Chemistry of winning; Packer boys soccer keeping an even keel as they continue wracking up
Published 11:16 am Thursday, September 29, 2016
You could’ve heard a pin drop after the Austin boys soccer team lost 1-0 to Faribault in Art Hass Stadium on Sept. 13.
Heads were hung low and silence seized the huddle. It looked like the aftermath of a playoff defeat.
But since that day, the Packers haven’t looked back, they’ve looked forward.
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They’ve outscored their opponents 14-0 over the past four contests, two of which were against ranked teams, and they’ve moved up to the No. 6 spot in the Class A rankings — the highest of any Packer team.
Austin also beat the biggest road block in Section 1A, Rochester Lourdes, for the first time since 2009.
Now the Packers (9-1 overall, 5-1 Big Nine) are starting to think big, but not too big just yet.
“We’re definitely really excited, but we always keep in mind that we want to keep being consistent and keep doing what we’re doing,” Austin senior Tucker Nelson said. “I think one of the biggest assets we have is our team chemistry.”
As tough as the loss to Faribault was, the Packers admit they probably needed it at a time when they were focused on going undefeated on the season.
“We got cocky at the beginning of the season and that kind of knocked us down a few pegs,” senior Josh Snee said.
It wasn’t the loss that defined the Packers, it was how they bounced back. Austin head coach Jens Levisen told his team to remember how they felt after they lost to the Falcons and they sure haven’t forgotten.
“We were able to take that as a negative and direct it as fuel to move where we wanted to go,” Levisen said. “I told the kids that now they’ve got a target on them and every team they play, no matter what their record is, they’re going to use you as their benchmark.”
Austin has never won a boys soccer Big Nine title in school history and it is currently tied for first in the conference with Mankato West with five conference games remaining. The last time the Packers went to state was in 2009.
But Levisen doesn’t want his team looking forward.
“That would be huge [to win the Big Nine], but at the same time, we’re not having that conversation yet,” Levisen said. “It’s got to be one game at a time. You can’t catch yourself looking any further ahead and you need to do what you need to do to win that match.”
Austin has shown a lot of balance on offense and defense this season. The Packers have had 11 players score at least one goal this season, they’ve scored three or more goals six times and they’ve picked up six shutouts.
“It feels good [to get a shutout] and it’s not easy for the defense to get them,” Austin senior Chris Kirchgatter said. “We don’t get all the goals and we don’t get the stats, but it’s nice to get a few shutouts.”
The Packers have had to work in some new players into the lineup this year, but they haven’t missed a beat. Levisen said that the Packers’ biggest strength has been how the team plays together.
“We want everyone on the team to feel they have a voice within the team and their voice could and should be heard,” Levisen said. “We’ve pushed players to use that voice.”
Austin will host Rochester Mayo at 7 p.m. tonight in Art Hass Stadium.