After a year in which the UCSB men’s soccer team went undefeated in conference play, the Gauchos are set to kickoff the new season as they host Westmont in their annual exhibition game tomorrow.
“The key for us is going to be the fact that we need to build on what we did last year with five seniors gone,” Head Coach Tim Vom Steeg said. “It’ll be a bit of a slow process at the start and then hopefully we’ll get going.”
With a 12-6-3 record last season and an impressive 7-0-3 mark in conference play, UCSB earned a No. 10 national seed in the NCAA Tournament. The Gauchos have been ranked as high as No. 15 in this year’s major national preseason polls.
It will be a tough test trying to repeat the success of last year’s campaign, especially having to deal with the loss of some of the team’s biggest contributors. Two of the more notable departures from the team, forwards Achille Campion and Goffin Boyoko, scored 15 out of the team’s 31 total goals on the year.
“The key for us is our ability to get our players on the same page and of course we have to find goals from new players,” Vom Steeg said. “If we can get goals from new players, work on our defense, and get on the same page, then by the end of the year we will be a very good team.”
Despite this loss in offensive production, a strong recruiting class has the team excited about its potential this year.
“We’re replacing [last year’s starters] with one of the best freshmen classes we’ve had in a long time,” Vom Steeg said. “The key is for us to incorporate our young players and have the starting sophomores step up and show their improvement.”
Out of the seven sophomores on the team, none perhaps will be more exciting to watch than Ismaila Jome. The midfielder was one of the team’s top contributors in his freshman year with totals of two goals and seven assists and he was the only player to start every game of the season.
Jome’s contributions made him the only Gaucho to be named to the 2014 Big West Men’s Preseason AllConference Team. They also put him in the national spotlight as he was named to the Preseason AllAmerican Third Team by College Soccer News.
Sophomore goalkeeper Josh McNeely was also named the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year in the Big West by College Sports Madness.
“I think by the end of the year we’ll be excellent,” Vom Steeg said. “The question is, can we win enough games until we get to a point where we’re really good? But there’s no doubt in my mind that we have the talent to compete with and beat anybody in the country.”
The game against Westmont is set to kickoff at 7:00 p.m. tomorrow.