Oct. means many things at VIU—midterms, Halloween costume preparations, and recovering from tuition payments. But for Mariners’ soccer teams, Oct. is go-time.
Just two matches remain in the season for the men’s and women’s squads before travelling to Provincials on Oct. 26–28. The teams find themselves in an opposite situation, as the men went undefeated through the first ten games of the year while the women are fighting for a playoff position.
The men’s team has been on fire since mustering just a single win during preseason. The M’s were brilliant on their own turf, finishing the home schedule 5–0–2 and outscoring opponents 15–3.
“We knew going in to the season that every weekend we would be up against strong opposition,” says head coach Bill Merriman after a successful home and away series against Capilano College. “For us to be over half way into the season and still be undefeated is not easy in the PacWest.”
The Mariners rallied to win their final home matches earlier in the month despite losing key players to injury, including Chris Merriman who left the Oct. 7 game against Quest University with a broken leg.
“…We had to make some adjustments with the loss of center-back Dan Cato for both games. Chris Merriman [was] out Sunday with a broken leg, and Stephen Ewashko [sat] out Saturday to nurse an injury,” coach Merriman says. “I felt all our senior players came out to play and was glad to see them get the six points in their last two home games.”
The Mariners’ five senior players were honoured before the game against Quest, in front of fans at VIU watching them for the last time at home.
Meanwhile, injuries have contributed to a decline in victories for the women’s team following preseason success earlier in the year, but are an element of soccer head coach Anup Kang says is not a surprise.
“With a short, condensed season you expect to pick up some injuries,” Kang says.
“We’ve lost three starters and couple of other players, but we have a lot of depth this year and the coaches are confident the players stepping in will give us an opportunity to be successful if they are called upon.”
The women are doing all they can to earn a position into Provincials, and Kang emphasizes the importance of creating offense in the final matches of the season.
“We’re working on attacking as a unit to create scoring chances that we hope will lead to goals,” Kang says. “We have the players who can put the ball in the net, and with couple of wins [in our remaining games] we’ll put ourselves in real good situation to get into playoffs.”
The ladies have only managed to notch four goals in the season’s first ten games, and closed out the home schedule with a 1–0 loss against Langara and a scoreless draw versus Quest.
Defence has been great this season, on the contrary. This has largely been due to the exceptional play of goalkeeper Shelby Walker, who has collected five shutouts for the Mariners so far.
“Shelby Walker is one of the top keepers in the conference,” Kang says. “She has played really well, and made game saving diving saves last couple of games. We have played great defensively as a unit, and we don’t give up a lot of shots or opportunities”
Both teams will travel to UBC-Okanagan and Thompson Rivers University Oct. 20–21 for their final matches of the regular season. Quest University will host the PacWest Provincials the following weekend.