VIU Mariners defender Jeff Travis maintains possession of the ball during a drill Tuesday night at practice at Merle Logan Field. Vancouver Island University’s men’s and women’s soccer teams start the PacWest regular season this Saturday (Sept. 9). (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

VIU Mariners defender Jeff Travis maintains possession of the ball during a drill Tuesday night at practice at Merle Logan Field. Vancouver Island University’s men’s and women’s soccer teams start the PacWest regular season this Saturday (Sept. 9). (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Mariners look mighty as soccer season starting

VIU’s home openers are against the Langara Falcons on Saturday (Sept. 9) at Merle Logan Field

Soccer season is going to end, one way or another, at national championships. The VIU Mariners have taken every measure to enable them to give it their best shot as host team at the end of autumn.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s soccer team has built what’s essentially an all-star team as it prepares to start another PacWest season this week.

“Technically, this is the strongest team we’ve ever had. It’s one of the strongest teams I’ve seen, on paper, anywhere,” said Bill Merriman, VIU coach.

Roster cuts were incredibly difficult, he said. Many young players had to be left off the 24-man roster.

“We do have a lot of good young players that maybe aren’t going to get the playing time that they deserve because of the fact that we have the veterans; they’re good, they’re very good,” said Merriman. “We’ve got a lot of pace on this team and people that have played together and fifth years and a lot going for them.”

Last year’s PacWest Player of the Year, Shun Takano, returns, and star outside midfielder Victor Blasco is back from injury. Captain Jeff Travis leads a reinforced back end including Ryan McCurdy out of the PDL and coach-turned-player Chris Merriman. Also, Jordan de Graaf returns to the M’s and high-scoring newcomer Stefan Cukovic is another addition.

Bill Merriman said the Mariners have the skill and depth to play different styles of soccer so they will be able to go with what’s working or make changes when necessary. No matter how the M’s play, though, sharing the ball will be key.

“We have such pace, if players don’t give [teammates] the ball when they need it, things are going to break down,” the coach said.

Miguel Banting, a fifth-year veteran, said the Mariners are focused on ball movement.

“With all the skill that we have this year – and we’ve really bolstered up our defence too – we’re going to be pretty fearless moving the ball, because we know we can get back and we’re very fit,” he said.

The Mariners rolled through a five-game pre-season undefeated, outscoring opponents 20-4. They know any team in the PacWest can present a challenge, though, so they’ll be ready on opening weekend.

“Physically, teams are really going to be on us, tackling our skilled players, getting under our skin, so it’s our responsibility to keep our heads and keep playing the way we play,” Banting said.

The Mariners have some long-term goals in mind, but in the meantime, there should be plenty of goals scored en route for any fans who wish to throw their support behind a championship contender.

“They’re going to see some great [soccer]. It’s going to be wide open and it’s going to be fun for them…” Bill Merriman said. “We have players on this team that younger players can aspire to be. They’re that good.”

Mariners women gaining confidence

Also starting PacWest play is VIU’s women’s soccer team under the guidance of new coach Kevin Lindo.

“We came in late, but I’m pretty happy with how we’ve prepared so far,” he said.

The M’s women were dominant in winning all three of their pre-season games by a combined score of 21-1; Lindo said the team won’t put too much stock in those results, but said the wins did build confidence.

He said he’s leaned on his veterans for leadership and they’ve responded, helping the Mariners become a tight-knit group off the pitch and get up to speed on the pitch.

“We have been playing with some new systems which is challenging both myself and the girls; we’re learning all the time,” Lindo said. “We don’t want to just go out and do one thing. We want to be able to adapt to our opponents.”

He said the Mariners will play attacking soccer that will be exciting to watch, and said the team has the personnel to be able to play with pace and power and finish scoring opportunities.

GAME ON … The Mariners host the Langara Falcons on Saturday (Sept. 9) and the Douglas Royals on Sunday at Merle Logan Field. The women’s matches are at noon both days followed by the men at 2:30 p.m. Admission is free.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The Regional District of Nanaimo has its sights set on busing to the Cowichan Valley in time for March 2022. (News Bulletin file)
RDN Transit has sights set on busing to Cowichan Valley by next March

Unallocated transit hours already in the budget

Parking decals for motorcycles owned by riders with disabilities are now available from the Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre. (Photo submitted)
Motorcycle decals now available in Nanaimo for disabled riders

Limited number of decals now available from the Nanaimo Disability Resource Centre

Ceramic artist Teresa Dorey with some of the pieces from her upcoming exhibition, ‘Einfühlung: Feeling Into,’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts Studio and Gallery. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Ceramic artist explores ideas around empathy and touch in Nanaimo exhibition

Montreal’s Teresa Dorey presents ‘Einfühlung: Feeling Into’ at Nanaimo Ceramic Arts

Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is the recipient of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Emerging Cultural Leader. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)
Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun is the recipient of this year’s City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award for Emerging Cultural Leader. (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)
Multi-disciplinary Snuneymuxw artist named ‘Emerging Cultural Leader’

Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, receives City of Nanaimo Culture and Heritage Award

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo mixed-use building wins top prize at commercial building awards

Village on Third was Judges’ Choice winner at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

The Village on Third in Nanaimo won the Judges’ Choice award as top overall entry at the Vancouver Island Real Estate Board Commercial Building Awards. (Photo submitted)
Nanaimo mixed-use building wins top prize at commercial building awards

Village on Third was Judges’ Choice winner at VIREB Commercial Building Awards

BCIT. (Wikimedia Commons)
BCIT apologizes after employee’s ‘offensive and hurtful’ email leaked to Métis Nation

BCIT says employee’s conduct has been investigated and addressed

An adult male yellow-breasted chat is shown in this undatd photograph on lands protected in collaboration between the En’owkin Centre and Penticton Indian Band with support through ECCC. The rescue from near extinction for a little yellow bird hinges on the wild rose in British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley, a researcher says. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, A. Michael Bezener/ En’owkin Centre 2020 *MANDATORY CREDIT*
Rare yellow birds need wild roses to survive in British Columbia: researcher

The importance of local wild roses emerged over a nearly 20-year experiment

RCMP officers search around rows of luggage carts as screens block off an area of the sidewalk after a shooting outside the international departures terminal at Vancouver International Airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Police say gang conflict in Metro Vancouver may be behind shooting death at airport

Police said this generation of gangsters is taking things to new level and have no regard for community safety

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

Nanaimo author Haley Healey recently launched her second book, ‘Flourishing and Free: More Stories of Trailblazing Women of Vancouver Island.’ (Photo courtesy Kristin Wenberg)
Nanaimo author pens second book on ‘trailblazing’ Vancouver Island women

Haley Healey’s ‘Flourishing and Free’ follows her 2020 debut ‘On Their Own Terms’

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read