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November 12, 2011

Mariners soccer gets a break and goes on a roll

KINGS POINT, N.Y. -- Never has a soccer team been more appreciative to final exam week than the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy team.

The Mariners were forced to go inactive for 10 days at the end of its trimester, giving it an opportunity to charge its batteries.

They came into the Landmark Conference tournament refreshed and ready to play at the top of their game and they did, surprising two top-seeded opponents on the road that they lost to at home -- Drew University in the semifinals, 3-0, and Catholic University in the final, 1-0, last week.

On Saturday, the Mariners will try to continue their roll against Rutgers University-Camden in the first round of the NCAA Division III men's tournament in Camden, N.J. at 5 p.m.

"It was a chance to recharge your batteries," said junior forward Cody Kessler, who scored a goal in each of those games. "Obviously we weren't doing anything. We were working on our studies. After a full season of playing soccer, six days a week, you need a chance just to relax. Sometimes that's the best thing for you. You take a couple of days off, relax, don't do anything, come back and you're ready to play. It feels a lot better when you have the chance to sit down and have a couple of nights to yourself. Relax, watch a few movies."

Exam week is not going to change, so the Mariners have learned to deal with it, year in and year out.

"Its tough being off for 10 days," coach Mike Smolens said. "We are accustomed to it because that's the way our academic schedule works. That's what our guys do and as coaches we have to adjust to that. But you know what? It's important that academics come first during that finals time. We do some things, but it's certainly not nearly to the level of training and playing in matches."

Given a second wind, USMMA has been revitalized.

"Our guys come back healthy and refreshed and ready to go for what could be a one-game season, but we're hoping it has turned into a two-game season," Smolens said. "We want it to be much more. We are preparing for that. We hope our players have the same attitude that they're looking at it in the long run."

Kessler agreed.

"We have been playing so much better since we had that break," he said. "We were having some trouble, the team was getting on each other's nerves, which happens with every team. But we take a little break, we calm down. Soccer's not the first thing on your mind."

For two hours on Saturday, soccer should be.