Austin boys' soccer coach Jens Levisen loves everything about Andres Garcia. He was an All-State selection last season and got a ton of hype –– including from the Post Bulletin –– in the preseason.
If Austin was going to be good, Garcia had to play a huge role. And he's done just that, leading the way with 29 goals and nine assists.
Levisen knew coming into the season that Garcia is special, but he also knew the Packers had another elite striker, Henry Tolbert. Tolbert has erupted for 21 goals and 10 assists this season. Monday he was named one of five finalists for Minnesota's Class A Mr. Soccer Award.
He's the head of the snake for the Packers. His speed, ferocity and intensity set the tone each and every night. Without Tolbert, Garcia wouldn't be able to get free for some of his goals. Without Tolbert, the Packers might not be undefeated.
He plays without fear and is fully aware that he’s one of the best players on the field.
"I just play like that every game and try to keep my head and keep my focus," Tolbert told the Post Bulletin after he led Austin to a 3-0 win over Mayo earlier this season. "We have a great team and we really push each other to be our best. We play in the summer. We know each other so well. We hang out off the field, too. It's not just soccer. We're all really good friends."
Keegan Chastey (Duluth Denfield), Keegan James (The Blake School), Miguel Leon Alvarado (Richfield) and Nolan Pratumwon (Mahtomedi) are the other finalists for the award.
Austin is the No. 1 seed in the Section 1A playoffs. It’ll host No. 5 Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa tonight at 7 p.m. with a trip to the Section 1A final on the line.
The strength of the Packers is their depth. But they wouldn't be nearly as dangerous without Tolbert. He's the straw that stirs the drink.
He might not get to add a 2020 state title to his resume because of COVID-19, but he's got a chance to be the state’s Player of the Year.
"We didn't know if the season was going to get canceled," Tolbert said. "So we're playing like every single game is our last game. We want to go out there and play hard and play our best."