Reborn Vic West program highlights start of VISL season

Vic West, the longest continually operating soccer club in Canada and with a trophy-littered ­history, celebrated its 125th anniversary by opening the 2021-22 Vancouver Island Soccer League Div. 1 season on Friday night.

Vic West was inducted into the Victoria Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and Canada Soccer Hall of Fame in 2012. But the venerable club has seen some down times, far from the glory of its 22 Jackson Cup VISL championships and four Canadian amateur championships between 1976 and 1984 with the likes of Steve Forslund and John McGuire.

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An effort is now being made to reawaken the echoes of the past. Vic West’s last VISL regular-season and Jackson Cup titles both came in 1989 when the ­Berlin Wall came down, Dead Poets Society was ­playing on movie screens and Wind Beneath My Wings on the radio.

“A lot of effort by some really good people has gone into creating this new top-level team,” said former Vic West star and Canada U-20 Frank Woods, who also played for the ­Victoria ­Vistas of the original pro ­Canadian Soccer League.

Jeff Howe will coach the ­rejuvenated Vic West side. The team has added former ­Canadian Premier League Pacific FC pro Ryan McCurdy, who won a Canadian amateur championship with CCB of Surrey, as its ­cornerstone player.

Another major addition is Scottish-born midfielder Marcus Campanile, the second overall selection in the 2019 CPL draft by Valour FC out of Cape Breton University, who had experience with Aberdeen U-20.

“In the throes of pandemic, a lot of people stepped forward and a new team came together, and this is a year of renewal for us,” said Vic West club president David Lawes.

“Hopefully, there is a nice trophy for us at the end of the season.”

The trophy case in the revamped Vic West clubhouse is burgeoning but it hasn’t had a new addition to it in many years. That may soon change.

The VISL season opened with Vic West beating Gorge FC 1-0 Friday evening at ­Finlayson Field and Bays United and ­Nanaimo United playing a late-finishing game at Oak Bay High School.

The rest of the VISL Div. 1 teams jump into the fray today with the Victoria Highlanders playing Cowichan at 5:30 p.m. at Sherman Road in Duncan, ­Lakehill FC meeting ­Cowichan Valley United at 6 p.m. on the G.P. Vanier turf field and ­Westcastle United visiting ­Powell River. Juan de Fuca has the opening-week bye.

“Vic West is celebrating its 125th anniversary, and has made a concerted effort to showcase a top team. Some are calling Vic West the early favourites to top the division,” said VISL executive director Vince Greco.

“The Wests look to have a strong squad with some Pacific FC influence. Potentially, they could make an impact provincially. There is no doubt they are going for a big bang.”

The Highlanders will be another team to watch, said Greco, “and will give plenty of teams trouble because of their youth, speed, and skills because they play every day in an academy setting.”

Lakehill has been a factor in recent seasons and will also be in the mix with a veteran roster that includes former pro Blair Sturrock and former University of Victoria Vikes players Wes Barrett and Tarnvir Bhandal.

“Part of me says Vic West could run away with things. But the top four could be a battle,” said Greco.

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