What could have been looms large over the Vancouver Island University Mariners women's soccer team from last year.
There were few games where they were outchanced, but few games where they actually outscored their competition. The bulk of their goal scoring, last year, landed on the shoulders of freshman Rachel Jones out of Lantzville.
In the off-season head coach Anup Kang did a lot to add to that depth with recruits and transfers, but the five-foot-four mid-fielder will once again be at the centre of their offence.
In Wednesday's 3-1 exhibition win over the TSS Academy from Vancouver at Merle Logan Field in Nanaimo, Jones led the way with two goals while newcomer Kaylee Dodds got the other.
Jones' goal is clear for this season, she doesn't want any regrets, especially as Pacific Western Athletic Association championship hosts.
"Since we're hosting provincials, it's our goal to make it provincials and hopefully nationals," she said.
"We are definitely capable of it, we just need to put it all together. The last couple of games it's been coming and we've been starting to mesh."
Jones, 19, scored three goals in 14 games in her freshman campaign as a Mariner, earning the program's golden boot as top scorer and placing her in a tie for 10th in the league. The M's scored just 11 goals total on the year.
But she also was well aware that she needed to get better in the off-season. She spent her summer working out and helping the Mid Isle Highlanders U-21 Pacific Coast Soccer League reserve team to a second-place finish.
Kang, has made no bones about what he expects from his young star.
Early in the summer, he had a sit down with Jones about the upcoming season, basically it amounts to demanding even more of the Ballenas Whalers product.
"The sky's the limit for her," said Kang. "It's how far she wants to take it. She's really taken that on and really worked hard in the off-season. You can see she's a lot stronger and our league's very physical so I think Rachel will adapt to that a little better this year.
"We expect a lot of goals out of Rachel this year, and I think in her third, fourth, fifth year, you'll see her really take off in that department."
But he has not left her out on a raft alone this year. He has brought in a few players to help her out, most notably Dodds, and is expecting others to step up their production as well in support.
The Mariners have been building through their training camp, getting better with each game, but really came together over a three-game road trip to the U.S., finishing with a 1-1-1 record.
But getting the offence going has been their main focus through camp.
"We've done some video analysis and we've shown players deficiencies in the defence and deficiencies we want to take advantage of," said Kang. "You saw some of that today where we had some really good scoring chances from that."
Wednesday's 3-1 win was their best performance of the preseason so far with one game left at the University of Victoria Vikings on Saturday at 2 p.m. VIU opens their PacWest season on Sept. 7 at UBC-Okanagan.
Mariners men shut out Mid Isle Highlanders The VIU Mariners men's soccer team beat the Mid Isle Highlanders U-21 reserves 1-0 in Ladysmith on Tuesday.
David Durrant scored the game's lone goal while Scott Brown picked up the shutout in net.
It was the last scheduled exhibition game for the Mariners, though head coach Bill Merriman is trying to get one more for the weekend. However, he has liked how his team has looked coming through training camp.
"I like the way the guys are starting to come together the last week on the field and off the field," he said. "That's a huge, important part of it all is getting that camaraderie when you have so many new players."
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