Powell River Villa began the 2021/2022 Vancouver Island Soccer League season on a high note with a 1-0 win over Victoria’s Westcastle United at Timberlane Park on September 11.
“The team played really well on Saturday, and we’re all very pleased with the result,” said Chris McDonough, manager of Villa. “Starting the season with a win is great for the team spirit.”
Villa’s goal came at 28 minutes in the first half, when Richard “Chico” Murphy made a header into the net past the Westcastle keeper off a kick by James Timothy. Matthew Liknes had the shutout in net for Villa.
“Westcastle is a young team, just like we are,” said Tony Leach, Villa’s coach. “The play was pretty even for the first half, and in the second half they turned up the pressure and we defended a lot more to keep that one-goal lead. We did have another great chance in the second half, when Jay-Ti Newmark had a breakaway, but the defensive strategy worked to win the game.”
With just three preseason games to prepare for the opener and only four games last season, Villa players are still finding their rhythm and confidence in their teammates.
“We had moments of really good play, and moments of being tired and still trying for the same play,” said Liknes. “Once we get more used to playing together and gelling as a team, we’ll be more efficient on the field: a bit less tired and a bit more precise in how we make the plays.”
McDonough had high praise for Liknes for the opening game.
“Matt’s been playing well in the preseason, and he made a lot of key saves throughout the game that gave us the opportunity to win,” he said. “Richard Murphy was great on defence in addition to getting our goal; he cleared a lot of balls and kept Westcastle moving.
“Niko Cristante battled hard in the midfield all day, winning tackles on a wet field due to the rain. And one of our new players, Kaizan Hajdrych from Denman Island, really stood out at left back. He contained his man the whole game; I don’t think he got beat once.”
Leach considers this year a growth year for Villa.
“Our goal for the season is to stay in [Vancouver Island Soccer League] Division 1, and to do that we need to win our home games, and we need to win against the teams who aren’t going to be at the top of the league,” he said. “Those are the points we need to take, and Saturday’s win was a huge start.”
Villa is at home again this weekend for more VISL action against Bays United FC. The game begins at 1:30 pm on Saturday, September 18, at Timberlane Park. Tickets and season’s passes are available at the gate.
Villa then heads on the road to play Vic West on Saturday, September 25, at Finlayson Turf in Victoria.