Men's Soccer Update 2012

February 19th, 2012

Merriman building men's soccer team
Josh Aldrich
Daily News

Saturday, February 18, 2012

It may be the off-season for the Vancouver Islanders University Mariners men's soccer team, but head coach Bill Merriman is as busy as every trying to fill out his roster.

This year he is losing three core players, but he is looking far and wide for their replacements, bringing in possible candidates from Vancouver and Edmonton.

He does, however, already have one solid building block in place, dipping down into Victoria for Jamie Watson, a 19-year-old centre midfielder. But Merriman is making sure he doesn't ignore his own back yard with a few intriguing possibilities.

While the changes overall will few, they will have a huge impact on the team next season.

"The next couple of years are going to be our transition years," said Merriman. "We should still have enough players coming back next year to be competitive but we will be looking to rebuild and I think next year is the start of that."

The Mariners will be losing Jared Stevens to graduation as well as Kevin Brown and Brad Archibald to the work force.

The loss of Stevens was something Merriman was prepared for, but the loss of Brown, the Pacific Western Athletic Associations' rookie of the year is not something he was counting on.

Archibald also leaves a big hole on the back end.

"Hopefully we'll get (Brown) back, that's a big hole for us," said Merriman. "He's a good player."

With these losses, most of Merriman's focus has been on replenishing his defenders and midfielders.

In the next weekend at an exhibition game in Victoria they will be taking a close look two recruits from as well as two from Vancouver.

Merriman has formed a nice pipeline out to Alberta's capital that has already netted him, Steven Ewashko and Brad Crew. "There's a fellow back there that helps me out, he puts me in contact with players back there which is nice," said Merriman.

But he is not forgetting about his own backyard as he is working on securing a number of local players from the U18 Metro team, the U21 Vancouver Island Soccer League team and the Highlanders club.

One of the challenges the Mariners do face is a higher turnover than the other athletic programs at VIU due to the fact they are generally bringing in athletes that are a little older, as opposed to right out of high school. Many of the players that Merriman looks at have already been playing U21 soccer for a year or two.

Merriman also says next year will be the real tough year for recruiting as he will be placing far more players.

Their window of opportunity at another national crown could be closing.

However, they will have two key players from their 2010 national championship team returning, MVP goalie Robbie Cochran and midfielder Kyle Bate.

"(Bate's) very skilled and he works well with others, he's a shifty kind of player," said Merriman.

He is hoping the addition of a player like Watson, a big, creative midfielder, will help extend their period of dominance in the PacWest.

"The biggest thing is he's young, and that's something I've got to look at because I've got a lot of graduating players the year after," said Merriman.

Merriman's deadline to get everything together is the end of August when they open up their training camp, but he encourages anyone who is interested incoming out for the VIU team should contact him at 250-729-4243