A few years ago, this team did not win a single game. (U9- they were 9 years old…)
They stuck together, worked hard, listened to their coaches, and when they were 13, they advanced to the State tournament, taking 2nd place.
Bumped up a level, they again had to work through some tough times and improve their skills. Last summer, when they were 16, they also qualified for the State tournament, but did not make it to the final round.
The team overcame some challenges during this season, but did not qualify automatically for State. (The first place team from each district auto-advances to State…this year it was the LaCrosse team, who beat Austin twice during the regular season.) HOWEVER, in the playoffs, Austin kept winning until they finally beat the South St Paul team for the opportunity to play at the State Tournament in Coon Rapids, MN. They defeated Central and Mankato to earn their way to the State FINAL. (A note of bragging here: Jacob Larson scored the last goal against Mankato, on a header/corner kick combo!)
Last night was the FINAL Championship game versus none other than the team from LaCrosse, the team from our district which had previously beaten the Austin boys, twice, and had gone on to win their bracket of the State tournament. The game was intense and fast-paced. Early in the game, Austin’s goalie, Ryan, came out to get the ball, defending the goal. A red card was issued to him, and Austin was forced to play the rest of the game short one player, and to put another player in the goal. The fans all wondered what this would do to the morale of the team. Austin came on strong, playing hard and working together as a team, making up for playing short by stepping up their level of determination. LaCrosse scored, but the Austin boys did not give up. They kept the pressure on, and eventually scored a goal to tie the game. The score remained tied until the end of regulation time. Then came the overtime, consisting of 2 5-minute halves. Still tied!
The most intense moments of the game came in the shoot-out which followed. Each team choose 5 players which would shoot, one-on-one, with the opposing teams’ goalie. Alternating teams, best of 5 would win the championship. At the “bottom of the fifth inning” (to borrow a baseball term!) the Austin team was up by one, and LaCrosse was up with the chance to even the score, which would have sent the game into sudden death shoot out.