So close; St. Thomas gets past Austin in the second overtime to advance to championship
Published 9:02 pm Monday, October 30, 2017
MINNEAPOLIS — The Austin boys soccer team had its pursuit of its first state title in school history come to a halt in a heartbeat as it lost to Saint Thomas Academy 4-3 in overtime in the Minnesota Class A state semifinals in US Bank Stadium Monday.
The Cadets (16-1-3 overall), who won the Class A title in 2016, won the game when Logan Davis headed in a lob pass from Vernon Lovegreen on a throw-in from the sideline with 5:14 left in the second overtime. The Cadets had scored on a similar play when Nikita Zholtok headed in a throw-in from Devin McGill to pull within 3-2 with 30:56 left in OT and St. Thomas tied the game at 3-3 when Davis blasted in a shot from 20 yards out with 8:53 left in regulation.
Austin head coach Jens Levisen said the Packers (18-1-2 overall) were ready for the long throw-ins from St. Thomas, but they weren’t able to stop them on Monday.
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“We were definitely aware of [Lovegreen],” Levisen said. “We’d seen him play and we were definitely aware that it was an option. We knew how we wanted to defend against it and we just didn’t get to the ball on time.”
Although the Cadets had momentum after they tied the game up, the Packers didn’t wilt away. Mooday Wah forced STA keeper Jack Killian to make a diving save with 3:54 left in regulation and Wah had had another shot deflect off the post with 1:01 left in regulation. Lonyjera Okal had a 20-yard shot stopped on a leaping save by Killian with 5:20 left in the first OT.
“To some extent that’s the nature of our game,” Levisen said. “You can do things really well and create opportunities and sometimes the goal’s going to be beautiful, and sometimes it’s just going to fall. I’m very proud with the way we played. We kept up with the attack.”
The Packers closed the first half on a high note as Wah re-directed a long pass from Sam Bailey for a goal to put Austin up 2-1 with 8:04 left in the half and Elton Tolbert scored off an assist from Henry Tolbert to make it 3-1 with 2:37 left in the half.
Okal scored Austin’s first goal on a breakaway off a pass from Wah just six minutes into the game. Okal said the Packers were pleased with their halftime lead, but they weren’t overconfident.
“We were playing well and our confidence was good, but we knew they were going to come out hard,” Okal said.
Wah said that the Packers weren’t able to keep up with STA’s intensity for stretches of the second half.
“I feel like they pressured more and they wanted it more than us [in the second half],” Wah said.
STA head coach Noel Quinn credited the Packers with pushing his team early on and came away with respect for the Packers.
“We though Austin would be good and they were a little better [than we thought],” Quinn said. “[Kevin] Ortiz was clearly the best player on the field with his ability to handle the ball.”
Levisen was glad his Packers were given a chance to play against the Cadets on the biggest stage of the high school season. He also liked what his team showed.
“We were definitely aware that they were the one of the top teams in the state, but at the same time we had done some things to deserve some recognition too,” Levisen said. “It was good to see how we played with them and how we were better than them sometimes. It’s nothing to hang our heads about.”
Okal proved to be a big time scoring threat for the Packers in his senior season as he scored two goals in Austin’s 3-2 Bemidji in the state quarterfinals and he also netted two goals in Austin’s 2-1 win over Rochester Lourdes in the Section 1A title game.
“We had some strong seniors who played at a high level and LJ showed up big in a number of situations,” Levisen said. “He’s a fantastic player who can create opportunities. He’s a very strong player and he’s also not an arrogant player. We value his humility as well as his ability.”
Austin had 15 shots on goal and Josh Brehmer had six saves for the Packers.
Austin will play Orono in the third place game at US Bank Stadium Tuesday at 8 a.m.