VIU Mariners will play for national championship

The VIU Mariners made it back to the national final.

Vancouver Island University's men's soccer team will play for gold at the Canadian Colleges' Athletic Association championships on Saturday (Nov. 10) in Coquitlam.

The No. 7-seeded Mariners pulled off two consecutive upsets at the tournament this week, first shutting out the Holland Hurricanes 3-0 on Wednesday and then getting past the host Douglas Royals 2-1 on Thursday.

Both results offered redemption for the M's, who were beaten by the Hurricanes at nationals last year and lost to the Royals last month at provincial championships.

Douglas had scored three goals in each of its last two meetings with VIU, but the M's brought a new game plan to last night's match.

"The biggest thing we worked on was just getting forward faster and in more numbers. That was huge for us," said Bill Merriman, VIU coach. "We pushed players up the park more and we got into the attack more rather than letting Douglas take it to us."

Ben Leggett scored about 10 minutes into the game on a header off a Chris Merriman corner kick. Douglas tied it by halftime, but with less than 10 minutes left, Dan Cato headed in a free kick from Davis Stupich.

"When a team's losing 2-1, you know they're going to throw everything at you and Douglas has a lot to throw at you," said Bill Merriman.

VIU goalkeeper Robbie Cochrane was called upon to make some great saves at the end, said the coach, and was named man of the match.

It was a semifinal that was so good and so intense that it was worthy of being a national final, said Merriman, especially in front of a rapt crowd of Douglas and VIU supporters.

"We had more fans out than they did. That really helped," he said. "Our fans were so loud and so passionate, it was unbelievable. I know it helped our players. It was all they could talk about after the game."

Now, VIU's soccer team has put itself in the running for a national banner. It will play a defensively sound Humber Hawks team that went into the tourney as the No. 5 seed.

"Our focus from Day 1 has been step by step. Our goal was to get here and what we had to do to get here," said Merriman. "Now we're here and we're in this game. It means so much."

GAME ON … The CCAA national final will be played Saturday at 5 p.m. at Coquitlam's Town Centre Park … In Wednesday's tournament opener against the Hurricanes, Chris Merriman scored the first goal then assisted on Ben Leggett's goal and Stephen Ewashko scored late in the game. Cochrane posted the shutout and Jordan DeGraff was chosen man of the match … Chris Merriman's goal at nationals came on Nov. 7, a month after he broke his leg in a match Oct. 6 … The Mariners won the CCAA championship in 2010.

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