VIU men win because of work rate

Vancouver Island University’s men’s soccer team, under coach Bill Merriman, has developed a trademark style of soccer. It’s won them a lot of games; it’s won them a provincial championship; it’s won them a national championship. It’s all about work rate.

VIU Mariners striker Jared Stephens passes the ball to a teammate during practice Tuesday afternoon at the Serauxmen Sports Fields.

VIU Mariners striker Jared Stephens passes the ball to a teammate during practice Tuesday afternoon at the Serauxmen Sports Fields.

The VIU Mariners wouldn’t dream of playing any other way.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s soccer team, under coach Bill Merriman, has developed a trademark style of soccer. It’s won them a lot of games; it’s won them a provincial championship; it’s won them a national championship.

It’s all about work rate. That’s the buzz-phrase every single time the VIU Mariners take the pitch.

“The big thing about the work rate is that every player, from the opening whistle, gives everything they’ve got,” Merriman said. “And the only time when they do come off is when they have nothing left in the tank.”

Work rate is a team concept. If one player makes a mistake, a teammate gets back and covers for him. If a player gets stripped of the ball, the work doesn’t end there.

“When we lose the ball, we’re getting it right away and we just don’t rest,” said Jared Stephens, one of the team captains. “We work as a team and we work for each other, that’s the biggest thing. When you lose the ball and you’re thinking about your teammates first, that’s when you get back.”

Stephens said the Mariners are a skilled team, no doubt, but he doesn’t think they’re the most skilled team. So instead, they make sure they’re the hardest-working team on the pitch every game they play, all game long.

Veteran midfielder Chris Arnett has been playing for Merriman as long as any of the players, and has been hearing about work rate all along.

“To me it means 90 minutes of work. There’s no saving yourself for any sort of last few minutes,” Arnett said. “As soon as that first whistle blows, you put your head down and you lay everything on the field.”

GAME ON … The men’s soccer team plays its home opener on Saturday (Sept. 17) against the Douglas Royals at 3 p.m. at Mariner Field at the Serauxmen Sports Fields. For a preview of the game, please visit www.nanaimobulletin.com on Friday (Sept. 16). The M’s also have a home game Sunday at 2 p.m. at Mariner Field against the Kwantlen Eagles. That contest will be immediately preceded by a ceremony honouring the team’s 2010 Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association championship … Both Saturday and Sunday’s games are doubleheaders, with VIU’s women’s team also in action.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com