Playing focused soccer has become a team strength for the VIU Mariners, and there’s no reason why that can’t continue at nationals.
Vancouver Island University’s women’s soccer team is in Montreal for the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association championships, which begin Wednesday (Nov. 9).
Nationals can bring a different set of distractions, but the Mariners showed a week and a half ago at provincials that they can win while never letting their focus waver, not even for a minute. The M’s had to be sharp at the PacWest tournament in Burnaby, embroiled in a tie game for most of the semifinal and protecting a one-goal lead for most of the final.
“The games at nationals are going to be pressure-packed, but we’ve been through it … and we did really well,” said Anup Kang, VIU coach. “I thought we stayed focused, didn’t let the moment get to us and just worried about the task at hand. And I don’t think it’s going to be any different at nationals.”
And it isn’t just the mental side of the game that has gotten the Mariners this far – VIU is playing well in all facets. Maddy Dawson, who scored the B.C.-championship-winning goal, pointed out that over the past five games, the team has scored 15 goals and allowed one.
“So basically our scoring has led us to this point, definitely, and our defence is solid,” she said. “We just work with each other, we’re all meshing now and we’re all kind of getting the flow of the game.”
Dawson said the Mariners “have made our way together,” and said that’s what’s brought them this far, more than anything else.
Now, against the best college-level competition in the country, the M’s will see where they can make their way next.
“We’re in a really tough group, but at the same time, I think all four teams that are on our side of the pool are fairly even,” Kang said. “It’s an opportunity for us, if we play our best soccer, we’ll have a chance for positive results.”
First up are the host Indiennes d’Ahuntsic, whom the Mariners will play in Wednesday’s feature game. Kang said trying to get an early lead to take the crowd out of it is a priority for his team. Ahuntsic, he said, plays a vastly different style and formation which makes the first match unpredictable.
Dawson said the Mariners believe the teams at nationals are “really even with each other” and all are capable of playing at a high level.
“So we’re going to come out there and play like we would if it’s our last game,” she said. “We could win 5-0, we could lose 5-0, but we’re going to come out there and play our hearts out.”
The Mariners arrive in Montreal at their best, at their most focused, and pumped up about stepping on the pitch.
“Excited? Oh yeah, after the whistle blew on that last game, I was like, ‘I am so ready [for nationals],’ and we all were,” said Dawson. “We’ve all been heads-down focused on that first game. I cannot wait.”
GAME ON … VIU plays Ahuntsic on Wednesday at Montreal Soccer Stadium at 2:30 p.m. Pacific Time.