VIU soccer off to strong start

NANAIMO – Vancouver Island University's men's and women's sides play their home openers Saturday (Sept. 15) and Sunday at Mariner Field.

VIU Mariners defender Chris Merriman passes the ball at practice earlier this month at Mariner Field.

VIU Mariners defender Chris Merriman passes the ball at practice earlier this month at Mariner Field.

The VIU Mariners soccer teams want to score a lot of goals and reach a lot of goals, and fans can watch it all begin this weekend.

Vancouver Island University’s men’s and women’s sides play their home openers Saturday (Sept. 15) and Sunday at Mariner Field.

Here’s a look at the teams:

Men win with full team effort

The men’s team had a high-scoring start to the Pacific Western Athletic Association regular season this past weekend on the road, defeating the Langara Falcons 4-2 on Saturday and beating the Quest Kermodes 3-1 the next day.

Newcomer Nick Moore scored the first goal of the season for the Mariners and  Davis Stupich, Chris Merriman and Blaze Roberts also scored in that game. Goalkeeper Robbie Cochrane made a successful return, making a save on a penalty shot in the 90th minute.

The next day it was Jordan DeGraaf, Drissa Bouare and Stephen Ewashko with the goals.

VIU coach Bill Merriman was happy with the first regular-season games.

“I saw them get together as a team, which is something, with a lot of new players, we’ve been working on,” he said.

Team play was evident in the fact that the Mariners had so many players getting on the scoresheet.

“When you get seven goals from seven different players, you’re moving the ball well…” said Bill Merriman. “We were definitely hoping that that’s how we can make our attack work, is have everybody get in.”

It makes the offence unpredictable, the coach said.

Dan Cato, VIU defender, said it’s important, this season, for more guys to take on greater responsibility than they might have had in the past.

“The more guys we get scoring goals, the more guys are going to have confidence going into the season and have an ability to score more goals,” he said.

The Mariners will be led this season by team captain Matt Mehrassa, who had a consistent performance at centre back last weekend. Cato is a dominant defender in the air and Chris Merriman can come out wide from the back line and attack.

Ewashko leads the group of midfielders, which also features Aki Ishimine, back up to form after an injury. Moore and Jamie Taylor are other key players there.

Bouare will be the starting striker, with Roberts also showing that he’s ready to contribute.

Cochrane, one of the heroes at nationals in 2010, returns to M’s after a year away.

After two straight trips to Canadian Colleges’ Athletic Association nationals, the M’s obviously want to get back there, but Bill Merriman said his guys still manage to seem controlled and focused at this early stage of the year.

“It takes the edge off to have been there, have won, have been there, have lost,” said Cato. “We know what it takes, we know what both feel like and we know which one we want.”

GAME ON … The Mariner men play the Kwantlen Eagles on Saturday at 3 p.m. and host the Douglas Royals on Sunday at 2 p.m. The games are at Mariner Field at the Serauxmen Sports Fields, and admission is always free.

M’s women will shut down opposition

The VIU Mariners women’s team hardly gives up any goals, ever, a trait that can only serve them well in a tough PacWest league.

“That was our focus in the off-season, to get better defensively,” said Anup Kang, coach of the M’s women.

It showed the first weekend on the road – VIU shut out Langara 1-0 on Saturday and then earned a 0-0 draw with Quest the next day. Kang said of course, as a coach, he would always prefer two wins, but he said the first weekend was beneficial for his team.

“The girls, especially the new girls, got a taste of how aggressive the regular-season games are or how physical they are,” he said.

Rachel Jones’ goal in the 85th minute, combined with a strong game from Jessica Burma at centre back and solid goalkeeping from Shelby Walker, keyed the win in the season opener.

Jones, at striker, will be looked upon to lead the Mariners’ offence this season.

The leaders in the midfield will be fifth-year veterans Emily Nicholson and Mariah Robinson. Carli Rey and Sharin Kang will also play there and the versatile Burma might bouce around to different positions.

A lot of VIU’s improvements defensively come from within, as the back line of Samantha Rodgers, Joanna Geck, Rebecca Weiss, Sarah Meredith and Kim Watson is now a year older and more experienced.

Walker looks better than ever in goal.

Kang predicts the PacWest will be tight again this season, magnifying the importance of every game including this weekend’s homestand.

“I’m hoping that we get a lot of support from Nanaimo because these girls have really worked hard to represent the university and their community,” he said.

GAME ON … The VIU women host the Kwantlen Eagles on Saturday at 1 p.m., then take on the Douglas Royals on Sunday at noon. The games are at Mariner Field; admission is free.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com