Boys soccer: Austin’s Fantastic Five

Published 9:50 pm Monday, October 1, 2012

Austin has received big scoring from five different players this season — (left to right: Jake Hagen-Erickson, Francisco Torres, Abinyan Lual, Roel Torres and Omot Okello. Rocky Hulne/

When the Packer boys soccer team is looking for a big goal, it has plenty of options.

Austin can look to Jake Hagen-Erickson, who is the school’s all-time leading goal scorer, it can go to Francisco Torres, who has led the team in assists the past two seasons, it can go to Abinyan Lual, who had a hat trick in 10 minutes against Albert Lea, it can go to Omot Okello, who was fast enough to run in the 110-hurdles at the Class ‘AA’ state track and field meet last spring and it can go to Roel Torres, who scored Austin’s only two goals in its first win over Rochester Mayo in school history this fall.

Needless to say, there aren’t too many double teams against the No. 8 ranked Packers (12-2 overall) this year.

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“If you put two guys on every guy, all you’ve got left is your goal keeper and once you do that I’ve got five other guys that are wide open and those guys can score too,” Austin head coach Jens Levisen said. “So you can’t really double up (like that).”

Austin soccer players Carson Hackel, left, and Roel Torres, right, battle for a ball in practice at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday.

Major Production

Austin’s Fantastic Five has scored 57 of the team’s 62 goals and the team has already surpassed the goal total of last year’s squad, even though it has played in five less games. The Packers have scored at least two goals in every game this season, and they’ve had eight games where they’ve scored four goals or more.

“It doesn’t really matter who scores,” said Francisco Torres, who had nine goals and 17 assists. “If we score, the whole team scores. It makes the game a lot easier to play.”

Besides pouring on goals, the Packers have done things that no other Austin team has done in school history. The Packers beat Mayo for the first time and they earned a ranking in the Class ‘A’ polls for the first time.

A Chance at History

After finishing second in the Big Nine for the first time in school history last year, the Packers (6-1 Big Nine) are hoping they can win a Big Nine title with home wins over Rochester John Marshall (4-8 overall, 3-4 Big Nine) and Owatonna (9-3-1 overall, 7-0-1 Big Nine) this week.

Austin hosts JM Tuesday and 7 p.m. and the Huskies come to town Thursday for a 5 p.m. game.

“All of us are pretty pumped up about JM because we know we have to win,” said Hagen-Erickson, who has 17 goals and five assists this season. “Owatonna plays (Mankato) West on the same night and we can’t count on them losing. We have to finish out 2-0 and it’s really big to be at home. We’ve made a lot of history this year and it would be nice to be the first Big Nine champs.”

Filling In Just Fine

While Hagen-Erickson and Francisco Torres have been big scorers for the past three seasons in Austin, the story of the other three goal specialists is a little different. Abinyan Lual didn’t see any varsity time last year until the tournament time rolled around and he caught the eye of his coach when he put in a big-time goal in his first varsity action.

Austin's Omot Okello chases after a ball in soccer practice at Wescott Athletic Complex Monday. -- Rocky Hulne/

“It came out of nowhere, it was just a rocket and he got it up top,” Levisen said. “It was like ‘where did this kid come from.’ This year he’s got a lot of goals.”

Lual has 15 goals and six assists and he said his experience last season made him work that much harder so he could have a chance to make the varsity squad.

“Last year I played JV and I was disappointed a little bit,” Lual said. “That kind of motivated me to work harder and make the varsity team. (When I scored in the playoffs) I was thinking I can keep up with these guys, and that kept me going.”

Okello, who has five goals and seven assists this season, was still living in Worthington when Austin played its soccer season last year. He moved into Austin in December, but learned about the soccer team while running track with Francisco Torres and Hagen-Erickson in the spring.

“It’s been pretty good this year and we’ve been playing hard so far we can go,” Okello said. “I’ve learned a lot from the guys who have been here for a while.”

The Youngster

Okello, Hagen-Erickson, Lual and Francisco Torres are all seniors and are expected to be big leaders, but Roel Torres, who is a sophomore, has also found himself in the spotlight as he’s put in 11 goals and had eight assists this season.

Roel Torres has learned plenty of soccer from growing up with his older brother Francisco Torres, but he’s also learned a lot more this year.

“They teach me a lot of things,” he said. “My brother’s usually the playmaker of the team, Jake and Abi are the finishers and (Omot and I) just kind of roam around.”

Levisen said the experience for Roel Torres to play up front with four veterans is priceless.

“It’s good for (Roel). He feeds off them and he has lots of confidence in playing with them and he’s growing to realize he needs to be a leader too,” Levisen said. “He’s just not that younger guy who can goof around out there. He’s come up big in a number of games.”

Austin will host its parent’s night this Tuesday and the Section 1A boys soccer tournament begins Oct. 9.