No one would have blamed Mateo Kostering for skipping the Pacific Western Athletic Association men's soccer bronze medal game on Sunday at Merle Logan Field.
The Vancouver Island University Mariner's grandfather Doug Warren, 78, died earlier Sunday morning, and really all that was left to be earned was pride.
But there was no question in Kostering's mind that he was going to play.
Not only did he play, but he scored twice to lift VIU past the Langara Falcons 3-1 to finish third at the provincial championship.
"It was probably the best decision I could have made," said Kostering. "It felt good just to keep busy. It was good to play with the guys, everyone battled yesterday and today was fun."
His first goal came in the first half off of a header. His second goal was on a penalty kick, that his teammates decided he should take. It was a moment that meant a lot to the second year midfielder.
"The boys all talked about it in the dressing room before we took the field that if there was a penalty kick that they'd have me take it," said Kostering, who was named the tournament's top mid-fielder.
It was that dedication among this young group that has captain Dan Cato - the only
graduating Mariner - confident that a return to nationals in the next couple of years is a strong likelihood.
After losing 2-1 to the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack in Saturday's semifinal, it would have been easy for VIU to just go through the motions. Had they won the semifinal, they would have earned at least a wildcard berth to the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championships. Instead, they were left with Sunday's bronze medal
game as their season finale.
"It shows what VIU is all about," said Cato. "You play your hardest, no matter what, all of the time. You're not just playing for yourself, you're playing for everyone who has put on the jersey. Even though it wasn't the final goal of what we were playing for, regardless of the stakes, you have to show up and play your hardest. We did that today and it's something to be proud of."
The bronze medal marked the end of an illustrious career for the captain.
The PacWest all-star defender is unsure of his soccer future, outside of resting a battered body and likely spending time with his senior team in Cowichan.
"It's been a great career, I've got nine medals in five years, I haven't gone a season without getting one," he said. "I'm really proud of this year's team, there were massive improvements, every game we got better and better, and the team at the end of the year was much better than at the beginning of the year. The legacy is in good hands for the future."
Potential returning players include Kostering, PacWest first team all-star Farhad Abdulgani, PacWest second team all-star Keegan Lang, the versatile Nick Moore, Renan Rebelatto, goalie Scott Brown, Blaze Roberts and Drissa Bouare among many others.
"It's a building process, and I think the players showed this weekend what they are capable of," said head coach Bill Merriman. "I'm glad they got to do it here in Nanaimo so that people can see that this is a new group, but it's a group that can contend into the future."
He was relieved to see his team get rewarded for a solid effort after out playing TRU on Saturday, but coming up short on the scoreboard.
"It was big for us, it was one of the things we talked about, to make sure we finished the year off with a win," said Merriman. "There was still a medal to be won."
PROVINCIAL NOTES - TRU beat the Douglas College Royals 4-3 on penalty kicks after the score was tied 1-1 after overtime in the men's gold medal game, both teams advance to the CCAA championships at the University of New Brunswick St. John from Nov. 6-9. .. TRU beat the Quest Kermodes 1-0 to win women's gold, while the UBC-Okanagan Heat topped Langara 3-2 in the bronze medal game. Kwantlen University hosts the women's national championship in Surrey, from Nov. 6-9. .. Rebelatto scored the Mariners' lone goal in their Saturday semifinal loss.
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