The VIU Mariners soccer teams both finished in first place. At provincials, the women won gold, the men won silver. Both get to go to nationals. No matter what, it’s been a winning season.
“We’ve achieved our goals up till now – the goal now is to win,” said Maddy Dawson, all-star midfielder.
The M’s women’s and men’s soccer sides begin their respective Canadian championship tournaments on Wednesday (Nov. 5). The ladies are in Medicine Hat, Alta., while the guys are in Oakville, Ont.
“It’s so exciting and I can’t wait to just be there and step on that field,” said Samantha Rodgers, MVP defender, last week.
The women begin play against the host side, and don’t have any scouting reports on the competition. Most teams they face at nationals will be unfamiliar.
“It’s definitely different, because we’re so used to playing the same teams again and again,” Rodgers said. “Not knowing their playing style, it’s a bit intimidating but we also know that we are a strong team and they should be worried about us, too.”
Dawson said the Mariners are versatile, with players able to move around the pitch and play out of position if it helps the team. Rodgers said the M’s play physical and quick, or whatever style they need to play.
She said the team is driven.
“We are all so focused and we all want it,” she said.
The Mariner men are sharply focused too, said all-star midfielder Renan Rebelatto – they’re preparing not only for their first match against Holland College, but they’re preparing for their first 15 minutes of that match, then after that they’ll worry about the next 15.
“When the time comes, we’ll be buzzing,” Rebelatto said.
Playoff soccer is a little different, said Bill Merriman, coach of the M’s men.
“There’s desperation,” he said. “Teams are throwing things at you, the soccer’s a lot more competitive, there’s more at stake.”
The coach knows a little bit about what players to watch for on other teams, and said his team will need to be alert.
“We have to make sure that the players are assigned jobs and duties, then stick to them because at nationals, you blink and it’s in the back of your net,” he said.
The flipside is the Mariners have guys who can do that to other teams. They have a roster designed to compete at nationals. They will try to keep the game simple and stick to their strengths.
“That’s what I tell our players – more than worry about the other teams, I say, let’s just go for it and let them worry about us,” Merriman said.
Rebelatto said no one will outrun the Mariners this week. He said the players put on their jerseys not only for themselves and their teammates, but also for those who have worn the jerseys in the past, and those who will do so in the future.
“We have the biggest heart in Canada right now, we’re ready for anything, and we’re really proud at VIU,” Rebelatto said.