Sports

Excitable VIU men get started

Vancouver Island University Mariners goalkeeper Scott Brown makes a save during a practice drill Tuesday afternoon at Mariner Field. The team starts a new B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association season Saturday (Sept. 10) on the road. - GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin
Vancouver Island University Mariners goalkeeper Scott Brown makes a save during a practice drill Tuesday afternoon at Mariner Field. The team starts a new B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association season Saturday (Sept. 10) on the road.
— image credit: GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin

The VIU Mariners, defending provincial and national champions, have a lot of soccer to go before they find out if they can defend their titles.

They know how exciting the end of the season can be – but that doesn’t mean they’re not pumped about about the start of the season, too.

“They’re ready to play, that’s for sure,” said Bill Merriman, the team’s coach. “If anything they just need to harness it a little bit and get them to calm down.”

With so much of the core of last year’s team returning, almost all the Mariners are veterans and almost all of them are champions, so they’re all trying to be leaders on the pitch.

“They do know what it takes, so they get frustrated with themselves and maybe another player who’s not quite working as hard as they would like,” Merriman said. “It’s like, ‘Guys, relax.’”

Having such an overzealous group is a nice problem to have. While waiting impatiently for the college soccer season, players trained hard and won’t have any problems running hard for 90 minutes on game day.

“The team’s been working really hard, putting a lot of work into fitness and stamina,” said Matt Mehrassa, one of the team captains. “The work ethic’s been there. It’s always there.”

The other teams around the B.C. Colleges’ Athletic Association are probably working nearly as hard at this time of year, all of them hoping to unseat VIU. The Mariners are well aware of that fact.

“We were national champions, but it’s a new season and we’re back to Square 1,” Mehrassa said. “If anything it just means we have a bigger target on our back. So guys are putting in as much or more effort than last year.”

The M’s think they will have just as much talent as the 2010 team.

Jared Stephens returns up front to lead the offence. He is big and physical and tough to contain.

In the midfield, Mehrassa and gold-medal hero Chris Arnett will control the middle of the pitch and Romaie Martin and Brad Crewe bring a fast pace to the outside.

Dan Cato can play at midfield or on defence, and one of the leaders of that back-end group will be Davis Stupich who had an excellent pre-season. Other key names on D will be highly regarded addition Kevan Brown, underrated vet Ben Leggett and speedy recruit A.J. Kambere.

Rookie Scott Brown goes into the season as the starting goalkeeper.

“Obviously our goal is to to go to the nationals again to defend our title. We’re taking it one game at a time,” Mehrassa said. “As long as we play the way we can and we go into every game thinking like it’s our last, I don’t see why we can’t achieve that goal.”

GAME ON … The M’s start the season on Saturday (Sept. 10) on the road against Capilano. The home opener will be Sept. 17 when the Douglas Royals visit Mariner Field for a 3 p.m. match … To read a season preview on the VIU Mariners women's soccer team, please click here.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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