Packers are on a redemption run

Published 4:56 pm Friday, October 21, 2022

The Austin boys soccer team hasn’t had the best of luck in recent years.

Two years ago the team went unbeaten in a year that there was no state tournament due to COVID-19 restrictions and last year the team was knocked out in the Section 1AA title game in a shootout.

So you couldn’t blame the Packers for feeling a little down when they started off this season with a 3-9-1 record overall. But that’s when the Packers found their motivation and now they are headed to the fifth state tournament in program history with play beginning next week.

Austin senior captain Joe Ewing was on the team that didn’t get to play in a state tournament, so he is relishing this year’s chance to add to program history.

“State has been a lifelong goal for me and the fact that was essentially taken from our hands during my sophomore year when we had such an incredible team. That was really hard and that sat with me and a lot of these players, honestly,” Ewing said. “Then we lost in a shootout last year. We know what can happen and how your season can be over just like this. We know how lucky we are to go to state and this is the team with the best chemistry that I’ve ever played on in my life.”

Austin head coach Jens Levisen has always kept his team’s focus on getting better and nothing else. They’ve responded by improving throughout the fall.

“It’s like the old cartoon where the snowball goes down the hill and it keeps getting bigger and bigger,” Levisen said. “We know we can play with these teams with our defense and goaltending and once you get in the tournament, it’s a matter of who shows up on that day. We’re going to be ready to play.”

With four prior state tournament appearances under his belt, Levisen has been able to prepare this team for their first state tournament appearance. He’s told them about the little things like how it’s helpful to get to the game early, take in the ambiance and let the hype settle down.

The schedule for the state tournament hasn’t been released, but Hill-Murray is coming in as the top-ranked team.

“We’re trying to demystify it,” Levisen said. “You want to play the game and not the occasion. Just like in the section tournament against Winona. I didn’t want the players to get all hyped up about the state tournament. We wanted to focus on playing our game.”

Ewing has also continued to moonlight as the kicker and punter for the Packer football team. He’s been able to balance himself to stay efficient in both areas and he even has aspirations of kicking for a college football team in the future.

“It’s been a lot physically and mentally, but I wouldn’t change it for the world, even if it means playing soccer for 120 minutes one night, and then kicking nine extra points the next night,” Ewing said. “It’s all worth it.”

Austin will play in the Class AA quarterfinals at a place to be determined on Oct. 25-27.

The semifinals are scheduled for Nov. 1 in U.S. Bank Stadium and the Class AA title game is set for 7:15 p.m. on Nov. 4 in U.S. Bank Stadium.