consistently one of the top 4 teams in the country all year. The ACC was the best conference and they’re the best team in the ACC.”

Vom Steeg compares the game at Clemson to NCAA Tournament wins at SMU by the 2006 national championship team and at North Carolina-Greensboro by the 2004 national runner-up squad.

“It’s a great challenge,” he said. “Every time you go through the NCAA Tournament you’re going to have to hit that one game. In 2006, we traveled and played SMU and they were No. 1 in country. The ’04 team had Greensboro and a man down for 110 minutes and we got through that game. Clemson is our game.

“The fact we’re playing in that game is where this team needs to be.”