If there was anything Bruce Wilson took away from his lengthy pro soccer playing career and captaining Canada, it was that you never take any team lightly.
So the University of Victoria Vikes head coach is wary, despite being 6-0 all-time against the University of Northern B.C. with a 21-5 aggregate goals advantage, since the Timberwolves entered Canada West in 2012.
“There are no easy games in this conference,” said Wilson.
“If you don’t show up to play, you are going to lose. We beat UNBC twice last season in Prince George but both were competitive games.”
The Vikes and Timberwolves renew acquaintances with conference games tonight and Saturday, both at 7:15 p.m., at Centennial Stadium.
Although UNBC, UBC-Okanagan and Thompson Rivers are relatively new to top-end Canadian university soccer in Canada West, they have come along fairly well.
“The example is that UBC-Okanagan [coached by former Victoria United mentor Dante Zanatta] made the playoffs last season,” added Wilson, who guided the Vikes to the Canada West semifinals last year.
“There are enough good players around this province to make every university team in B.C. very competitive.”
UVic tied nationally sixth-ranked UBC 1-1 in the conference opener last week at Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver. Tonight will be the first game for UNBC, which finished 3-9 last season, but is looking for more this year under new head coach and former Victoria Highlanders bench boss Steve Simonson.
Wilson counters with a veteran group and said there is no secret to what his Vikes need to do.
“We have a senior team, full of third-year and higher players, and so our best players have to be our best players,” he said.
From the back out, those Vikes veterans include goalkeeper Noah Pawlowski, defender Rhyse Harnden, midfielders Sam Prette, Tarnvir Bhandal, Adam Ravenhill, Paulo Dait, Dominic Colantonio, and forwards Craig Gorman, Cam Hundal, Michael Baart and Parm Johal.
“We have the depth and I have no problem pulling players off the bench,” said Wilson.
“Everyone has to work hard in training because being in the starting lineup is not a sure thing for anybody.”
It should be a raucous atmosphere tonight as the Vikes opener traditionally draws a large crowd to Centennial Stadium due to a concentrated opening school week effort on campus to bring out students as part of Thunderfest festivities.