'Great player, great leader:' Austin's All-Stater Andres Garcia raising the bar

Austin's Andres Garcia was an All-State selection last year. But the superstar has to step up and be a bigger leader this year for a young — albeit talented — Packers squad.

Austin players, from left, Kee Reh, Andres Garcia, Henry Tolbert, Poe Reh and Dylan Hanegraaf celebrate a goal during the Section 1A boys soccer championship match against Lourdes on Thursday, Oct. 17, 2019, in Winona. (Andrew Link /

AUSTIN — Jens Levison has seen a lot of talented players come through his terrific program.

But Levison, the Austin High School boys soccer coach, sees that Andres Garcia is just a little bit different. He moves and bobs in and out of traffic in a different gear.

Garcia steered the Packers to a Section One, Class A championship and a state tournament appearance last year, when he was named first-team All-State after registering 11 goals and eight assists.

“He’s a great player and a great leader,” Levison said. “He’s got a great touch on the ball. He’s got a knack for scoring goals, too. It’s been fun to coach him. It’s his third year as a varsity player. I remember him as a sophomore, we were wondering how he was going to fit into a group of super-competitive guys, and he quickly jumped in and didn’t miss a beat. He elevated into a starter quickly.”

A whopping 16 seniors have departed the Packers program from a year ago, but Garcia is back along with his key sidekick Henry Tolbert. Austin expects to do a lot of winning this season on the pitch. Garcia is going to score. He’s going to dish out assists. But it’s the leadership for a young Packers club that will be his biggest challenge in 2020.


He was named captain by his teammates.

“I take it as an honor,” Garcia said. “My little brother is coming up, so I want to pass it along and continue what Austin has become the last few years. It’s a blessing to be a captain for my senior year.”

The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything. Garcia couldn’t play summer soccer because of the virus. Preseason practices have looked different too, as the Packers are forced to abandon huddles and there are special dots on the field where they have to set their bags each and every day.

Oh, and they can’t touch the soccer balls with their hands, either.

It’s a season that will look anything but ordinary. But when the whistle goes off and Garcia handles the ball for the first time, it won’t be anything different. Because Garcia is in his happy place when he’s slicing and dicing through defenders and sending pinpoint passes to Tolbert flying down the seam.

The Packers have no idea if they’re going to get to attempt to repeat as section champions, or if they'll be able to play for a state championship this year.

But they know they will be able to defend their Big Nine Conference crown. So if a challenge is put in front of Garcia, he’s going to do everything it takes to make it happen.

“I’ve been telling the other guys that we don’t know if (the season and/or the playoffs) could get canceled," Garcia said. "We have to take every game like it’s our last so that we get this last Big Nine title."


Garcia was “shocked” when he found out he was an All-State selection as a junior. The honor pushed him to work even harder this offseason. But his leadership will be the most vital thing he brings to the field for the Packers.

“I have to be more of a leader,” Garcia said. “I was one of the younger ones last year and it was my job to play my role. This year, I have to step up and prove why I was chosen to be a captain.”

Finally. It’s time for soccer.

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