A Royal super sniper

Sahil Sandhu, Pacwest MVP and top scorer, will lead the Douglas College Royals into the Canadian Colleges Athletic Championship in Coquitlam next week. - Jerald Walliser/Douglas College
Sahil Sandhu, Pacwest MVP and top scorer, will lead the Douglas College Royals into the Canadian Colleges Athletic Championship in Coquitlam next week.
— image credit: Jerald Walliser/Douglas College

Soccer squads are always scouring suburban pitches for a fast strike weapon that can put away opponents at opportune times. Goal scorers like Sahil Sandhu of the Douglas College Royals men’s team are rare commodities that can be game changers. They can even be the difference in capturing championships.

Sahil’s ability to fire accurate shots powered the Royals, who are based in New Westminster, to a first-place finish in the Pacwest conference, and then to the provincial championship this past weekend. They’ll be hoping the Burnaby Central graduate will continue to be on target as they aim for a national title at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association championship in Coquitlam next week.

Sandhu sniped 15 goals in 12 games during the regular season to easily win the league scoring title and also be named Pacwest most valuable player.

His best snipe may have been the most important goal he got all season. It came on the second last week against their rivals, the Vancouver Island University Mariners. It gave the Royals a 2-0 lead in the game, which basically secured victory not only in that match but in the standings as well. It also received a high score for artistic impression.

“He was about 20 yards out and just looked up and curled it right into the top corner just out of nowhere. It just left the whole team going, ‘Wow.’ “ said Royals captain Dylan Myers, a New Westminster native.

Sandhu’s pretty proud of it, too, especially since he took the shot with his left foot which is not his natural side.

“I felt pretty good when I hit it,” admitted Sandhu. “I felt like it was one of my top goals.”

Funny thing is, when he began the game his job was to keep balls out of the net, not in.

“When I started playing I was on defence, playing centre back and was still leading the league in scoring goals,” said Sandhu, who is in his second season with the Royals and hopes to be able to eventually play for either SFU or UBC. “It just comes natural to me. I know where to go. I’m always moving, I can’t stay still.”

Myers is extremely appreciative of Sandhu’s skills and what he does for the Royals.

“Sahil’s huge. Especially me being in defence, we know we’re going to score and we just have to concentrate on our job. We don’t have to worry about the goals being there because we know they’re going to be there with Sal,” said Myers. “The thing with Sal is in practice I know I’m going up against the best striker in the country, and if I can handle him I can handle anyone.”

Myers said Sandhu, who was part of the Vancouver Whitecaps residency program at Burnaby Central, has a strong work ethic, unselfish, fast and creative.

“The one time you think you know what’s coming he switches it up on you and goes a completely different route,” said Myers, who added Sandhu is frequently looking to set up his teammates.

The Royals headed to the season with a berth in the nationals in the back pockets of their kits.

“The beginning of the year it was a thing of jelling as a team, and taking it one game at a time as best you could, which is difficult knowing that whatever happens we were going to nationals,” said Myers. “But we wanted to send a message that we earned it and we did it on merit, and that we are a great team.

“Definitely teams want to beat us because for the last four years we’ve won the league.”

Since their first-place finish last season was wiped out for using an ineligible player, some redemption was gained by winning the provincials. That wasn’t the big redemption, though. That was reserved for what Myers described as a “big-time choke” in 2010.

“With that we felt we had the best team going in but we just didn’t get a chance to prove ourselves. To be honest for most of the guys on this team going into this final it was a redemption of losing the semifinal two years ago when we choked against [University of Northern British Columbia],” said Myers. “That was redemption.”

Reaching their first two goals has been accomplished. Now it’s time to set their sights on the third and final one.

“We knew there’d be ups and downs, but for the most part we felt we played some good soccer, but we also feel we haven’t played our best. Hopefully we’re going to peak at the right time,” said Myers.

The Royals had 10 wins, three draws and one loss, which came in the final game of the season when first place was already clinched.

“Our chemistry is pretty much where we need to be,” said Sandhu. “I feel that after winning provincials the team jelled, we’re confident of where we’re at. I think we’ve got a strong chance.”

The Royals are seeded third at the nationals which are being held at Town Centre Park’ s Cunnings Field. Their first game will be against the defending champion Northern Alberta Institute of Technology Ooks on Wednesday, Nov. 7, 3 p.m., who lost the Alberta championship to Southern Alberta Institute of Technology Trojans, the tournament’s top seed.

If Douglas wins they could be facing the Mariners in the semifinals. VIU battles second seeded Holland Hurricane of the Atlantic conference (5:30 p.m.). SAIT will play the Seneca College Sting (Ontario) at 10 a.m., while Ontario’s Humber College Hawks battle Collége François-Xavier Garneau of Quebec at 12:30 p.m.

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