Last year's loss in final strong fuel for 2018 Royals

They opened the season with a firm 3-0 victory over Langara College, but the Douglas College Royals are playing the long game.

While the Royals’ women’s team already has a place in their national final booked as the host team, the men are hungry to step up to a championship themselves after losing last year’s Canadian final to PacWest rival the Vancouver Island University Mariners,

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In fact, said coach Robby Toor, the appetite for success of the team’s returning veterans and incoming freshmen is palpable.

“Last season’s run is a huge motivator for the seniors and rookies,” Toor said. “The group is really focused this season.”

The Royals won their first PacWest title – a provincial championship in other words – since 2014 with a 3-0 victory over the Quest Kermodes, who had defeated the Mariners to reach the conference final. But Douglas fell 1-0 to VIU in the national gold medal match. The Mariners had received an automatic berth as the tournament’s host.

Toor said a slow start last year, during which his charges won only once in their first six games, won’t be repeated.

“We are looking to start the season on a better note,” he said. “It’s just about putting it all together on the field as we did last year in the second half of the season.”

Several key veterans, like Race Williams, Tomi Fabgongbe, Edris Najm and team captain Nawaf Binsaleh, will bring to the pitch their memory of that slow start and the work it took to reverse it.

Najm, the lone four-year veteran on the roster, is part of a large Burnaby contingent that expects to carry the New West program to higher heights.

Rozmehr Aghabaygy is a second-year defender who, like Najm, hails from Byrne Creek, while Steffan Masaites and Fabgongbe came to Douglas via Burnaby Mountain. Forward Daniel Sagno graduated from Burnaby Central via the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program and spent the past two years at San Diego State before transferring back to the Lower Mainland.

With that strong returning core to build around, Toor is enthusiastic about his team’s chances. He’s also excited about the crop of new recruits who bolster the lineup.

Coquitlam’s Quinn Deslauniers, a member of last year’s B.C. AAA champion Dr. Charles Best Blue Devils, and Centennial grad Burhan Waisy, fill out a pretty deep freshmen class.

“He is a very talented player who plays with the composure of an experienced college player,” Toor said of Waisy, who scored one of the Royals’ goals in their season-opening 3-0 win over the Langara Falcons last Saturday. Taylor Richardson and Williams rounded out the offence, while Jared Horvath picked up the shutout.

A day later, Deslauniers cracked a second-half tally to earn Douglas a 1-1 tie with Capilano University. This weekend, they head to Nanaimo to take on the Vancouver Island Mariners.

While they know their end target, Toor understands it won’t be easy. But if all the pieces come together, the familiarity of the path should pay dividends.

“We know we have the group to get back to nationals,” he said.

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