Mid Isle Mariners player Stefan Cukovic participates in a drill Tuesday night at Merle Logan Field. Cukovic scored four goals this past weekend as the M’s won both their home games to ascend to first place in the Pacific Coast Soccer League. (GREG SAKAKI/The News Bulletin)

Mid Isle excelling in summer soccer

Mariners in first place in Pacific Coast Soccer League after weekend wins against Vancouver, Khalsa

For the Mid Isle FC Mariners, playing and winning at soccer is a year-round pastime.

The Nanaimo-Ladysmith team earned two more wins this past weekend to lift them to first place in the premier men’s division of the Pacific Coast Soccer League.

“We have a big roster [and] everybody’s been chipping in and helping out, so I think that’s been one of the most exciting things for the program. It’s nice to see,” said Bill Merriman, coach of Mid Isle FC.

On Saturday at Merle Logan Field, the Mariners defeated previously unbeaten Vancouver by a 4-1 score, and then on Sunday at Forrest Field, the M’s shut out Khalsa 2-0.

Striker Stefan Cukovic scored a hat trick in the first game and the winning goal the next day.

“I like the environment and set-up,” said Cukovic, who is new to the Mariners program. “We’re working very hard. The team chemistry and the environment is such a great thing to see.”

He said the team is moving the ball up the pitch the way the coaching staff is asking them to.

“We were linking up very well,” Cukovic said. “Coach wants us to keep the possession of the ball.”

The PCSL Mariners are a mix of guys who will play for the Vancouver Island University team as well as some older vets and young prospects. It helps raise everyone’s level, Merriman said, and it’s good timing with the fall college season approaching.

“For sure, there’s some players that are definitely starting to get their form and we have players coming in that get used to playing with other players and it’s a great opportunity for players to stay on top of their fitness a little bit,” the coach said.

The Mariners now sit at 5-1-1.

“Our big goal was to get to the playoffs and right now we’re looking in good shape – it’s never a for-sure thing – but being up at the top and being as high up as we are … If we can get everybody playing at our potential, I think we can do very well,” said Merriman.

GAME ON … The Mid Isle Mariners are on the road at Penticton this coming weekend. Next home action isn’t until July 16.

sports@nanaimobulletin.com

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