VISL Cup Champions

March 24th, 2013

Read more in the Cowichan Valley Citizen

Highlanders win U-21 VISL title
Roberts named MVP; Raiders open season at Rebels; Trajan sixth in Comox
Josh Aldrich
The Daily News

It is tough to beat the inaugural season the U-21 Mid Isle Highlanders have had in the Vancouver Island Soccer League.

On Sunday they beat the West-castle United 3-2 in overtime to capture the George Smith Cup and VISL title at Royal Athletic Park in Victoria and secure first round hosting rights in provincial play downs.

The team was formed this year as a developmental group for the Mid Isle Highlanders FC Soccer Academy men's program and the Vancouver Island University Mariners soccer team, coached by academy technical director Bill Merriman.

Leading the way for the Highlanders was Blaze Roberts who earned MVP honours while Connor Williams, Tyson Kushnir and Nick Moore scored for Mid Isle, while Alex Graham picked up the win in net.

"It's exciting," said head coach Larry Stefanek. "Some of the guys have never played in a big, tough game before, so it's important for them."

The final was close match all the way through, but the Highlanders slowly wore down West-castle in the second half to come out on top with Williams getting the winner at the 117 minute mark of overtime.

"It was a very bumpy field," said Stefanek. "We started getting the ball down and passing it and pressed them high in their end and they couldn't get out a lot.

"We had more depth and a stronger bench, that was a big key."

Mid Isle advanced to the final with a 2-1 overtime win over the Saanich Fusion FC Titans two weeks ago, as Roberts scored the winner.

The Highlanders have come a long way in a short time this year. They started the season with just 13 players, leaving them with a short bench and little depth. But they got a major boost in November after the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association soccer championships as they added five VIU players with silver medals from nationals. Not only did this addition give them more players, but it increased their overall talent and experience levels.

The Highlanders finished first in the VISL regular season with a 12-2-0 record.

"It's been interesting bringing them all together, but they've been working hard and they love the game, so they love to work for each other," said Stefanek.

The B.C. championships start on the April 13 and 14 weekend. The Highlanders will host in the first round, but will not know who they play or on which field until the draw is made on April 2.