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Post-season playoffs in full swing

After last week's excitement in the section soccer playoffs, the fun continues for area teams and individuals this week.

Football playoffs open tonight for the Austin Packers and Southland Rebels. A win in this round would mean a trip to the section semifinals on Saturday night.

The volleyball playoffs started and ended for the Lyle/Pacelli Athletics Monday night. The Austin Packers will be at Rochester Mayo for the first round of the Class AAA, Section One vollyeball tournament on Wednesday. Southland plays at LeRoy-Ostrander on Thursday night.

Last week's run to the Big Nine Conference title by Madison Overby of the Austin girls cross country team was the first time she has ever beaten Chrissy Monson of Albert Lea in a race and they'll meet again Thursday in the Section 1AA Meet.

All-State Soccer

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While the rest of the teams have a busy week ahead, it's time for a bit of reflection on the successful seasons recently completed by the Austin High boys and girls soccer teams.

With a new coach and a different attitude on the team, the Austin girls soccer team won its first round section game. Then, they played a highly competitive game in the next round against top-seeded Albert Lea, so the program is on the right track.

Jake Hagen-Erickson led the Austin boys in scoring this season and helped the team advance all the way to the section championship game. For his efforts, Hagen-Erickson was named as honorable mention to the Class A All-State team.

Three of the Austin boys were named to the All Big Nine Conference team. Juniors Hagen-Erickson and Francisco Torres, along with senior defenseman Zach Zach Vierkandt were named to the all-conference team for the Packers.

Aside from their loss in a shutout to a 6-foot-7 goalie last year, the Austin boys have gone deep into the section playoffs in recent seasons. They made it all the way to state a couple of years ago and this year it was back to the section finals. With their top two shooters coming back next season, the future is bright for the Packers program.

Big Nine champion

When the Austin High cross country teams held their final home meet two weeks ago, I talked to Overby about her progress in competing with the likes of Monson in a race. She said her goal was to run right along with Chrissy and at some point beat her to the finish line.

That happened last Tuesday in the conference meet at Brooktree Golf Course in Owatonna. The shots taken by P-B photographer Ken Klotzbach for both editions of the paper captured the drama of the race. Monson stumbled and fell on her way to the runner-up spot, while Overby ran to the conference title with a new personal best time.

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This was not only a great moment for Overby as an individual runner, but an inspiration to her team and coach. Last week's conference championship for Overby was the first time that Packers coach Tony Einertson has had one of his runners take the top prize at the Big Nine Meet.

It won't be easy to repeat the feat for Overby as I'm sure Monson will be ready for this week's rematch in the section meet. There will also be tough competitors from Lakeville and some of the teams from outside the conference. Weather always seems to be an issue at this meet, but the forecast is for moderate conditions, so maybe another personal best time isn't out of the question.

Volleyball sections

Both the Austin Packers and Southland Rebels will be on the road later this week to open section volleyball play. Going into a hostile gym will make it a challenge for these teams to advance in the playoffs.

The Austin girls didn't win many matches this season, but they were competitive and showed flashes of solid play on the court. The Packers have been led throughout the season by the energy of senior captain Haley Underwood, and they'll need her to make a number of big plays in order to beat the Mayo Spartans.

A short jaunt down Highway 56 to the gym in LeRoy is what lies ahead for the Southland volleyball team in the first round of the Section 1A West tournament. The L-O Cardinals have had a good team over the last few years and are the higher seeds, but this is always a rivalry match between the two schools. The winner gets to play at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.

There's an air of finality inherent in post-season games and that's what makes them so exciting for the fans and players alike. The fall playoffs have arrived, so catch your favorite team while you still can or it might be too late.

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