Soccer Nationals 2012

November 4th, 2012

It all begins tonight with a CCAA All Canadian Banquet !!
First game for the Mariners Wednesday at 5:30 vs Holland College.

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Read more in the NNB

Read more in the NNB


Captain's final shot at glory
Mariners are back at the CCAA championships but this time as an underdog
Josh Aldrich
Daily News


This week at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association finals will be the last time Vancouver Island University Mariners captain Matt Mehrassa puts on a VIU soccer kit and he wants to make it memorable.

The fifth-year midfielder and Nanaimo product is looking for his second ring and third medal in the last three years at nationals. He is part of a group of six - including Brant Losch, Ben Legett, Matt Rigden, Davis Stupich and Daniel Young-Mercer - that will be playing for the Mariners for the final time this week at Douglas College in Coquitlam.

The Mariners' first game is Wednesday at 5: 30 p.m. when they play the No. 2 seed Holland Hurricanes out of the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association.

VIU enters as an underdog, carrying the No. 7 seed, but Mehrassa likes their unassuming ranking.

"It relieves a lot of pressure off of us and we can go in and just play our game," said Mehrassa, 26. "It kind of happened to us two years ago when we won it, people didn't even know who we were, they had never even heard of VIU, but we came out and won the entire thing."

The opener also stands as a rematch for VIU. It was Holland that upset the Mariners in the first game at last year's nationals and put them on a path to the bronze medal.

It is a wound that is still all to fresh for veteran players and the coaching staff, but being on both ends of success and failure will play to their advantage this week.

"There's enough fire to not let that happen again," said Mehras-sa. "We have a lot of guys on our team who have experienced that and we are trying to impart that experience on the younger guys so that they don't have to feel that."

The Mariners will be saying 'goodbye' to a strong group of defensive-minded players with the CCAA championships. While not all of their graduating players spent five years in Nanaimo - Mehrassa and Stupich transferred in - they all played a big role in the rise of the program over the last four years.

Merriman has worked with most of them going back to their minor soccer days, so this will be a bit of a difficult week for him as well.

"They're a great group of players," said head coach Bill Merriman. "This will be the last week for me coaching some of them.

I've coached a lot of them since they were 10-11 years old, some of them since they were six years old. It's going to be something for them and me."

But VIU will have a strong group of players returning next year, including midfielders Blaze Roberts and Stephen Ewashko, strikers Robert DeGraff and Drissa Bouare, and defenders Chris Merriman and Dan Cato, among others.

Many of these players Mehras-sa worked with as newcomers and helped ingrain them into what it means to be a Mariner.

He became an easy choice for captain this year, but he still tries to downplay his impact from wearing the 'C.'

"I'm honoured to be the captain of such a great team and the guys make it easy on me," he said. "In my mind everyone on this team is a leader and I just follow them."

The Mariners advanced to the finals by earning silver at the Pacific Western Athletic Association finals two weeks ago. Due to the Douglas College Royals hosting nationals and winning gold at provincials, VIU got the extra spot in the tournament.

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans out of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference enter as the No. 1 seed in the country, the Royals are the No. 3 seed, the Collège François-Xavier-Garneau out of the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec are No. 4, the Humber College Hawks out of the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association are No. 5, the ACAC's Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks come in at No. 6 and the Seneca College Sting out of OCAA grabbed the final spot.

For Mehrassa, his future in socer after nationals is uncertain.

He is finishing up his nursing degree this year and will be entering the operating room specialty in January. He also has his family taking priority, especially after he and his wife Kayla Younesi had their first child, Abigail, one year ago.

It is a bit of an ominous feeling looking ahead.

"It's actually weird experience, it's kind of bittersweet," he said. "I'm just going into this week thinking 'You have to enjoy it, because it's going to be your last on.'"