Highlanders headed to playoffs

Victoria Highlanders will play the Fresno Fuego on Saturday

Highlanders' goal scorer Michael Marousek is surrounded by teammates during Victoria's 3-1 win over Abbotsford at RAP on Sunday.

Highlanders' goal scorer Michael Marousek is surrounded by teammates during Victoria's 3-1 win over Abbotsford at RAP on Sunday.

 

A hugely successful homestand has the Victoria Highlanders FC men’s team headed to the United Soccer League’s Professional Development League playoffs.

The Highlanders beat the Northwest division’s first-place team, the Kitsap Pumas (12-1-3), 1-0 on Saturday and then knocked off the Abbotsford Mariners (6-7-3) 3-1 on Sunday afternoon.

With the win the Highlanders (9-4-3) take second place in the Northwest behind Kitsap and a spot in the Western conference semifinal against the Southwest’s undefeated Fresno Fuego on Saturday.

Hiding in the hallway to the dressing room to avoid getting the water-cooler-celebration during the team’s award ceremonies after Sunday’s games, coach Ian Bridge spoke of the team’s late surge.

“Saturday (against Kitsap) was a complete effort, the essential win that we needed with everyone putting in a really good shift, we had a good formation,” he said.

“Sunday was a lethargic performance against Abbotsford.”

Both Highlanders’ wins were played at Royal Athletic Park. Since moving there for the final four home games of the season the team has yet to lose. That doesn’t include a 5-0 smashing by English visitors Port Vale on Thursday.

Ash Burbeary scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Kitsap, with 1,530 fans in attendance. The Englishman’s been quite a revelation since reaching the maximum amount of five yellow cards. For the six games of the season Burbeary played under the threat of suspension, a sixth and he’d have been suspended.

“I wish he’d played to that level and focus earlier in the season,” Bridge said.

On Sunday afternoon it was Czech import Michael Marousek scoring twice and Jordie Hughes once.

sports@vicnews.com