VICTORIA – Bruce Wilson is set for his 31st season as head coach of the University of Victoria Vikes men’s soccer team and his freshman-filled roster will be contending for what could be their sixth national championship banner. The Vikes men’s soccer team begin their Canada West campaign this weekend, Aug. 24-25, on the road in Prince George, B.C. with a pair of road games against the UNBC Timberwolves.

The Vikes have a big turnover this year with the departure of the experienced Tarnvir Bhandal, Paulo Dait, Michael Baart, Dorian Colopsis and Austin Schneebeli. With over half the team entering their first year as a Vike, Wilson has spent his pre-season getting the team to gel. Vikes soccer alumni Cam Hundal, Nico Craveiro and Paddy Nelson join Wilson on his coaching staff alongside goalkeeping expert Carlos Almeida.

“This is a new team for us and it’s going to take some time for the players to get used to the level of competition, for one, and then getting used to our own players,” said Wilson about his team with 13 first-time Vikes. “That’s why the pre-season was very important for us to get to know each other but overall I have been very pleased with the recruiting we did.”

The Vikes have quite the freshman class including three likely starters. Six of those recruits hail from Victoria, including the team’s top recruit and striker Matteo Ventura.

“Matteo is a huge prospect for us this year,” added Wilson about the five-foot-ten Humanities major. “He came out of Reynolds’ soccer academy and we are definitely going to look to him to score goals. He’s a very good player that is excellent on penalty kicks or anything we need.”

Wilson also highlighted the talents of Matt Hobson, of Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Secondary, who Wilson describes as undoubtedly the fittest player on the team that will start in central midfield. The team is also gaining two first-year Vikes that come already seasoned in post-secondary play.

Midfielder Nick Park will join the Vikes as a transfer from Quest University in Squamish, B.C., while defender Niko Cristante joins from Vancouver Island University. Both Park and Cristante are likely to crack the starting lineup and still have two years of eligibility left.

Despite the many new faces in the line-up, the Vikes still boast experience including fourth-year keeper Jas Lally, fifth-year defensive veteran Mackenzie Rigg, fourth year Xavier Araujo and six-foot-five third year Evan Libke.

“We have been playing senior men’s teams around town and we haven’t lost and have only given up one goal in five games so for us that’s a huge accomplishment starting with our goalkeeper, Jas, right through our team,” noted Wilson on the team’s undefeated pre-season.