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Out for season, goalkeeper finds positives

Some players anticipate a storybook situation.

They come in as a freshman, and by their senior year, they hope to be playing their best.

It’s a learning process — stepping stones of years, where progress comes with age instead of experience.

But for others, that’s not the case.

Briana Silvestri is a prime example, and in her fifth and final year as a member of the ASU soccer team, she watched as her season was ripped right out from under her.

“They always say that you can hear the pop,” the senior goalkeeper said. “What was so weird to think about was that you don’t hear about many goalkeepers tearing their [anterior cruciate ligament].”

In the first weekend of the Pac-10 regular season, Silvestri jumped up to save a goal, and on her return to the ground feared the ball was coming back into play. It was in her second attempt to jump up that she heard the pop and felt her season end.

“It’s devastating,” she said. “I can only explain it in that way — it’s extremely devastating. You feel like you’ve lost everything that you’ve worked for.”

The tough exterior that she had worked so hard to keep, and the position she had earned after suffering through a shoulder injury last season were, in an instant, taken away.

“I came on in 2005 and sat the bench for two years,” she said. “I was supportive of the goalkeeper in front of me. I stayed late, I came early, I did all that work and I finally got my time to play.

Unfortunately, I had my shoulder injury, so I felt like this was my first year to have a healthy season of playing, and it kind of got cut short. I didn’t get to finish what I came here to do.”

Just days before Silvestri’s injury, the Sun Devils had been named a top-25 squad in the nation for only the second time in the program’s history and the first time in Silvestri’s career.

“I felt like this was the culmination of what I’d been working for,” she said. “This was my year to shine. For all of it to get taken away, especially at that time when we had just been ranked and the country was taking notice of us — I wanted to be a part of that. I still felt like I was, and I still want to be a part of it, but it’s hard. I’ve never been jealous, but definitely angry.”

As a fifth-year senior, Silvestri entered the season first on ASU’s all-time list in career goals against average with a 0.83, fourth in career shutouts with 12 and fifth in career saves with 120.

She also set ASU’s single-season record for goals against average each of the last two seasons, but to ASU coach Kevin Boyd, her real accomplishments aren’t measured in numbers.

“As a player, I think she’s been very good the whole time she’s been here,” he said. “We’ve been lucky. We had a good player in the net the three years she’s been in there. Where she’s developed are in areas that haven’t been as obvious — her influence over the team in front of her.

That is the significant piece that’s changed.”

Since the injury, the Sun Devils have done their best to tread water in the Pac-10 with the assistance of true freshman Alyssa Gillmore stepping in as goalkeeper.

But with the loss of Silvestri, so too, came the loss of part of the Sun Devil’s on-the-field leadership.

“Great keepers face less shots,” Boyd said. “You can say that’s because they’re on good teams, but it’s also because they help organize their team.

“The more organized a team is, and the more focused they are on what they’re doing, the less shots they give up. [Silvestri] helped her team organize, and she held them accountable. That was something she learned over time.”

Silvestri’s goal of joining the professional soccer ranks right after college may have to be put on hold until she recovers, but plans of playing again are in the forefront of her mind.

The senior is currently rehabbing her knee with the medical staff at ASU and is supporting her team through the rest of the season.

Eventually, she will make it to grad school, but for now, Silvestri said she plans to pick up right where she left off.

“Grad school is always going to be there,” she said. “Playing soccer is not always going to be there, so since it got taken away, I’m going to try. If I fail, then I fail, but at least I tried.”

The injury, though a blow to her season, has not diminished her morale.

“It sucks that you have to get injured to really appreciate what you have been doing the whole time,” she said. “We talk about entitlement, and it really is — it teaches you to be a lot more humble and appreciate the opportunity that was given to you and to give back.”

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