Austin's Abinyan Lual steps up to challenge Albert Lea's Preston Smith during the first half of their Section 1A semifinal game Saturday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

Soccer: Packers are one win from state

Published 11:47pm Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Packers found themselves in a position they weren’t used to being in early on, but it wasn’t enough to keep them from advancing to the section title game for the second straight year when they beat Albert Lea 5-1 in the Section 1A boys soccer semifinals in Art Hass Stadium Saturday.

Austin's Omot Okello brings the ball up the sidelines during the first half against Albert Lea in the Section 1A semifinals Saturday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

The Tigers (8-8-1 overall) struck first when Tyler Vandenheuvel lobbed a shot over Austin keeper Collin Weisert and AL nearly went up 2-0 just seven minutes later when Weisert had to dive to tip away a shot.

While they were down, the No. 2 seeded Packers (16-3 overall) were certainly not out.

“They’re aware that goals can happen in a short amount of time,” Austin head coach Jens Levisen said “Mentally, it kind of threw them off for a little bit, but they’re strong enough that they stayed confident.”

When Austin struck, it struck fast as Nick Brehmer slammed in a put-back on an Omot Okello shot in the 25th minute, Abinyan Lual drilled a shot into the net from near the goal on a pass from Jake Hagen-Erickson in the 28th minute and AL allowed an own goal in the 31st minute when a Lual shot was saved, but an AL defender collided with the keeper and the ball went into the net.

“We got scored on first and that doesn’t happen too much,” said Hagen-Erickson, who had two assists in the win. “It kind of shocked us for a while, but we said ‘you know what, this is our field, let’s get our win.’ Brehmer sparked us up and we woke up after that.”

Weisert finished with six saves and the Packers kept a flurry on in the second half as they finished with 18 shots on goal. Austin senior Francisco Torres finished his last home game in style as he knocked in a lob shot and scored on an assist from Hagen-Erickson, who has played with Torres on varsity for quite a while.

“It motivated me knowing that it’s my last home game ever,” Torres, who is in his fifth season with the varsity squad, said. “It’s been a long time and Jake and I have chemistry. We’ve been with each other for a while.”

Hagen-Erickson, who was one of the 13 seniors playing in his last home game, also got to play against his twin brother, Nick Hagen-Erickson, who plays for the Tigers.

“It’s all fun (playing with Nick). He’s a great player, but it would’ve been better to have him on our team playing with us,” Jake Hagen-Erickson said. “We’ve got a lot of seniors on the team and we knew it was our last home game. We just wanted to play hard.”

The Packers will now focus on rematch with Rochester Lourdes (18-1 overall). The Eagles outscored their section opponents 27-1 in their first three games and they beat Austin 4-2 Sept. 9.

Austin's Carson Hackel moves the ball forward during the first half against Albert Lea in the Section 1A semifinals Saturday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

“Our goal was to get to the section finals and hopefully we can make it to state,” Torres said. “The first time we played (Lourdes) was homecoming so we weren’t really focused. Now we’re prepared and ready.”

Austin had its season end with a loss to Lourdes in the Section 1A finals last season and its hoping history doesn’t repeat itself this year. The Packers and Eagles will play at Rochester Community and Technical College in Rochester Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. with a trip to the Class ‘A’ state tournament on the line.

“We don’t look past any teams, but we knew it would come down to us and Lourdes if we played like we were supposed to,” Levisen said. “We’ve got another shot at them and we thought we had a good go at them the first time around. I know that they’ll be hungry.”


(AL) Tyler Vandenheuvel 10th minute

(A) Nick Brehmer (Omot Okello) 25th minute

(A) Abinyan Lual (Jake Hagen-Erickson) 28th minute

(A) Own goal (31st minute)

(A) Francisco Torres 77th minute

(A) Torres (Hagen-Erickson) 80th minute







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