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November 1, 2011

Smolens hopes history repeats itself vs. Drew in Landmark soccer semis

KINGS POINT, N.Y. – U.S. Merchant Marine head soccer coach Mike Smolens is undaunted by his third-seeded team's challenge against No. 2 Drew University in this year's Landmark Conference men's semifinals: Defeat the Rangers away after losing to them at home during the regular season.

After all, he and the Mariners have been through that before – as recently as last year. That's when Kings Point dropped a 2-0 regular-season decision on the road to Drew, but prevailed in the conference semifinals away, 2-1, only two weeks later.

The Mariners will play Drew at Alumni Stadium at Kean University on Union, N.J. at 12:30 p.m. The game site was change because Drew University will be closed on Wednesday due to power issues related to the snow storm on Saturday afternoon.

"We've been in that situation a number of times," Smolens said. "It's a matter of making the big play when you need to."

At a rain-drenched and windy Tomb Stadium on Oct. 19, Drew (15-2-1) recorded a 1-0 victory over the Mariners on a goal by junior forward Sam Nepveux at 17:43. Merchant Marine outshot the Rangers, 15-9, forced junior goalkeeper Rich Boland to make six saves and hit the woodwork twice. But the Mariners could not solve one of the stingiest defenses in the nation.

"It was a tight match," Smolens said. "We anticipate another tight match. It was hard for either team to play the kind of soccer they would want to play because of the weather. I'm looking forward to the challenge.

"In that match we created some opportunities to finish, whether it was on free kicks or during the run of play. It comes down to finishing or making the big play defensively."

Smolens said he wasn't going to make many, if any, changes for the match against the Rangers (15-2-1, 5-1-1).

"We're not going to change much from what we've done during the year," he said.

The Mariners' 9-6-1 overall and 4-2-1 conference records are somewhat deceiving because every loss has been by one goal.

"Our conference has traditionally been very tight," Smolens said. "Traditionally, the games are going to be low scoring games, tough battles. We us and Drew are used to post-season soccer and the difference between winning and losing will be very small."

Mariners soccer fans can follow the game two ways:

One way is via internet radio at:

http://tinyurl.com/6zt79ec

The other way is via Live Stats at:

http://tinyurl.com/64lt4s3

The winner of this semifinal confrontation will face top-seeded Catholic University (14-3-1, 6-0-1), which on Tuesday recorded a 3-1 home victory over No. 4 Susquehanna University (8-9-1, 4-3-0) in Washington, D.C., on Saturday.

DIRECTIONS TO KEAN UNIVERSITY

From the Garden State Parkway

Northbound: Leave Parkway at exit 140 onto Route 22 East. Turn right onto Route 82 East. At sixth traffic light, make a right onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

Southbound: Leave Parkway at exit 140A onto Route 22 West. Follow signs and turn right onto Route 82 East towards Elizabeth. At sixth traffic light, make a right onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courtsare on your right.

From the New Jersey Turnpike

Leave Turnpike at Exit 13A (Elizabeth). Follow North Avenue West signs and proceed to Routes 1-9.  Crossover Routes 1-9 onto North Avenue (Route 439).  Proceed to intersection with Morris Avenue and make a right onto Morris Avenue (Route 82).  Kean University is located on your left.  Go three lights and make a left onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

From Route 22

Eastbound: Drive under Parkway and take exit ramp to Route 82 East. Continue toward Elizabeth to campus. At sixth traffic light, make a right onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

Westbound: Drive under Parkway, keep right and follow signs to Elizabeth/Route 82 East. Turn right on Route 82 East. Continue toward Elizabeth to campus. At sixth traffic light, make a right onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

From Routes 1-9

Northbound: Take jughandle at North Avenue and cross over 1-9. At the 11th light, make a right onto Morris Avenue. Go three lights and make a left onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

Southbound: Entering Elizabeth follow signs for Local Traffic (extreme right). Follow signs to North Avenue. Turn right onto North Avenue (Route 439) and at the 11th light make a right onto Morris Avenue. Go three lights and make a left onto Green Lane. Make a left onto campus at first traffic light.  Harwood Arena, Alumni Stadium, D'Angola Gymnasium, Jim Hynes '63 Baseball Stadium, Cougar Field and Alumni Stadium Tennis Courts are on your right.

Photo: Andrew MacKenzie struck for the game-winning goal against Drew in last year's Landmark semifinals.