Farhad Abdulgani delivered on his hype on Sunday.
The Vancouver Island University Mariners top recruit this summer scored three goals to beat the Douglas College Royals 4-0 to qualify for the Pacific Western Athletic Association men's soccer championships on the final day of the season.
The Mariners host the provincial tournament this weekend at Merle Logan Field.
The win ensured a tie for fourth place with the UBC-Okanagan Heat, but with the M's holding the head-to-head tie-breaker, they grabbed the final playoff spot.
They certainly did not make it easy on themselves.
VIU lost what was considered the easier of their final two games, losing 1-0 to the Kwantlen Eagles on Saturday. They were saved by the Heat losing 2-0 to the Langara Falcons.
This set up a must-win scenario on Sunday, as the Heat were playing the last-place Quest Kermodes, who they beat 5-2. "We knew going into the Douglas game, that all of our energy needed to be focused on that one game," said Mariners head coach Bill Merriman. "It was probably the best soccer I've seen our team play."
Abdulgani's ability was on full display on Sunday. He opened the scoring on a free kick from 20 yards out, curving the ball over the wall and past the helpless Douglas keeper.
With the score 2-0 in the first half, the Norwegian-Iraqi import buried the host Royals on a beautiful solo effort, chipping the ball up over two defenders then firing a shot home on the volley to put VIU up 3-0. The mid-fielder's third goal was another terrific strike on a second half free kick, again going up and over the wall and finding the top corner.
"He came out with a lot of help and I think it took some pressure off of him because of the way our team was playing, and he was able to do what he does," said Merriman.
Renan Rebelatto had the Mariners other goal, while Scott Brown picked up the shut out in net.
Considering the provincial hosts do not receive a bye into the tournament, the last thing the M's wanted to do was have their string of five-straight appearances end this year.
It is pressure they have dealt with all year, and at times has cost the young team.
They did a lot of learning on the fly the last couple of weeks.
"For a lot of them, it will be their first time at provincials, but at least we had that one game against Douglas to let them know what it is like," said Merriman. "After the loss on Saturday, playoffs had basically started for us, it was single knock out."
The Mariners will play the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack to open the tournament on Saturday at 2:30 p.m. Douglas and Langara will play in the other semifinal at 2:30 p.m. The men's and women's bronze medal games go a 10 a.m. on Sunday with the women's gold medal game at 12:30 p.m. and the men's final at 3 p.m. The Mariners are feeling confident about their chances. "We know that we are in against some very tough competition, but our goal is to win it, now that we've got ourselves there," said Merriman. "We jumped some very big obstacles just to get there, so hopefully the players can be rewarded."
Nanaimo Judo club hauls in the medals
The Nanaimo Judo club cleaned up at the B.C. Judo Championships in Abbotsford on the weekend, earning 11 medals.
Jarrett Theberge led the way with two sliver medals in the -73 kilogram category at the U-18 and U-21 levels.
Cheyenne Fiandor won golf in the U-16 -52 kilogram division, as did Vanessa Kruger in U-16 -44 kilograms.
Nathan Eby and Jesse Marshal earned silver in kata no gata, as did Quin Golobar in U-14, Boden Grizwold in U-12, Jordan Isnor in U-16 -52 kilograms, Colton Davie at U-16 -73 kilogram and Braxton Clark at U-21 -81 kilograms. Zach Gillespie rounded out the weekend with a U-14 bronze medal.
U-16 girls Storm beat rival Fusion in Qualicum
The Upper Island Storm beat their long-time rival Lower Island Fusion 2-1 in U-16 girls Vancouver Island Premier League action in Qualicum on Saturday.
The Fusion's Natalie Koehn opened the scoring at the 15-minute mark, but Karen Battie tied it up for the Storm before the end of the first half. Grace Gates scored the winner, finishing off a passing play with Sophie Weaver and Larissa Stefanek.
Grace Yocoboski picked up the win in net for the Storm and Weaver was named player of the game.
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