Photo courtesy LBSU Athletics/Diego Devia
The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
Lena Silano is, in a word, different.
On Sunday night, the senior striker did something she’d never done before, scoring a once-in-a-lifetime goal in the dying minutes of Long Beach State’s (1-2-2) match against San Diego (1-3-1). That salvaged a 2-2 draw for the Beach, but it’s Silano’s moment of brilliance that will be remembered long after the 2022 season ends.
“That’s the best goal in the history of this field,” said Long Beach State head coach Mauricio Ingrassia.
“That’s like a dream,” said Silano in disbelief. “That’s a soccer player’s dream. That was awesome.”
Trailing 2-1 with less than three minutes to play, junior Elysia Laramie beat her defender with an impressive bit of skill and strength along the right flank. She was able to nutmeg her defender before discarding her to the turf, then sent in a perfect cross towards Silano in the penalty area. That’s where instinct took over, and the senior forward went for an audacious bicycle kick that was perfectly executed, tucking the equalizing goal just beneath the crossbar.
“I trusted Elysia to do her thing, and she absolutely did her thing,” Silano said. “She crossed it to me and I saw it and I was like, ‘Alright, I’m gonna full send this right now.’ And I full sent it, trusted my instincts, and it went in. I was like, ‘Oh my God.’”
The timing couldn’t have been better, and the look of disbelief on her face told the story. Silano said that’s the first bicycle kick she’s ever scored, and that “it doesn’t even work in practice.”
The goal was actually Silano’s second of the night, after she’d given Long Beach State the lead in the 25th minute. She was able to beat the USD keeper from a tight angle after a give-and-go with teammate Cherrie Cox, and it gave the Beach the advantage after a physical start to the match.
The score remained 1-0 going into halftime, with Silano registering all three of LBSU’s shots in the first 45 minutes. With the brace, Silano solidified her status as the team leader in scoring with five goals on the season.
While the Beach had control of the proceedings at the start and at the finish, San Diego had a torrid 20-minute stretch early in the second half which produced both Torero goals. The equalizer came on an impressive individual effort from Eden Quiroz, who collected a deflection and calmly lifted a strike over LBSU goalkeeper Morgan Houston-Shepherd and into the far side of the goal. That leveled the score in the 54th minute and put LBSU back on its heels.
“I felt like we backed off a little bit for too long,” Ingrassia said. “And then they got the second goal, but we never quit. Also, we missed a sitter inside six yards–all we had to do is pass it in, and we missed it. So when you miss those goals, they tend to trickle into your net. That’s the law of the soccer gods.”
USD’s go-ahead goal came via Josefine Schlichting in the 68th minute as she calmly slotted a shot past Houston-Shepherd when given a clean look inside the penalty area. The Toreros would have had a third goal if not for a heroic intervention from Maddy Perez, who flew in with a desperation clearance to get the ball off the LBSU goal line.
Once the Beach settled back down, they generated some quality looks over the final 20 minutes. Even after Silano’s equalizer, LBSU remained full steam ahead in the final two minutes, having a shot from Silano headed off the line by a well-positioned USD defender.
When the dust settled, LBSU had outshot the visitors, 17-13, led by seven attempts from Silano. Cox added three shots for the Beach while Laramie, Julia Moore and Summer Laskey each had a pair. A whopping 14 of those shots came after halftime for the Beach as the teams combined for 23 attempts at goal in the second half.
“We’re creating a ton of chances,” Ingrassia said. “Really unfortunate not to win this one, I feel. But also I feel like it could have gone either way … I’m just proud of my team for fighting back the way they did and what a spectacular goal by Lena Silano.”
Unfortunately, the Beach did suffer a few key injuries which impacted them during the match. Stalwart defender Alia Sinoff was removed early in the second half with a back issue and did not return, causing the Beach to do some reshuffling at the back.
There appears to be more concern about freshman forward Felicia Jastre Hogberg, who was helped off the field in the 18th minute following a heavy challenge. She was helped off the field in obvious distress, and was on crutches following the match with a brace on her leg.
After opening the season with six straight matches at George Allen Field, the Beach will finally get its first road test next Thursday at Harvard. That will be the only road game of the non-conference season for the Beach, who have just one more home match against Pepperdine before starting Big West play.
Silano agreed that the Beach could have found a way to win on Sunday, but she was happy with the team’s ability to battle back late.
“We definitely could have gotten a different result, we’ve just been responding,” she said. “It sucks that Felicia got hurt in the beginning, that was definitely heartbreaking. But you know, we just responded and I'm happy that we got a point. All we can do is grow from here and we get the privilege to go to Harvard next week.”