The Mid Isle Mariners are double champions.
The Nanaimo-Ladysmith soccer club won two championships in one day on Saturday in Victoria, with the Div. 3 men winning the George Pearkes Challenge Cup and then the U21 men winning the George Smith Cup.
The games were held back-to-back at Royal Athletic Park as part of the Vancouver Island Soccer League’s championship weekend.
Mid Isle FC’s Div. 3 men defeated Gorge United 1-0 in overtime, then the Mid Isle U21 side won a 6-1 blowout against Juan de Fuca.
Bill Merriman, coach of both squads, said he’s really proud and said the double championship is great for the program.
“It’s just exciting to be a part of it,” Merriman said. “We have such a great atmosphere amongst the two teams; they’re both cheering each other on and for me being in the middle of both teams and being there is such a good feeling. You win two games, but it’s all one big group. I wouldn’t have known what to do if one team wouldn’t have won and the other one did, because everybody’s so close and so tight.”
Saturday’s first final couldn’t have been much closer on the scoreboard. The teams were tied through regulation and the winning goal didn’t come until the 118th minute, when Alex Dedame’s shot to the far bottom corner ricocheted post and in.
The contest was only two minutes away from going to penalty kicks.
“We still weren’t talking about it on the bench, but obviously you’re thinking about it a little bit,” Merriman said. “We were just pressing and pressing and then finally we got it.”
With the first match of the day going to overtime, it meant Merriman didn’t get a chance to have a post-game talk with his Div. 3 guys or a pre-game speech with the U21s.
“We just did the trophy presentation and the boys took off to the changeroom and I didn’t go, I just went around through the tunnel and back out onto the field with the other team,” he said.
The U21 Mariners made sure their final didn’t require as much drama, as they built a 5-0 lead by halftime and coasted to victory.
“We scored some very nice goals, too…” the coach said. “They weren’t just those cheap kind of goals; there were actually some very nice passes and good finishes.”
Juan Rubiano scored a hat trick and was chosen MVP of the match. Liam Wirth, Daniel Doukakis and Griffin Douglas also scored for Mid Isle.
In the early game, goalkeeper David Turkstra recorded the shutout.
GAME ON … The VISL’s championship weekend continues Sunday (April 2) with Div. 1 Nanaimo United playing Cowichan FC for the Jackson Cup at 2:30 p.m. at Royal Athletic Park. For a preview, please click here.