DANIEL ISLAND, SC August 30, 2014 – The College of Charleston men’s soccer team saw its late comeback effort thwarted as the Cougars sought to upend No. 18 UC Santa Barbara in front of a raucous crowd of 1,237 fans at Blackbaud Stadium as part of the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic on Friday evening.
At the onset, the Cougars (0-1-0) surged forward and created the first scoring chances in the opening minutes, but as the first half took its shape the Gauchos proved the more offensive team.
UCSB registered a pair of goals within 12 minutes of each other in the first half, both of which were initiated by the first-class boot of Preseason All-American and Mac Hermann Award nominee Ismaila Jome.
In the 25th minute, he received a ball in stride along the left endline, and on his second touch whipped a ball back to the six-yard line where Reed McKenna redirected it into the upper right corner of the goal.
In the 37th, he made a lacerating run up the left flank and played a similar ball back towards the penalty spot, and Charlie Miller capitalized to stretch the lead to 2-0.
Down by a pair at the half, the Cougars successfully turned the pace of the game and were arguably the better team in the second half, enjoying long spells of decisive, productive possession.
The Cougars threatened UCSB’s stout defensive line, and had a quality 67th-minute chance denied when Nico Rittmeyer and Tanner Clay cleverly exchanged the ball at the top of the 18 before Clay slipped in Erik Clark in the left side of the box, but Clark’s attempt was stifled at point blank by a sliding Josh McNeely.
Less than five minutes later, the Cougars solved McNeely when he made one of his five saves on a low blast by Rittmeyer, by the rebound fell to Clay who patiently took a touch and chipped the helpless keeper to draw CofC within one.
The electric crowd lurched in the 80th minute when Xavier Rajpaul swung an enticing ball into the box from the left flank and Rittmeyer soared above his defender to head it forcibly on goal, but his attempt rattled off the crossbar and stayed out of the net.
The Cougars gave the Gauchos all they could handle down the stretch, but UCSB nervously weathered the storm in what became a chippy, physical second half.
“The first half, we were disappointing,” said head coach Ralph Lundy. “We didn’t play with total commitment and a little bit of reckless abandon. They did, and they dominated.
“Second half though, we stepped up; we fought like crazy, and I do think we had the better of the second half. We fought like crazy, but we just couldn’t get that second goal.
“I’m real proud of them, but we need to put two halves together and win games. The second half was tremendously exciting and we learned some things which will be important for the rest of the season.”
Redshirt freshman Brian Killgallon made his first career start and made three saves in the contest.
Fellow freshman Cesar Murillo made his first start as well and offered a full 90 minutes, as did Daan Brinkman, Troy Peterson, Clark and Rittmeyer.
The Cougars will wrap up the Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic with a Sunday matinee with Seattle, another NCAA Tournament second round team from a year ago. They are slated for a 2:30 p.m. kick.