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The Lakeland volleyball team will be searching for its first postseason victory when it faces the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, the NCAA announced today.
The match is set for 3:30 p.m. at the UW-Oshkosh Regional. Lakeland is the No. 7 seed at Oshkosh, while UW-Eau Claire is the No. 2 seed. The winner of the Lakeland-Eau Claire match plays the winner of a match between #3 UW-Oshkosh and #6 Carthage.
"We drew an opponent we have not seen this year, but one that we may match up with pretty well," said head coach Chad Schreiber. "I'm hoping the loss in last year's tournament serves as motivation for this year. This group has certainly shown an interest in making things right. With this being the last chance for 7 seniors to win in the NCAA tournament, I expect the mental and emotional preparation to be great. Now we need to develop a game plan that we can execute."
The Muskies (23-15) earned their fourth straight NCAA Tournament berth by defeating Maranatha 3-1 in the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament Championship held on Saturday, Nov. 5. Lakeland shared the LMC regular season championship with Maranatha.
The Muskies have been led this season by their senior class. Heather Heberlein (387) and Danielle Duranceau (307) lead the team in kills, while Lana Neuman's senior season at setter was the fourth best in school history as she tallied 1,037 assists. Renee Steinert and Nikki Boeckh lead the team in blocks with 78 and 68 respectively. Megan Mass has 45 service aces, while Sarah Buechel has 44. Buechel is first in digs with 395, while Neuman has 312.
The UW-Eau Claire Blugolds (28-4) are ranked third in the Midwest Region and 13th nationally according to the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Poll. The Blugolds made it to the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (WIAC) Tournament final before losing to UW-Platteville 3-0 and were selected as an at-large bid. Eau Claire finished third to co-WIAC regular season champions Oshkosh and Whitewater.
Eau Claire head coach Lisa Herb is fourth among all NCAA Division III active coaches in wins (729) and 13th in winning percentage (.717). Her teams have posted winning seasons in 19 of the last 20 years, won 20 or more matches 11 times, 30 or more matches five times, 40 or more matches one time and won a school-record 52 matches in 1987.
The Blugolds are a fairly young team as they only list seven upperclassmen on a roster of 18. Offensively, Eau Claire boasts three girls with over 300 kills, led by senior Molly Menard with 455 and senior Jenny Wolter who is only three shy of 400. Defensively, the Blugolds have five athletes with over 200 digs with senior Shanna Berger registering 476, while junior Jessica Groh has 137 blocks.
Eau Claire and Lakeland did not meet during the regular season, but they have five common opponents, three of them joining them in this regional - host Oshkosh, UW-Platteville and UW-Whitewater. NCAA qualifier Millikin and UW-La Crosse were the other two.
The Muskies are 0-6 against those five common opponents, while the Blugolds are 4-3. The Muskies faced Oshkosh twice losing both matches 3-0, while Eau Claire is 1-1 against Oshkosh. Both schools also faced Platteville, with the Muskies dropping their match 3-0 and Eau Claire defeating Platteville 3-1 in the regular season before losing to Platteville in the WIAC Tournament finals 3-0.
Fans wishing to attend the Lakeland and Eau Claire matchup may purchase tickets at the door. Ticket prices are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $3 for students.