State preview: Packers are chasing greatness
Published 9:00 pm Friday, October 27, 2017
With a Big Nine title, an unbeaten regular season and a win in the Minnesota Class A State Tournament, the Austin boys soccer team has already cemented itself as the most successful team in the program’s history.
But the Packers aren’t finished yet.
Austin is hoping to continue on its historic run as it takes on the Saint Thomas Academy, the defending Minnesota Class A state champs, in the state semifinals in US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis Monday at 2 p.m.
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“We just want to play confident, play our game and go for it. We still want more,” Austin senior midfielder OJ Cham said. “We’re still going. With everything we accomplish, we feel like we could still do more.”
The Cadets have proven the ability to score goals in a hurry and that’s what they did in the Minnesota Class A quarterfinals as they trailed St. Paul Harding 1-0 early in the second half before rallying to score four goals and win 4-1. Austin head coach Jens Levisen said his team will have to avoid the letdown and stay relentless like it has all season.
“It comes down to the trust that they have in each other. If things aren’t going the way we want them to, they don’t default to panic mode,” Levisen said. “We have to make sure we show up and be more concerned with playing our type of soccer, rather than worrying about them. I know there will be some nerves with it being the game that it is and the venue that it is, but at the same time they’ve played some big games before.”
Austin junior midfielder Kevin Ortiz is probably anticipating the game as much as anyone. Ortiz saw his brothers Dante and Franco play for the Packers and both of them missed out on the state tournament. Now Kevin will finally get his chance after he had to sit out Austin’s 3-2 win over Bemidji due to him receiving two yellow cards in a 2-1 win over Rochester Lourdes in the Section 1A title game.
“I’m very excited. It was a struggle watching them play [against Bemidji] and I was mad the whole time, but it’s over with and I’m back now,” Ortiz said.
In Friday’s practice, the Packers had to move inside due to cold weather outside, but the team was in high spirits as usual, going through every drill with a smile and enthusiasm. The Packers have built a strong team bond and players are often hanging out with each other in and out of school.
“We know each other so well, we’re always saying hi in the halls and we always get a long. Practices are so fun. We’re all brothers. We’re a family,” Austin senior midfielder Sam Bailey said. “We’re happy with our achievements [this season], but we do want to finish first place in state. That’s the goal and that’s been the goal the whole season.”
The Packers have been anticipating playing in US Bank over the past few years and now they’ll finally get their chance. There’s likely to be a lot of nerves leading up to the game, but Austin senior keeper Josh Brehmer said it won’t be too much for the team to handle.
“I think we’re ready. This a moment we’ve been waiting for for a long time,” Brehmer said. “If we lose our heads that could get us in trouble, but I think we have enough leadership to keep our team going if something were to happen.”
Goals for: 91
Goals against: 16
ST. THOMAS ACADEMY
Record: 15-1-3 overall
Goals for: 61
Goals against: 14