High-calibre Ladysmith team slated for spring

A new high-calibre soccer team is coming to Ladysmith.

The Mid Isle Highlanders FC, slated for the spring, is an expansion team in the Pacific Coast Soccer League’s premier men’s division.

“There was a push this year and the timing was right,” said Bill Merriman, the club’s technical director. “Our goal was to get a top level team into Ladysmith.”

He added there was a number of committed players in the area who travel to Victoria to play.

“We talked about having it in Nanaimo and Ladysmith for a couple of years now,” he said of the team.

The Mid Isle Highlanders FC will help develop players for the Premier Development League teams.

“We’re partnering with the Highlanders in the academy program.”

Vancouver Island University player, Robbie Cochrane of Ladysmith, said he is excited to play on the team. “I was definitely interested,” he said. “It’s a higher level of play than what I was playing.”

Cochrane, and fellow Ladysmith boy, Chris Arnett, helped the VIU Mariners all the way to a win at nationals this year.

Cochrane said he’s curious about the competition. “There’s a high level of play against the team members and we push each other to maximum,” he said. “It will be interesting to see the teams we’ll be playing.”

Merriman, who’s son James will be the head coach, said with the new team, all three levels of soccer will be covered in the area.

There is a U23 semi-pro league, the U20 team and now the Ladysmith’s team.

There is also an exhibition-only U21 team based in Ladysmith.

“It’s a really good thing  that youth is a part of it,” he said.

Merriman said they are looking at a core group of veteran players to fill out the ranks.

“Right now there are at least 10 top players coming out of this area,” he said. “We’re looking to pick up four or five veteran players and fill the rest with younger players.”

Merriman said there is no doubt that Ladysmith’s new turf field on Fourth Avenue swayed the decision making process of creating the team.

“The location with Ladysmith and the state-of-the-art field, absolutely,” he said.

Cochrane agreed.

“It’s the best field I’ve ever played on,” he said. “It’s a good atmosphere, more energy out there.”

Merriman said the team is still looking for more sponsorship as well.

“I think we will all benefit from this opportunity,” he said. “It’s going to be good.”