VIU going into playoffs on top

The Pacific Western Athletic Association provincial soccer championships start Friday (Oct. 24) in Squamish.

VIU Mariners player Peter Cooper

VIU Mariners player Peter Cooper

The VIU Mariners have been the best team on the pitch all season long.

Going into provincials, they’re good enough to win it all, but there are never any guarantees in soccer. An unlucky bounce, a teensy mistake or a gust of wind could be all it takes to turn a game.

“The big thing for us is to get the players to play as simple as possible, but how they know how to play,” said Bill Merriman, coach of VIU’s men’s team. “Play safe, but play aggressive.”

Anup Kang, coach of the women’s side, said his players have earned the bounces that have gone in their favour.

“We’ve worked hard and the luck has gone our way at times and that’s all we’ll ask of them, is to keep working hard and play our game,” he said.

The Pacific Western Athletic Association provincial championships start Friday (Oct. 24) in Squamish. Vancouver Island University’s men (10-2-3) and women (11-3-1) both clinched the top spot in their respective tables, so the ladies play the No. 4-seeded Kwantlen Eagles in the semifinals Friday night and the guys take on the host Quest Kermodes in their semi on Saturday afternoon.

“Our preparation has been good, I think, and hopefully we can use this week to get things ready and go for it,” said Merriman.

The stakes in the semifinals are massive. B.C. has wild-card berths at nationals, meaning that if either VIU team wins its semifinal game, it gets to go to the Canadian championships.

“That first game has definitely been all our focus,” Merriman said.

VIU’s women will try for the same pinpoint concentration. Kang said he wants his Mariners to just play the game, and put aside the fact it’s the playoffs.

“They’ve been really focused in staying in the moment, and I think that’s a big part of why we’re successful this year,” Kang said.

All it will take is more of the same, and maybe a little extra, but the Mariners have positioned themselves for success.

“We are really confident…” said Victor Blasco, M’s striker. “We are a team that works every minute. I’m really excited. I think we can do great.”

sports@nanaimobulletin.com