The Royals paid a visit to Nanaimo this past weekend and exorcised some past demons in the process.
Vancouver Island University hosted last year's CCAA Men's Soccer Championships, a tournament that still burns bright in the memories of Douglas players. The Royals made it all the way to the final, before being beaten by none other than the hosts, the VIU Mariners.
Returning to the site of their recent defeat, the Royals made it known that they would be a force to be reckoned with once again in the 2018 season. Things got underway early with a strike from Nawaf Binsaleh in the 8th minute to give Douglas an early lead, and from there the game died off, with neither team able to generate any offence.
That all changed in the second half, when Ryan McCurdy blitzed through the middle of the Royals defence to tie the game at 1. Just two minutes later, Race Williams scored his first goal of the weekend to restore the lead, and would strike again 15 minutes after that to double the Douglas advantage.
Five minutes later, it was once again the Mariners' turn to respond, with a Max Mohen tap-in that cut the Royals' lead in half. Following Mohen's strike, it was a nervous final 15 minutes for Douglas, but a penalty awarded in stoppage time was converted by none other than Race Williams for the hat trick to seal the win.
On Sunday, the high-octane play continued from both sides, and eventually VIU's Joel Harry was able to break the deadlock in the 22nd minute. The lead lasted 10 minutes before Race Williams' fourth goal of the weekend equalized for Douglas. Again, the Mariners would take the lead, and again Race would equalize, this time just 3 minutes after the go-ahead goal from Taylor Arbour. With the score 2-2 and halftime fast approaching Cole Senchar's stoppage-time marker put the Mariners up by one heading into the break.
For a while, it looked like VIU would be able to hold the fort and see out the 3-2 win, and even hit two posts in the space of a minute, but were unable to increase their lead. And in the 73rd minute, a free kick was awarded to Douglas just outside the eighteen-yard box. It was Edris Najm who stepped up, and sweetly struck the ball to equalize once again for the Royals with a quarter of an hour to play. This time, the Mariners were unable to find an answer, and the match ended in a well-deserved 3-3 draw.
The Royals play a home-and-home with Capilano next weekend, with the opportunity to tighten their grip on first place if results go their way. Douglas hosts the Saturday game at 3:30 PM, and will visit North Van for Sunday's match at 2:30 PM.