With Thanksgiving right around the corner, it's only natural for DOT to take stock of some of the things we're grateful for this year. At the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, NY, men’s soccer coach Michael Smolens is thankful for the fantastic season his team had this year.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to see these hard-working athletes in person, when Maritime Administrator David Matsuda and I watched the third-seeded Mariners face top-seeded Catholic University in an exciting match for the Landmark Conference crown.
With the game tied 0-0 at halftime, the Mariners needed a big second half play to notch the win. Junior forward Cody Kessler scored the lone goal of the match, allowing the team to beat Catholic 1-0. The win allowed the team to earn a spot in their third consecutive NCAA Division III tournament.
Junior goalkeeper Gary Poulin was also a key asset during the game, as the Mariners were outshot by Catholic 8-26. His success was even more remarkable considering that he broke his leg during pre-season training and missed the season’s first five games. With the Mariners needing to win all three of their final games on the road to qualify for the NCAA tournament, Gary's gritty recovery from that injury turned out to be a real difference maker.
While they ultimately lost to Rutgers University-Camden in the first round of the tournament, Coach Smolens and his team are deservedly proud of their season:
“Winning the conference and going to our 3rd straight NCAA tournament were terrific, but the most important aspect is how our players showed that they could rise to the occasion when the stakes were at their highest. It was exciting to have Secretary LaHood, Administrator Matsuda, and so many Kings Point alumni and family members support the team in our conference championship in DC, and it was a Landmark title that no one on the team will ever forget."
And in women's athletics, senior Lauren Rattan finished her collegiate cross-country career by running a personal best time in the NCAA Atlantic Regional Championships on November 12. Lauren didn't just edge out her previous best time; she shattered it by 28 seconds. That's what I call a strong finish.
Women's cross-country coach Greg Lott praised his team's effort this season: "We have been missing runners at crucial times due to pain, injury, and sickness,and the women have just kept competing as hard as they possibly could. As a coach, you can't ask for anything more than that."
And at DOT, we couldn't ask for anything more from our cadets. Throughout our history, we have relied on capable merchant mariners to keep America strong and secure, and I am confident these young men and women will leave the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy well-equipped to handle the 21st century challenges of maritime service.
These athletes--and all the young men and women at Kings Point--are truly an asset to our nation, and we could not be more proud of them. I wish them and their families a safe and happy Thanksgiving.