By Ali Lee, Vikes Communications
VICTORIA, B.C. – The University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team enter the 2015 Canada West and CIS season with a strong midfield line up and a few key recruits.
The Vikes men will begin their season this weekend with a single road game, Sept. 5, in Vancouver against the CIS No. 5-ranked UBC Thunderbirds.LIVE STREAM | ROSTER | SCHEDULEReturning for their final seasons are fifth-year Vikes midfielders and this year’s captains Cam Hundal and Craig Gorman. The duo helped Victoria capture their fifth CIS title in their rookie year, in 2011, and Hundal was named the championship tournament’s MVP.
Gorman and Hundal will look to their fellow seniors Sam Prette, Dominic Colantonio, Adam Ravenhill and Noah Pawlowski to get them back to the CIS championship, hosted this year at York University. Head Coach Bruce Wilson enters his 28th season and is confident about where the strength in this year’s team lies.
“Our team’s strength is definitely our depth but also that we have a good mix of seniors and they are mostly based in midfield,” adds Wilson, two-time CIS Coach of the Year. ‘We will definitely be looking to our more experienced players, in particular our captains, to leads us both on and off the field. It’s definitely their time to step up.”
Although the team’s strength lies in the midfield there is still something to be said about the freshmen who will make their mark this season. The top recruit for Wilson is West Kelowna’s Isaac Koch, who has already impressed throughout the pre-season to likely earn a starting spot. Other additions include rookie Jasdeep Lally who will back up Pawlowski in net, while third-year transfer Keegan Lang will be a key boost up front.
“Our goal is of course to win the league this year but the top two will host the first round of playoffs and that will be important,” describes Wilson who knows the importance of home-field advantage. “We know the Final 4 tournament will be out West this year so that would be a bonus to host. The top two from there advance to the CIS Championship. Looking forward we know we will have tough battles against UBC and Trinity Western, but UNBC, UBC Okanagan and Thompson Rivers have all had a few years in the league now and will be challenges, too.”
The Vikes men went undefeated in their pre-season matches, including wins over Peninsula College and Kwantlen.
“Our pre-season games were important so we could look at all the players,” outlined Wilson. “The team is learning every day and we have a backup of eight or nine players that can play. We also have been able to explore our versatility which is very important at the university level. Paulo Daitand Sam Prette, for example, have shown they can play in the back, wide midfield or up front.”
The Vikes will look to their attacking and offensive strengths this year, while fourth-year keeper Pawlowski is undoubtedly the anchor in the backfield. Pawlowski was the top CIS net minder last year, named a CIS First Team All-Canadian, while the Langara College transfer also brings a wide spectrum of experience and leadership.
“Noah has been fantastic for our team and we still get another year out of him,” said Wilson of the 33-year-old. “He is big, strong, vocal and he is so good with our younger players.”
The Vikes will also get another lift this season but in this case it will be for off the field. Recent graduate, captain and defender Alex Redpath joins Wilson on the bench as an assistant coach. Former assistant head coach Ian Bridge took a temporary assistant coach position with the Nebraska women’s soccer team but is set to return to the Vikes program in January.
The Vikes men begin their Canada West campaign with a road trip against the powerhouse UBC Thunderbirds at Thunderbird Stadium on Sept. 5 at 5 p.m. The game will be broadcast live oncanadawest.TV.