Packer girls dig their way out of a hole in opener

Published 10:07 pm Tuesday, September 1, 2020

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The Austin girls soccer team dug deep and found an extra gear when it erased a two-goal deficit to squeak past Faribault 3-2 in its season opener Tuesday night.

Despite dominating possession for much of the first half, the Packers trailed 2-0 late in the first half. Senior Eliana Bentley gave the Packers a slice of momentum when she lobbed a 30-yard shot over the keeper to pull the Packers within 2-1 with 1:03 left in the first half.

“We’ve been in this spot over the years where we’re down a lot, but in this game we just had determination and confidence to get it back,” Bentley said. “This really sets the table for the rest of the season and it puts us in a good spot.”

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Austin took the lead for good with a pair of breakaway goals in a seven-minute spurt in the second half. Freshman Marie Tolbert won a 50-yard sprint past Faribault’s defense to score her first career varsity goal to make it 3-2 with 22:30 left in the game, shortly after Hope Dudycha struck on a sprint-out to make it 2-2.

Tolbert’s goal was the first of her varsity career and her head was still spinning about all of the things she learned about varsity soccer after the game — especially the need to stay on-side and to not run past the backline.

“It was fun, but scary at the same time,” Tolbert said. “I felt nerves at the beginning, but once I got out there I didn’t. Everybody was nice and they were passing me the ball. It was really fun for my first game.”

While there were some first game jitters for the Packers, Austin head coach Jake Levisen said he was pleased with how his team handled its early adversity.

“Our entire program is built on making quick passes to create opportunities,” Levisen said. “We were on our heels a little bit early on, but when we started making our passes you truly saw our speed. I’m very proud of how the ladies played. There’s room for improvement and adjustments across the board, but everyone showed determination.”

The Packers had been out-shooting Faribault 13-2, but they still trailed the Falcons 2-0 late in the first half. Austin out-shot the Falcons 23-7 on the night.

“This showed the heart and determination of these girls,” Levisen said. “They knew we were outplaying them and outpassing them. We just had to calm down and then we found the back of the net. We had to contain our excitement, calm things down and play our style.”

As for Tolbert, Bentley, who also made the varsity roster at a young age, said she could see her young teammate make some big improvements.

“I think Marie is really developing in her first year on varsity,” Bentley said. “She’ll have a lot of potential by the end of the season. She’ll be really good.”