NANAIMO — The 2018-19 school year doesn't get going for a few weeks yet but training for the Vancouver Island University Soccer teams has already begun.
The Men's team will be under the microscope this season after winning a national gold medal on home soil in November, and transitioning to Larry Stefanek as the new head coach.
Kevin Lindo's Women's team will look to build on a 4-3-5 record in 2017 and a third place showing at PACWEST provincials.
Stefanek says he's looking forward to the challenge of taking over highly successful Men's program.
"It's a new era. Bill was incredibly successful and a colleague and friend of mine. We're similar in some ways and different in other ways and obviously that's going to come out. It's a different look team. There are some phenomenal players back and there's a lot of new players as well," said Stefanek.
Shun Takano was a part of the 2017 Men's Championship and called winning the title on home soil 'crazy'. He says the experience was something he'll never forget, but something he'll like to duplicate in 2018.
Video from the Mariners first training session of 2018 at Merle Logan Field:
Victor Blasco is a returning player with something to prove.
He wasn't able to play in the nationals last year due to injury and wants to make up for lost time by having a great campaign this season.
“Last year for me wasn’t very good because I had an injury and I couldn’t really enjoy it. So my goal this is year is to play and be healthy, and if that happens then the rest will come,” said Blasco.
Kevin Lindo started training right at the beginning of August knowing his squad was entering a transitional phase.
“We have nine new players entering this season and the start is very positive. We’re going five times a week with a full program,” Lindo said.
An early season training session for the Mariners at NDSS:
Fifth year vet Maddie Dawson will be one of the team leaders and has set a goal for 2018 being her best season as a Mariner.
“We’re really merging really well especially considering we have so many new players,” Dawson said.
One of the newcomers is Justine McMahon.
She played high school soccer at Isfeld in Courtenay last season.
The PACWEST season opens for the Men and Women on the road Saturday September 8 at Capilano.
The matches go back to back starting with the Women at 1 p.m.
In the meantime exhibition matches are scheduled for the Men on August 18th against the Mid-Isle Mariners and August 25th versus Lakehill.
For the Women it’s preseason games with Nanaimo United, first on Thursday the 23rd and then once more on the 30th.
On twitter: @danmarshall77
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