It’s been nearly a month since the Douglas College men’s soccer team last tasted defeat.
They’ve racked up four wins and a tie since then, including a pair of decisions over league-leading Vancouver Island.
But for Royals coach Robby Toor, the loss that resonates the most at this time of the season came a year ago, when the nationally ranked squad was unceremoniously upset in the 2018 PacWest semifinal by Langara.
That year-old 2-1 decision will be something Toor, his assistant coaches, and the returning veterans will draw on for Friday’s 2019 PacWest semifinal (noon at the Burnaby Lake West complex).
Having finished league play in second spot at 6-4-2, Douglas College has established a reputation as a finishing team. Against archrival Capilano University, they have a 1-2-1 record that shows how close the two teams are.
“They have some very crafty forwards,” noted Toor on the Blues. “They’re fast and skilled and you don’t want to give them too many opportunities.”
On Thursday, the PacWest unveiled the 2019 Conference all-star team. Milan Gandesha, a first-year player from Vancouver, and defender and captain Burhan Waisy were selected, while Capilano is represented by a trio: Andres Romo, Adrian Sahagun and Eric Swanson.
The closeness of the teams was proven early in the year when Capilano handed the Royals a pair of one-goal losses, both decided on last-minute tallies by Sahagun.
Their most recent encounter, two weeks ago, saw Douglas collect a late goal of its own, from Waisy, to earn a 2-2 draw.
The Royals closed out the regular season with a mean-nothing 2-0 victory over the Vancouver Island Mariners last Sunday. The Mariners had already clinched top spot in the league, as well as a spot in this weekend’s provincial final (Sunday, noon at Burnaby Lake West) -- and with that, an automatic berth into the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championship tournament.
Despite suffering four losses in a four team league, Toor sees his squad as being primed to achieve some lofty goals if they can keep the momentum going.
“We struggled a bit earlier in the year, kind of finding our rhythm and getting the chemistry going with our new players,” he said. “We dropped some points we shouldn’t have, but since I’ve been here it’s kind of been the tradition that Douglas shows up to play in October.
“The players have certainly gotten good results over the last three weeks.”
Led by Brazilian international student Felipe Domingos, a six-foot-five netminder who has a league-best four shutouts and .867 save percentage, the Royals have successfully balanced defence and offence to earn a spot among the national top-10 ranking board, sitting 10th overall.
Gandesha, a freshman, has a team-best five goals on the year, while Yanni Siafakas and Waisy are close behind with four each.
A third of the team are PacWest rookies who don’t remember Douglas’ march to the 2017 national final – where host Vancouver Island won 1-0 – or last year’s disappointing early playoff exit.
Toor said motivation won’t be a problem.
“This team is highly competitive and they train to win,” he said. “We coaches will re-iterate the gameplan and playing our style of game. I like the way we’ve been going.”
With the PacWest being granted two berths to the national championships this year, regular season champion Vancouver Island has already secured its ticket to the Nov. 6 to 9 tournament in Oshawa and Durham.
A win in Friday’s semifinal will net the league’s second berth to the nationals.