Boys soccer: Pillars of the Pack

Published 7:08 pm Monday, October 10, 2011

Left to right: Austin soccer players Jake Hagen-Erickson and Francisco Torres have led the way for the Austin boys soccer team this season. The Packers are seeded No. 2 in the Section 1A tournament. -- Rocky Hulne/

When teams want to stop the Austin boys soccer team, it’s obvious who they need to focus on.

Still, nobody has been able to find the answer of stalling Austin’s junior duo of Francisco Torres and Jake Hagen-Erickson. The two have combined to score 65 percent of the Packers’ 48 goals this season.

Torres, who has 10 goals and 11 assists, is a shifty midfielder who specializes in running circles around defenders, while Hagen-Erickson, who has a school record 21 goals and 6 assists this year, is a speedy forward who runs past the defense.

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“They’re vocal leaders on the field, they lead in practice and they relate well to other players as well,” Austin head coach Jens Levisen said. “If something needs to happen, those are the two guys that can make things happen and create opportunities. The level of trust they have with each other is huge.”

While you would think the two have played together for their entire soccer careers when they weave the field seamlessly, they duo has only been on the same team for two years. But while they played on different squads at the youth level, Hagen-Erickson and Torres became friends.

“Without Cisco, I probably wouldn’t have half of my goals. It’s huge to have him passing the ball and helping me get in there,” Hagen-Erickson said. “We just try and control the pace of the game and we know exactly what each other is going to do.”

Torres has played varsity soccer since he was an eighth grader. He played in the Class ‘A’ state tournament as a freshman and he’d love to get back.

He knows the best way to do that is to share the wealth.

“It’s a great feeling to score, but for me it’s the same feeling when you help somebody else score,” he said. “We came in confident this year and we want to go far. Our goal is to get to state.”

The Packers (9-3-3 overall) have won six in a row and four of those wins were by shutouts. They begin the Section 1A tournament Tuesday with a game against No. 15 seeded Lake City (2-13 overall) Tuesday at 7 p.m.

Levisen said his squad is in good hands with Torres and Hagen-Erickson.

“Jake and Cisco realize it’s about the team. It’s not just about them,” he said. “We’ve got a mentality that if one guys scores, we all score. Everybody wants to get up and be a part of it instead of laying back and letting Jake and Cisco shoot it.”

Levisen said Austin making it to state two years ago has had a big impact on this year’s Packers. Players have embraced the team’s possession style of play instead of going for long balls and players are no longer intimidated in big games.

The Packers also know they have to take it one game at a time after they lost to Winona in overtime in the Section 1A tournament last year.

“The way we look at it is we already had our speed bump in the Pine Island game (a 4-3 loss),” Levisen said. “That was our game where we realized that we need to be ready to play everybody, because we weren’t in that game.”

If Torres and Hagen-Erickson have anything to say about it — Austin won’t have any more speed bumps.