The562’s coverage of Long Beach State athletics for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Marilyn Bohl.
The562’s coverage of Long Beach soccer for the 2022-23 season is sponsored by Beach Futbol Club.
It’s been a historic year for Lena Silano and the senior forward played the role of hero for Long Beach State women’s soccer on Sunday night in the Big West Conference quarterfinals at George Allen Field.
Silano scored an early second-half goal to give her team a lead over UC Santa Barbara, and after the visitors equalized late to force overtime, Silano scored again early in overtime to carry LBSU into the semifinal round at Cal Poly on Thursday.
The brace puts Silano in a tie for the program’s single-season goals scored record with 16, and her 38 total points for the year now ranks third all-time.
“I have tremendous respect for my team and I have all year long, and tonight they showed true character against a very good team,” LBSU coach Mauricio Ingrassia said.
LBSU (7-6-6) finished its season with a loss that cost the Beach a chance to clinch a share of the Big West regular season title and host the conference tournament.
“(Thursday’s loss to UC Davis) was a really great game and you couldn’t be mad because I was just so proud of everyone,” Silano said. “Yeah, we didn’t get the title, but there was still an opportunity to win something else. This is what we do, we respond really well. We turned the negative into a positive.”
Alia Sinoff provided the assists on both of Silano’s goals, and that’s only the second time a player has done that in a Big West postseason match in program history. The win is a fifth consecutive conference tournament win for the Beach, and Thursday will be the 10th semifinal appearance under Ingrassia.
The first half was predictabley even after UCSB beat LBSU 2-1 last weekend in their regular season meeting. The Beach had the first few shots, but UCSB had the first two shots on goal thanks to Dylan Lewis creating on the right wing.
In the 17th minute, LBSU's Sophie Jones broke free to the right of the 18-yard box and charged towards the end line. Julia Moore was unmarked at the back post, but Jones’ cross deflected off the bar and was eventually cleared.
UCSB had a chance go off the crossbar in the 32nd minute when a deflected corner kick was cleared off the line and off the woodwork by LBSU defender Aimee Medwin.
In the 37th minute, LBSU midfielder Sara Ybarra nearly scored from about 25 yards out on a shot that went just high, and less than two minutes later LBSU goalkeeper Zara Standifer made a diving save to keep it scoreless until halftime.
Ingrassia moved Silano to the left wing to start the second half because he said, “When we (played at UCSB last Sunday) they bottled up Lena inside so I just wanted to give a little bit of a different look.”
That move paid off in the 47th minute when Sinoff moved the ball up from right back and took an extra touch past midfield.
“I was just going to run forward full speed and hope for the best, but I took a second and a deep breath to see what my options were,” Sinoff said. “I know that if I dump a ball into the box anywhere around Lena and our forwards, 90 percent of the time they’re going to get a goal for us.”
Silano recognized the move and beat a pair of defenders to the top of the box while using the space created by playing wider.
“She’s been consistent with sending those balls in,” Silano said of Sinoff. “We almost had one against CSUN and I felt like I owed her one of those. I saw her, made my run and just went in the flow.”
With a full head of steam, Silano powered through the backline and the goalkeeper to poke the ball home and give LBSU the lead.
The game broke even again after the goal until the 82nd minute when Lauren Helwig scored off an O’Callaghan Liu assist.
“That was a big blow to take but we regrouped and players believed in each other,” Ingrassia said. “That’s why I love this team and their fight and grit and togetherness. I couldn’t be prouder.”
“Right before we went back out for overtime Lena came up to me and said, ‘Hey, if you don’t really know what to do just send a ball in and I’ve got you, I’ll make something happen,’” Sinoff said.
“I saw in the second half that when we dumped those balls in they made a mess of it and we were almost getting opportunities,” Silano said. “So it was like, why not? That’s exactly what happened and I trust (Sinoff) to do that.”
Two minutes into overtime Sinoff collected and sent a misclearence back towards the near post where Silano poked it home off the bounce.
The LBSU defense and Standifer (5 saves) stood strong for the rest of the overtime periods to secure the victory. UCSB had a 15-14 lead in shots for the game, and possession was almost even.
“If we keep playing like we do by trusting each other and keeping it simple like we have been the last two games I have faith in us,” Silano said.
LBSU will return to Cal Poly for the second time in two weeks after playing the Mustangs to a 1-1 draw in the regular season.
“I think we’re a very positive team that works for each other,” Sinoff said. “If we just keep playing for each other I’m sure we’ll make something happen.”