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No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray ends Austin's season

The Austin boy soccer team got off to a tough start against No. 1-ranked Hill-Murray in the Class AA state quarterfinals. Austin was mostly strong after that, but it wasn't enough to beat 20-0 Hill-Murray.

Austin, Hill-Murray State Class AA Quarterfinal boys soccer
Austin’s Joseph Ewing heads the ball during a state Class AA quarterfinal boys soccer game against Hill-Murray on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, in Farmington.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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FARMINGTON — The No. 1-team in the state, unbeaten Hill-Murray, played like it for the first 6 minutes on Tuesday night in the Class AA boys soccer state quarterfinals.

That was enough to end unseeded and below-.500 team Austin’s season, though the way the rest of the game unfolded, there was no shame for the Packers.

Hill-Murray prevailed 4-0 at Farmington High School. Two of those goals came in those first 6 minutes as Hill-Murray looked overwhelming and Austin looked overwhelmed.

But that didn’t last. Austin played Hill-Murray infinitely better the rest of the night.

The game was a mirror of the Packers’ season. Austin began the year 3-9-1. But it went on to win five of its last six games heading into the state tournament.

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These Packers refuse to quit. They stuck with that gritty approach one more time against what it is believed to be the best team in state Class AA.

“I think as much as we tried to get rid of the shock and awe of the state tournament and playing the higher seed, we had that going (against us),” Austin coach Jens Levisen said. “Hill-Murray came at us right away. But our kids got settled in and realized that we can play with them and make some things happen.”

No question, Hill-Murray is a tough team to play. The Pioneers entered the contest having outscored their opponents by an unheard of 84-2.

“They are really well coached,” Austin captain and midfielder Joe Ewing said. “They knew what to do in every instance of the game. That can be intimidating. They knew how to use their advantages.”

One of Hill-Murray’s best advantages is sophomore midfielder Jacob Dinzeo. Dinzeo entered the game having scored 23 goals. Now he has 25.

“He’s one of the best players I’ve ever played against,” Ewing said. “I’m pretty sure he knows that.”

It was Dinzeo who had one of those two early goals for Hill-Murray. He got another one in the second half on a questionable penalty kick.

But Austin wasn’t about to let him or Hill-Murray’s early eruption hold it up.

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Austin’s habit is to fight through whatever is in front of it. It sure did that again Tuesday night, playing the Pioneers virtually even the final 34 minutes of the first half and also hanging in there much of the second 40 minutes.

Ewing had no doubt that was going to be the case, that his team would fight. It’s what the Packers do.

“I’m incredibly proud of this entire team,” Ewing said. “Nobody thought we’d be here at the state tournament. Austin is a soccer community and a community that builds and lifts itself up. We really value that. It’s a big reason we’ve had so much success through the years.”

And it’s a big reason that, once again, they refused to quit Tuesday night against the state’s best.

Austin finished 8-11-1 overall. Hill-Murray will take a 20-0 record into the state semifinals.

Pat has been a Post Bulletin sports reporter since 1994. He covers Rochester John Marshall football, as well as a variety of other southeastern Minnesota football teams. Among my other southeastern Minnesota high school beats are girls basketball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls track and field, high school and American Legion baseball, volleyball, University of Minnesota sports (on occasion) and the Timberwolves (on occasion). Readers can reach Pat at 507-285-7723 or pruff@postbulletin.com.
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