VIU Mariners soccer player, Matteo Kostering, 22, vividly remembers watching VIU win soccer nationals in 2010. He says that watching his friend Matt Mehrassa compete in the national finals played a big role in him deciding to try out for the team two years ago.
“When I was working and not playing soccer, I started to notice that the happiness wasn’t there. Now, thanks to my friend and Bill [coach], I haven’t felt this good in a long time.”
Pre-season of men’s soccer began in August, and Kostering is proud to be part of the team for a second year. The team has managed to go to nationals three years in a row, so there is a mix of pride and pressure settling in on the team this season.
Coach Bill Merriman says this year will be a rebuilding year for the team since they’ve lost a lot of players, who have either graduated from their program or have used up their five year eligibility. Merriman says, however, that means the team looks good for another three years of building before they start to lose players again.
Even though Kostering says that the team isn’t going to settle for anything less than nationals this year, Merriman wants to focus on the present.
“This is a rebuilding year and I don’t want to put any more pressure on these players than there is already,” says Merriman. “We’re already in a situation where we’re hosting the provincials this year.”
Merriman state that it’s not very often a team goes to nationals three times in a row, so they now have a target on their back as a result.
“I’m looking forward to whatever happens this year,” says Merriman. “I just want the team to gel and I think the young players are starting to see that. We have probably five first years players starting, which is normally unheard of, but the players are willing to play and build towards the future so that’s promising.”
With the turnover of players, Merriman says the younger leaders, such as Kostering, now have their turn to step up and play more minutes.
Kostering has had his share of challenges.
“I was never really that good in school,” admits Kostering. “I never took it seriously enough. But now I’m here, and I’m a prime example of where just a little bit of effort can bring you.”
School policy states that a student has to complete at least nine credits per semester in order to be part of a varsity sports team.
“Coming back to school last year, it all sort of hit me and I failed two courses,” says Kostering. “So I needed to take two summer courses to make up the credits so I could play this year. That was a challenge, but I was very motivated. Especially when Bill found out, he called me, we kept in touch every week and he made sure I was getting it done.”
Merriman says that he’s always cheering for the underdog and one aspect about coaching at VIU that enjoys is the opportunity to coach a wide variety of students from all over.
“Somebody like Matteo, I’ve known him for quite a while,” says Merriman. “He comes from Alert Bay, a small community. I’ve always been in his corner, hoping for him to get out of certain situations and get on with his life, and I’m very proud of him because he did that. He could have easily given up, and he almost did this summer, but I talked to him and he took the courses and he passed. Soccer and school here go together, and I think that’s good for him.”
Kostering says he prefers playing centre-mid because he gets more touches on the ball, but also says the Merriman coaches his players for whichever position he assigns them.
Kostering also advises students wanting to try out for the team to be prepared for fitness, to be in decent shape and ready to run.
“Bill just likes people who are willing to learn and listen,” comments Kostering. “If you have something good about you, he can turn you into a really good player.”
Well-rounded fitness is a key aspect to becoming a successful player and Kostering says the coach has also helped him fine-tune his soccer skills.
“I thought I had to be great at everything. I tried to be the best dribbler, I tried to be the best shooter – but he’s fine tuned that into simplifying myself and focusing more on certain things. He’s focused on making my crosses more effective. Bill takes your weaknesses and turns them into strengths.”
Growing up in a small town on the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Kostering was raised in a soccer community. After school he wants to be able to help out in his community and help kids become more active.
VIU Mariners mens soccer will play a home game against Kwantlen Eagles on September 21 at 2pm.