Chasing the Prize: Packers focus on state semis

Published 8:36 pm Friday, October 26, 2018

The Austin boys soccer team has done a lot of winning over the past two seasons and the Packers are hoping they can come up with the ultimate win as they put their focus on the Blake School, who Austin will play in the Minnesota Class A State Boys Soccer Tournament semifinals in USBank Stadium in Minneapolis at 4 p.m. Tuesday.

This is the second straight year the Packers have advanced to the state semifinals and it is their third straight tournament appearance in school history. The Packers, who have racked up a record of 35-3-3 over the past two seasons, have never played in a state title game for boys soccer, but they’re hoping that will change this year.

Austin’s Danny Vargas puts a shot on the net in practice at Art Hass Stadium Friday. Rocky Hulne/

Blake is the top-seeded team in Class A, but the fourth-seeded Packers are not feeling any intimidation headed into the showdown.

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“I’m excited to go back (to state),” Austin senior forward Mooday Wah said. “We’re not scared at all. We’re ready for these guys and we prepared for this all season. We’re going to do our best.”

Last season the Packers appeared to be headed to the state title game as they held a 3-1 lead at halftime, but St. Thomas Academy scored two second half goals and it added another goal to knock Austin into the third place game — where it tied with Orono.

“I know we won’t do that again,” Austin senior Kevin Ortiz said of last year’s semifinal last. “We know how that felt. We’re going to come stronger and harder.”

The Packers have put together the best two-year run in program history and the only big accomplishment left for Austin to do would be to capture a state title. Austin senior Victor Velazquez said the Packers’ motivation is at an all-time high and the squad has been pushing itself in practice since the season began.

“I think we’re hungry, even in the summer we’ve gone to championship finals and we’ve just come up short every single time. Right now our hunger is so big and we want it more than ever,” Velazquez said. “(In practice) we’re trying to score against the best defense in the state and at the same time we’re trying to defend one of the best offenses in the state. It completes us.”

Austin senior Caleb Simerson said the team is focused on getting better and executing and he sees the possibility of a state title as the greatest possible icing on the cake of a great run over the past two years.

“It would be something we would remember forever and it would be a moment that we would cherish,” Simerson said.

Austin head coach Jens Levisen speaks to the Packer boys soccer team after practice in Art Hass Stadium Friday. Austin will play in the Minnesota Class A State Boys Soccer Semifinals in USBank Stadium in Minneapolis at 4 p.m. Tuesday. Rocky Hulne/

Last season the Packers were able to get out the jitters of playing on the big stage and they now know what to expect from playing under the lights in USBank Stadium. Austin head coach Jens Levisen said the team proved it belonged last year and the Packers have a huge advantage of team chemistry this year.

“We have a feeling of a family in terms of how they interact with each other and it’s not like everybody’s happy all of the time, but they support each other and they’re going to figure out a way to work things out,” Levisen said. “That’s one of our biggest strengths. When it comes down to it, they all believe in each other and they are there to support each other.”