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Packers advance to section semifinals

First half goals from a couple of unlikely sources sparked the Austin boys to a win over Byron in Thursday night's quarterfinals of the Class A, Section One soccer playoffs.

With the defense of Byron focused intensely on shadowing Austin's top scorer, Jake Hagen-Erickson, there were opportunities for other guys to get goals. Abinyan Lual and Zach Robinson each scored goals in the first half and the Austin Packers went on to a 3-0 win at Hass Stadium.

Hagen-Erickson laid a nice pass out in front and Lual shook off a defender to score the first goal of the night in the 24th minute. This was the second goal of the section playoffs for Lual, who was just promoted to the varsity for the post-season.

"It was a nice pass from Jake and I feel more confident in my shot after scoring a goal in the first section game," Lual said. "I feel great playing on the varsity and it was nice to help out the team by scoring a goal."

Although he was effective with his passing, it was still a tough night for Hagen-Erickson. He was pulled down a few times by the Byron defenders and it was a physical battle throughout the game. Hagen-Erickson was issued a yellow card shortly after his assist in the first half.

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"The other team came out to mark Jake, but we have other guys that can attack the net," Austin coach Jens Levisen said. "Jake wants the team to win and made some nice passes, so he was dangerous in other ways. Abi got us going and once again, we played solid defense."

Austin goalie Collin Weisert wasn't tested much as the visiting Bears spent most of their energy trying to antagonize Hagen-Erickson. Weisert had a total of four saves on the night and none of those shots were from close range.

Late in the first half, the Packers added to their lead. Francisco Torres passed the ball into open space and Zach Robinson beat the defense. Robinson scored his first goal of the season with 3:05 left and the Packers enjoyed a 2-0 lead at halftime.

"A couple of guys that don't usually play forward got their chance to score goals and they stepped up for us," Levisen said. "We knew Byron would come out and play tough defense. They stayed back and their strategy was to to slow things down, but we stayed on the attack."

Early in the second half, the Packers almost got another goal. Barush Terrazas fired off a nice shot and it hit the goal post. The ball rolled around and appeared to go into the net, but it didn't cross the line and was kicked away.

In the 54th minute, the Packers didn't miss their next scoring chance. Hagen-Erickson got knocked down and there was no call on the defense, so the Packers dealt out their own form of justice.

Taking over the loose ball after his running mate got taken down, Francisco Torres wound his way through traffic and got an open shot. Torres found the net and the Packers had a 3-0 lead with 26:25 left in the second half.

"Both teams played tough defense, so we had to stay strong and wait for our chances," Torres said. "It was good to see some of the other guys step up and score goals. After their defense took Jake down, I decided to score and put the game away. We're excited for the next round."

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Weisert and the defense took care of the rest for the Packers. This was the 11th shutout of the season for Weisert in goal.

Austin (11-3-3 overall) plays host to the Section 1A semifinals versus Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa on Saturday at 7 p.m.

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