Men's Soccer looking strong - DN Feature

August 10th, 2014

Mariners looking strong as stars return and new faces join roster

The M's training camp got underway this week as team looks to build on strong 2013

Ben Ingram / Daily News

- See more at: http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/sports/mariners-looking-strong-as-stars-return-and-new-faces-join-roster-1.1306297#sthash.Ut5wLQG4.dpuf

Mariners looking strong as stars return and new faces join roster

The M's training camp got underway this week as team looks to build on strong 2013

Ben Ingram / Daily News

The 2014 Vancouver Island University Mariners men's soccer team is going to look a lot like the provincial bronze medal-winning 2013 squad.

That, is a very a good thing. VIU caught the Pacific Western Athletic Association a bit off-guard last year with their bronze-medal finish during a rebuilding year.

Much of their success was due to the effectiveness of a talented core that, by and large, remains intact for the 2014 season.

What's more, VIU expects to welcome a few new faces to the team after training camp in order to shore up weaker areas of the team.

With the weeks counting down to the beginning of the PacWest soccer season in September, all indications are the VIU team that takes to the pitch this year will be a more refined version of last year's successful Mariners.

"Last night (Wednesday) we ran Westwood Lake; the fitness level of all the players overall is probably the best I've seen coming into training," said head coach Bill Merriman. "Last year was our rebuild year, we did better than expected. Now we can add a few more players and hopefully go from there."

Star striker Blaze Roberts will join the club for another year as will Farhad Abdulgani, who lived up to the hype as a highlytouted recruit for the Mariners last season.

The capable goal-scoring of Jordan DeGraaf will also be an addition on the team this year, as he is expected to return to action with the team in the fall.

Speaking of goal-scoring, the Mariners brass is also quite excited to see what midfielder Renan Rebelatto will bring to the table after the midfielder enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the Mid Isle Highlanders U21 squad in the Pacific Coast Soccer League this summer.

Rebelatto's goal-scoring surge in the second half saw the midfielder - traditionally a playmaker - score seven in the second half to finish with nine on the season. Roberts and Rebelatto posted a combined 21 goals through 12 games and Mariners fans will be hoping to see more of that magic in PacWest play.

Merriman said he hopes to get "at least" two years out of the current Mariners core.

"I think the biggest thing right now, this year we're going to try to work on our back line," he said.

One major hit the team has taken for 2014 is the departure of captain and centre-back Dan Cato, who was a consistent and steady presence for the Mariners.

The team will welcome former Quest Kermodes forward Peter Cooper for 2014, one of several athletes with top potential the team expects to add for this season. The six-foot-three forward who can play centreback was a Kermode for two seasons.

Victoria-born midfielder Jamie Taylor is also in the running for a spot on the team and the team can be expected to have a couple more aces up its sleeve come September.

"Last year, too, we had a lot of new players, but also we lost players because of discipline or injuries, things like that," said Merriman.

Injuries took their toll on the Mariners, costing games from some of the team's top athletes, like Cato, Rebelatto and Abdulgani.

With a bit of luck, the 2014 Mariners could prove to be a little more durable.

From a coaching perspective, the increased certainty about what team will take to the pitch come September means the Mariners brass can focus on the details rather than fretting over the basic structure of the VIU side.

"We can work on just the players working together a little more, getting our system down," said Merriman.

"Last year, all year long - you're changing the puzzle, putting people in. Now I have a better idea of how every player plays.

"The numbers have dropped but the quality has gone up, which is great for us. We're always looking for those diamonds in the rough," Merriman added.

The Mariners' season gets underway after Labour Day.

The 2014 Vancouver Island University Mariners men's soccer team is going to look a lot like the provincial bronze medal-winning 2013 squad.

That, is a very a good thing. VIU caught the Pacific Western Athletic Association a bit off-guard last year with their bronze-medal finish during a rebuilding year.

Much of their success was due to the effectiveness of a talented core that, by and large, remains intact for the 2014 season.

What's more, VIU expects to welcome a few new faces to the team after training camp in order to shore up weaker areas of the team.

With the weeks counting down to the beginning of the PacWest soccer season in September, all indications are the VIU team that takes to the pitch this year will be a more refined version of last year's successful Mariners.

"Last night (Wednesday) we ran Westwood Lake; the fitness level of all the players overall is probably the best I've seen coming into training," said head coach Bill Merriman. "Last year was our rebuild year, we did better than expected. Now we can add a few more players and hopefully go from there."

Star striker Blaze Roberts will join the club for another year as will Farhad Abdulgani, who lived up to the hype as a highlytouted recruit for the Mariners last season.

The capable goal-scoring of Jordan DeGraaf will also be an addition on the team this year, as he is expected to return to action with the team in the fall.

Speaking of goal-scoring, the Mariners brass is also quite excited to see what midfielder Renan Rebelatto will bring to the table after the midfielder enjoyed a renaissance of sorts with the Mid Isle Highlanders U21 squad in the Pacific Coast Soccer League this summer.

Rebelatto's goal-scoring surge in the second half saw the midfielder - traditionally a playmaker - score seven in the second half to finish with nine on the season. Roberts and Rebelatto posted a combined 21 goals through 12 games and Mariners fans will be hoping to see more of that magic in PacWest play.

Merriman said he hopes to get "at least" two years out of the current Mariners core.

"I think the biggest thing right now, this year we're going to try to work on our back line," he said.

One major hit the team has taken for 2014 is the departure of captain and centre-back Dan Cato, who was a consistent and steady presence for the Mariners.

The team will welcome former Quest Kermodes forward Peter Cooper for 2014, one of several athletes with top potential the team expects to add for this season. The six-foot-three forward who can play centreback was a Kermode for two seasons.

Victoria-born midfielder Jamie Taylor is also in the running for a spot on the team and the team can be expected to have a couple more aces up its sleeve come September.

"Last year, too, we had a lot of new players, but also we lost players because of discipline or injuries, things like that," said Merriman.

Injuries took their toll on the Mariners, costing games from some of the team's top athletes, like Cato, Rebelatto and Abdulgani.

With a bit of luck, the 2014 Mariners could prove to be a little more durable.

From a coaching perspective, the increased certainty about what team will take to the pitch come September means the Mariners brass can focus on the details rather than fretting over the basic structure of the VIU side.

"We can work on just the players working together a little more, getting our system down," said Merriman.

"Last year, all year long - you're changing the puzzle, putting people in. Now I have a better idea of how every player plays.

"The numbers have dropped but the quality has gone up, which is great for us. We're always looking for those diamonds in the rough," Merriman added.

The Mariners' season gets underway after Labour Day.

- See more at: http://www.nanaimodailynews.com/sports/mariners-looking-strong-as-stars-return-and-new-faces-join-roster-1.1306297#sthash.2F4wGxgR.dpuf