Sports

VIU Mariners know what they're up against

VIU Mariners player Matt Mehrassa controls the ball during a practice drill Thursday at Merle Logan Field. - The News Bulletin
VIU Mariners player Matt Mehrassa controls the ball during a practice drill Thursday at Merle Logan Field.
— image credit: The News Bulletin

The VIU Mariners had to earn another chance, and they've done so. Now they'll try to take advantage.

Vancouver Island University's men's soccer team begins play tomorrow (Nov. 7) at the Canadian Colleges' Athletic Association championships in Coquitlam. The challenge is significant, especially since the Mariners find themselves on the more difficult side of the draw with the host Douglas Royals, the defending-CCAA-champion NAIT Ooks and the Holland Hurricanes.

"To me, we couldn't be in a better situation because we've played all these teams before and we know what we're up against," said Matt Mehrassa, VIU captain.

The eight-team showdown starts with VIU taking on Holland from Prince Edward Island. M's soccer fans might recognize that opponent – Holland is the team that thwarted VIU a year ago at nationals in a bizarre game. The M's lost 2-1 despite hardly allowing a shot on goal – the Hurricanes scored from 70 yards out after the ball got caught by a gust of wind, and then the M's booted a clearing attempt off a player's leg into their own net.

"You can only make so many excuses for your loss. They beat us fair and square last year," Mehrassa said. "But do I think that we're a better team? Absolutely. But it doesn't always work that the best team wins."

So the experience of last year's nationals is only encouraging for the M's now that they enter this year's tournament seeded No. 7, up against the No. 2-seeded Hurricanes.

Bill Merriman, coach of the VIU men, said Holland did a good job shutting down his team's top striker last year, Jared Stephens.

"That took away a lot of our offence," Merriman said. "With this team, we have scoring from all over. It's going to be a lot tougher for them to prepare for us.

"We missed a lot of scoring chances in that game [last year] whereas this team, I think if they get those same chances they're more likely to score some goals."

Mehrassa said playing Holland again gives the M's a chance at redemption.

"A lot of the guys that were there and felt what we felt are here again, so we're going to take that feeling and we're not going to let that happen again," he said.

GAME ON … The Mariners and Hurricanes play at 5:30 p.m. at Coquitlam's Town Centre Park. There will be a live webcast at this link … To read more on the VIU team's return to nationals, please click here.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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