Highlanders announce defenders for Men's roster
The Victoria Highlanders are pleased to announce our defenders for the upcoming League 1 BC season. Fergus Hall, Kayden Milner, Mitchell Linley, Wataru Oguchi, Rees Goertzen, Dylan Atwal, Loic Benquet, Aiden Taylor, Ethan Monaghan, and Gregor Smith will be our defenders, joined by Cody Gysbers and Armaan Nijjar. We believe that each of these players bring with them a wealth of experience and a desire to fight for every ball to defend the Highlanders' goal.
“There is definitely no lack of depth in our squad at the back. All do the players have shown their ability to play at this level and it will serve us well through this compact season. “ commented Steve Simonson.
Fergus had a stint at Vic West before arriving at Saint Francis Xavier University, where he played several games at the USports level. Fergus arrives at the Highlanders with goals of competing in the inaugural L1BC season and to build the play from the back.
"I'm looking forward to playing and competing with high-level players across the province and representing the island and this club in a brand new league," commented Fergus. "My objectives for this season are to continue my development, represent the Island with pride, and put my team in the best possible position to win a trophy."
Kayden is a familiar face for the Highlanders, last playing for the black and gold in the PCSL and developing under Thomas Niendorf. He most recently played for Vic West FC, and spent a season in Germany back in 2017.
"I’m looking forward to competing amongst some of BC’s best young players, and representing the island and Victoria this upcoming season", stated Kayden, "I hope to keep improving and learning as a footballer and I think this is a great spot to that".
The 6’3 defender from Fort St.John BC has been with the UNBC Timberwolves since 2017. Despite his young age, Mitch won an Academic All-Canadian award in 2017-2018 and the Green & Gold award from UNBC in 2019. Mitch will be an excellent option for Simonson for the L1BC season.
Wataru is one of a few of our Japanese imports. He came from Sangyo Nouritsu University Urawa Gakuin to Canada, where he played a season with the Red Deer College Kings in the CCAA. Wataru comes to the Highlanders with a solid footballing foundation as well as some Canadian experience.
"It's a new league in BC and will be the center of attention and a higher level. I'm so glad to be a part of the team and excited to play against excellent opponents in a high-level environment. commented Wataru. "First of all, I'd like to contribute to the team so I'll do anything I can. My biggest dream is to become a professional player in Canada so I want many people to see my play."
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Rees has spent 4 seasons with the UVic Vikes where he has established himself as a rock-solid defender. Rees was most recently selected by Pacific FC in the 2022 CPL-U-SPORTS draft, spending preseason with the CPL Champions. Goertzen guided the Vikes to their first appearance in the Canada West Championship title game since 2015, earning a U SPORTS championship berth in 2021.
"I'm excited to be a part of the Highlanders for the inaugural League 1 BC season. It's a great opportunity to be playing with this team this summer", commented Rees. "I want to contribute to the success of the team as much as I possibly can. At the end of the day, our objective is to win the league."
Another island talent, Dylan had previously played for the U23 Pacific FC Tridents. Atwal most recently played for the University of Alberta Golden Bears in his first season, where he is joined by fellow teammate Armaan Nijjar.
Loic Benquet is another of the defenders for the L1BC season. Hailing from Cestas, France, Benquet played for the UNBC Timberwolves as well, where he played the 2021-2022 season under the direction of Steve Simonson.
"I am most looking forward to meeting new teammates and playing at a new level. The group looks fun and has good quality. I am very excited to play with this team", stated Loic. "My personal objectives are to play as much as I can and use my experience playing in France to help the team as much as possible".
Aiden is another staple of the UVic Vikes’ back line. Born in Kenora, Ontario, Aiden has played three seasons for the UVIC Vikes. Aiden will be another strong option that the Simonson will have for the team.
"I'm most looking forward to competing at a high level. L1BC is shaping up to be an all-star league of university/amateur talent and I'm very excited to be a part of this experience with Highlanders FC," commented Taylor. "I'm from a small town in northwestern Ontario where soccer is not as popular as it is here in BC. One personal objective would be to help promote soccer in Canada, and hopefully inspire kids in small communities to play soccer at the highest level similar to the hockey system here in Canada. There's that, and also winning a championship is our primary objective."
Ethan is a product of the residency program and has been the captain of the residency team as well. A native of Calgary, he has spent over 6 years under Thomas Niendorf in Victoria, and has spent time in Germany with Augsburg and Traunstein.
"What I’m most looking forward to this season is working with a new coach and exciting system that gives players the freedom to play really exciting football”, commented Ethan. "My objectives for the season are to play well for myself but also to work for the team first. Also to finish in the top 3 in the inaugural season."
Smith is a defender who is originally from Kelowna, BC. He currently plays for the UNBC Timberwolves, where he has played three seasons and is another player who is very familiar with head coach Steve Simonson.
"I’m looking forward to a few things, I’m excited to play with a mix of new guys and teammates from UNBC, everybody is very skilled and really pushes the level each session. I’m also looking forward to just keep playing soccer over the summer and win games". commented Gregor "On a personal note, my goal for this year is to continue my development under Steve and help the team win games".