Packers win big in season opener
Stewartville got a taste of what the Austin offense can do in Friday night's boys soccer season opener at Art Hass Stadium.
Starting out the season with a flurry of goals, the Austin Packers took a 6-0 lead at halftime over the Stewartville Tigers. The pace slowed down a bit in the second half, but the Packers added two more goals for an 8-1 win.
"We came out strong in the first half and the guys played well," Austin coach Jens Levisen said. "Once we hit a 7-0 lead early in the second half, then the team kind of took it easy. We can't have that kind of attitude and need to play for the full 80 minutes."
For the opening nine minutes of the game, the Packers sized up the Tigers defense and then they struck for a goal. Jake Hagen-Erickson scored the first goal of the season for the Packers in the ninth minute on a rebound off a shot from Francisco Torres.
Once they got their offense rolling, the Packers were hard to stop. Stewartville goalie Jacob Vetsch faced a volley of shots as the Austin boys swarmed the net.
Just a few minutes later, Roel Torres scored to give the Packers a 2-0 lead. This goal came with 29:18 left in the first half and there was more offense to come from the home team. Abinyan Lual scored a couple of minutes later for a 3-0 lead.
Roel Torres, a sophomore, showed the fans that he will also be a goal-scoring force for the Packers this season. The younger Torres scored his second goal of the night in the 20th minute. From about 20 yards out along the sidelines, Torres lofted a free kick over the goalie and into the corner of the net.
"I'm feeling more comfortable with my role in the offense and was happy to score two goals," Roel Torres said. "It was a fast start, but then we started slowing down in the second half. Nobody felt good about giving up the goal in the second half and we need to prepare harder for the next game."
Goals from Levi Vierkandt and Hagen-Erickson closed out the first half for the Packers as the offense was in high gear. The Packers put up a total of 40 shots on the night.
Things picked up in the second half right where they left off in the first half with a goal for the Packers. Only 46 seconds had elapsed in the second half, when the Packers struck again for a 7-0 lead.
Taking a header pass from Francisco Torres on the opening possession of the second half, Omot Okello scored his first goal for the Packers. Okello went to state last spring in track and his speed adds another dimension to the Austin offense.
"That was really fun to score a goal," Okello said. "I used my speed to get loose and it was a nice pass from Francisco. With our other big scorers drawing the attention, the defense kind of forgot about me and I got open in front of the net."
Scoring almost at will inevitably led to a letdown for the Packers and their offense only generated one more goal. Still, the younger guys on the team got some valuable playing time and the outcome was never in doubt for the Packers on their home field.
Due to missing a few practices because of outside work commitments, senior goalie Collin Weisert didn't play on the night. Instead, it was sophomore Brandon Miller in the net and he had seven saves in the win.
Miller almost had a shutout in his first start, but the Tigers managed to get a goal in the second half. Micah Ostergard scored the only goal for Stewartville with 31:30 left in the game. Nick Brehmer added the final goal for the Packers in the 60th minute.
"I was pleased with the movement of Omot in the offense and some of the other guys also played well," Levisen said. "It was nice to start the season with a win, but the guys still have a lot of work to do."
Austin (1-0) plays host to the Byron Bears on Thursday night in a non-conference game at Hass Stadium.
AUSTIN 8, STEWARTVILLE 1
Stewartville:Micah Ostergard 1 goal. Jacob Vetsch 32 saves.
Austin:Jake Hagen-Erickson 2 goals, 1 assist; Roel Torres 2 goals, 1 assist; Omot Okello 1 goal, 1 assist; Francisco Torres 1 assist; Abinyan Lual 1 goal; Levi Vierkandt 1 goal; Nick Brehmer 1 goal; Brandon Miller 7 saves.