Remembering ‘09: The first soccer team in Austin school history to go to Minnesota State Boys Soccer Tournament honored

Published 4:37 pm Monday, August 26, 2019

It doesn’t happen all of the time, but every once in awhile Austin grad Ryan Rassel catches himself looking back to the fall of 2009, when he and the Austin Packers made history by advancing to the Minnesota Class A State Boys Soccer Tournament for the first time in school history.

His mind always locks in on the same two games — Austin’s 2-0 win over Rochester Lourdes in the Section 1A title game, and the Packers’ 2-1 loss to Simley in the Minnesota Class A State quarterfinals, where Rassel, the keeper, saw the game-winning goal fly right by him on a night that was filled with freezing rain.

“We had never beaten Lourdes before. I had a 103 degree fever that day and I played one of the best games of my life. That was unbelievable. Everything aligned and nobody was expecting it,” Rassel said. “Against Simley, we all thought it was going into OT when right before the whistle, a shot skidded across the water and got past me. That was the ultimate other end of the spectrum. It was absolute defeat. But looking back on it, it was an incredible experience.”

Austin players converge on Rolando Rubio after his goal in the first half of the Section 1A championship against Rochester Lourdes in 2009. The team went on to advance to the Minnesota State Boys Soccer Tournament for the first time in school history. Herald file photo

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Rasell was among a handful of players from the 2009 Packers that were honored at halftime of Austin’s home game against Como Park at Art Hass Stadium Saturday.

Martin Manocchio, a forward on the ‘09 team, was one of the first Austin players to play soccer in college, going on to play at Bethel University. He now lives in Hopkins, where he works at a software company, while still keeping up with soccer.

Manocchio plays amateur soccer in a co-ed soccer league near his home.

He’s seen a lot of coaching, but he’s never had a coach quite like Austin head coach Jens Levisen.

Jens Levisen

“Jens creates a really good environment for players and I thought all coaches were like that until I got to college, where the coaches do a lot more yelling,” Manocchio said. “I think Jens deserves a lot of credit. He’s a very good coach. He creates a team environment and he’s very encouraging.”

Manocchio remains close to his teammates who live in the area and he was actually the best man in his former teammate Jacob Larson’s wedding this past weekend.

Tony Lipari, a defender on the ‘09 team, learned early on that the Austin soccer community was an open and friendly one. He moved from Michigan to Austin in fifth grade and his soccer teammates soon became his good friends.

“We always played together. They became my friends, and basically my family growing up. We spent a lot of time together,” Lipari said. “Everyone of us know how everyone played and we all supported each other. We had a lot of positivity. Everyone was at the same level.”

Rassel now lives in Apple Valley and he works in Owatonna in the industrial product design business, but he feels like he’s still an Austin Packer. He has even remained close friends with Alex Klock, another member of the ‘09 team, who now lives in Seattle, Washington.

“When you see them, it’s like nothing has changed,” Rassel said. “We’ll talk about those games and that kind of a thing. There is definitely still a bond between us.”