Vancouver Island University Mariners player Victor Blasco looks to pass the ball during a drill at practice Tuesday afternoon at Merle Logan Field. The M’s play their home opener Saturday (Sept. 17).

No stopping soccer scorer

NANAIMO – Victor Blasco returns from professional ranks to re-join Vancouver Island University Mariners.

There are a lot of talented players on the VIU Mariners, but one, in particular, changes the game.

Teams can try to put two guys against Victor Blasco and he’ll still manage to make plays. He’ll score if he’s given any time and space, or even if he isn’t.

That’s what happened in the season opener against the Douglas Royals last Saturday. From 25 yards out, Blasco turned and struck the ball. Before the opposing keeper could even move, the ball was off the crossbar, down and in.

“An unbelievable goal…” said Bill Merriman, VIU coach. “I honestly didn’t know Victor could hit a ball that hard.”

And that’s after the coach has seen a lot of Blasco strikes. The outside midfielder from Barcelona played one season at VIU in 2014, leading the PacWest in goals and helping the Mariners make it all the way to the national final.

After that, Blasco went on to sign with the Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 pro team and soccer fans in Nanaimo wouldn’t have expected him to come back.

But after he was released by the ’Caps and was considering opportunities with other clubs, he kept in mind that every pro season took away from his university eligibility.

“Knowing the situation in Spain and knowing the [financial] crisis and stuff, my family, we think I need to study,” Blasco said. “It’s better for me because tomorrow, I break my legs, I have nothing, right?”

So he’s decided to take advantage of a scholarship and try to finish his degree at VIU.

“I’m still young,” said the 22-year-old. “Maybe I can go pro, but it’s not in my mind right now.”

College soccer, in the meantime, can still challenge him, though he’s expected to star.

“I think he’s going to be the best player in the PacWest. I’m going out on a limb on that one,” Merriman said, laughing.

Blasco said he can continue to develop his game within the VIU program.

“Of course. You always have something to learn,” he said. “And maybe I have something to share with them, too, you know? So I think it’s a great opportunity for all of us to learn and to get better and to move forward.”

Merriman said college soccer is a different mindset for a guy who was so close to an MLS roster, but said at the same time, it’s obvious that Blasco enjoys being back.

“Just having his presence and his energy is great for the players, and you can see the other players starting to, I don’t want to say emulate him, but they’re doing things that they normally wouldn’t do, which is great,” Merriman said.

Blasco was in on all three of the Mariners’ goals on the first weekend of the season, scoring two in a 2-0 win against the Royals and then setting up teammate Shun Takano in a 1-1 tie against the Langara Falcons.

Blasco said the M’s have the right mix of attributes to win, and if they play together as a team and play with desire, they can achieve all their goals.

“Our team [in 2014] wasn’t even close, talent-wise, to this team and we got that far because of our hard work,” he said. “So it’s up to us. We have the same coach, we have a lot of the same players. It depends on how bad we want it.”

GAME ON … The VIU Mariners men’s soccer team plays its home opener Saturday (Sept. 17) against the nationally ranked Capilano Blues at 3:30 p.m. at Merle Logan Field following a 1 p.m. women’s match. Admission is free. The M’s are in action again the next day, with the women taking on the Quest Kermodes at noon prior to the men’s match at 2:30 p.m.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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