VIU Mariners defend B.C. title

The Vancouver Island University Mariners went into provincial championships as the team to beat, and they couldn’t be beaten.

The VIU men’s soccer team won its second straight B.C. title, winning the Pacific Western Athletic Association championship Sunday in Kelowna with a 2-1 win over the Capilano Blues.

“They showed a lot of character,” said Bill Merriman, coach of the VIU men. “It was the type of game that finals are supposed to be; it was a big battle back and forth.”

The defending champs built a 2-0 first-half lead, getting some huge saves from keeper Dan Mercer when the game was scoreless, then getting goals from Ben Leggett and Brad Archibald.

Cap had nothing to lose in the second half and they played that way, said Merriman.

“It was huge intensity,” he said. “They played a totally different style, they just kept knocking long balls into the box and kept attacking that way.”

There were a few dangerous balls, but the coach said his defence held strong down the stretch.

After the tourney, Jared Stephens was chosen MVP, Stephen Ewashko was named best midfielder and Leggett was best defender.

Even though the Mariners are defending national champions, another provincial title is definitely a good feeling, said the coach.

“That was our goal, was to win the provincial championship and not just look at it as a stepping stone for the nationals,” Merriman said. “It was more, ‘let’s get this done and be the best we can.’ Now we look at the next step.”

Nationals are in Quebec City in two weeks’ time.

SOCCER TALK … The Mariner men qualified for Sunday’s final thanks to a 3-0 win over UBC-Okanagan the day before, a victory Merriman called his team’s “best game of the year.” Leggett, Davis Stupich and Stephens scored goals in that one and Mercer recorded the shutout … The VIU Mariners women’s team was eliminated in the quarterfinals at provincials Friday, losing 3-0 to the Kwantlen Eagles.

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