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Powell River Villa drops to third division

Disappointing season ends with soccer club losing must-win match
LOSING SEASON: Billy Bagiopoulos scored one of Powell River Villa’s two goals in a 3-2 loss to Nanaimo on Sunday, March 26. It was Villa’s last match of a losing season, which saw the soccer club finish at the bottom of its division. David Brindle photo

As miserable as the weather was, the mood of Powell River Villa soccer club players was even worse when the team’s Vancouver Island Soccer League (VISL) season came to end on Sunday, March 26.

With a 3-2 loss to Nanaimo United FC at Timberlane Park, Villa finished last in VISL Division 2 and, as a result, will be relegated to play in Division 3 for the 2017/2018 season.

Villa’s record this season indicates the team belongs in the lower division, according to club president Jamie Zroback.

“There wasn’t a fault by anybody else,” said Zroback. “It was our fault and we didn’t deserve to stay up.”

In Sunday’s rain-drenched and wind-swept game, after going down 2-0 on two quick first-half Nanaimo goals, Villa came back to tie with Nick Van’t Schip and Billy Bagiopoulos scoring.

“Finishing the first half tied 2-2 gave us a lot of confidence going into the second half,” said Villa head coach Mario Paul. “A defensive breakdown led to their third goal.”

Under Paul, who was named the new coach prior to the season, Villa finished with one win, 12 losses and three ties for six points. The club scored 13 goals, gave up 35 against for a goal differential of -22, and did not manage to win any of its home games.

Zroback said Villa will now regroup and rebuild with Powell River’s youth soccer players.

“We’ve become a team now that our sole focus is getting kids ready to go away to university so they can have soccer and an education,” he said. “That’s what our focus is for next year.”

Recruiting some younger players might be easier if they have a real opportunity to grow and be more comfortable in Division 3, as opposed to Division 2, where the calibre of play is higher, said Zroback.

However, when all is said and done, he said, being relegated still hurts.

“We’ve been relegated to Division 3 before; it’s still a strong division and really hard to get out of,” said Zroback. “That’s where it hurt yesterday, knowing the tough road we have ahead.”

Some of the Villa veterans, including Robbie Devlin, who had a 15-year career, played their last game on Sunday.

Zroback said a changing of the guard is imminent as players with a similar number of years of service with the team move on.

Villa defender Dean Thorsell said he had a sleepless night on Sunday, going over every moment of the game and thinking about what his team could have done.

He said he will suit up for Villa again next season and, as a rep-team soccer coach in Powell River, he knows there is young talent available for the team to draw on.

“There’s probably anywhere between three and seven players from my rep team who could come out and play with Villa next year,” said Thorsell. “I’m going to encourage all of them.”