Isaac Koch, the fifth-year lightning bolt who will go down as one of the great University of Victoria soccer players, has the Vikes atop the B.C. Division of Canada West at 5-2-3.
With the other six teams evenly splitting their games, the Vikes are the only team in the division above .500 and cracked the U Sports national top-10 poll two weeks ago at No. 9. A lot of the credit goes to Koch, the attacking midfielder who was 2019 Canada West MVP before last year’s cancelled pandemic season.
There was plenty of time during the dark 2020 season to assess things.
“It was tough when things were shut down but that made me even more motivated for when things started up again,” said Koch.
He came back determined to close out his fifth season with something memorable. So far so good as Koch has four goals to be tied for the team lead with Ian Whibley, a fourth-year Vikes player out of Ballenas Secondary in Parksville.
But in his self-effacing manner, Koch puts the credit more on the Vikes’ team defence than his darting offensive thrusts that have disrupted so many opposition defences over five seasons.
“Our defence is solid with the best goals-against in the division and that’s really been the key to what we have done this year,’ said Koch, a native of Kelowna.
“Our defenders and defensive midfielders are on the ball all the time. It all starts in the back for us.”
As one might expect from three-decade-plus UVic head coach Bruce Wilson, former Canada captain and one of this country’s greatest-ever defenders.
Koch’s play has caught the eye of pro teams and he was invited to Pacific FC training camp in the Canadian Premier League. With his remaining university eligibility, it made the decision to defer pro easier, while gaining more experience in Canada West at the university level. The pro game remains a possibility. Leading the U Sports charge into the CPL has been the HFX Wanderers duo of Cory Bent and Peter Schaale, both graduates of Cape Breton University, who have shone with the Halifax-based pro club. That hasn’t gone unnoticed by U Sports players.
“I’m open to the CPL … I’m open to all of it in the sport,” said Koch.
But first comes the matter of chasing the B.C. Division and Canada West crowns, which continues tonight at 7:15 p.m. and Saturday at 5:45 p.m. at Centennial Stadium against the arch-rival, second-place and only once-beaten UBC Thunderbirds (3-1-6).
They are the final regular-season games before the Canada West playoffs, involving the top teams from all four western provinces, beginning Oct. 29-31 with the quarter-finals, and the Final Four Nov. 5-7 hosted by the highest-remaining seed.
The winner advances to the U Sports national championship tournament Nov. 18-21 at Carleton University in Ottawa.
Meanwhile, the UVic Vikes women’s soccer team was in the U Sports national top 10 before tumbling out and falling to 4-4-2. The Vikes will be battling for a playoff spot today at 5 p.m. and Saturday at 3:30 p.m. at Centennial Stadium when they take on B.C. Division second-place UBC (8-1-1).