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The Lakeland women's soccer team will be traveling to Grinnell, Iowa, for the first round of the NCAA Division III Tournament, the NCAA announced today.
The Muskies (14-4-2) will play the host Grinnell Pioneers (13-3-2) at 1 p.m. at the Grinnell Soccer Complex. The winner of the Lakeland-Grinnell match will travel to face Macalester in St. Paul, Minn., on Saturday.
"I am really happy, especially for our seniors," said head coach Marc Colwell. "To back to the NCAA Tournament is a great way for them to finish their careers. Our goal is to move on past the first round and keep advancing, that's why we play the game."
The Muskies earned their second NCAA Tournament berth by defeating Dominican 2-0 in the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament Championship held on Saturday, Nov. 5. Lakeland finished second in the LMC regular season behind Edgewood. The Muskies will bring an 11 game unbeaten streak and 10 game winning streak into the postseason.
The Muskies have relied on their defense this season, with sophomore defender Kelly Hopfinger, senior team captain midfielder Briana Plautz and junior goaltender Alli Weiss acting as the last line of defense. Weiss has had a record-breaking year recording 14 shutouts, the most in school history. The goaltender also holds the career shutout record at Lakeland with 25.
On offense, the Muskies have had a mix of players leading the attack. Sophomore Marie Reynolds has tallied 10 goals on the season, including three game winners. Seniors Nikki Willes and Ann Lehecka each have seven goals.
Grinnell finished tied for first in the Midwest Conference with Carroll College at 8-1-1, and also earned their conference's automatic playoff berth after beating Carroll 5-3 in a shootout for the Midwest Conference Tournament Championship.
Pioneers' head coach Heather Benning is in her eighth season, and Grinnell has made two previous NCAA Tournament appearances during her tenure (1999 and 2004). The Pioneers are 73-33-7 overall under Benning, including a 49-10-4 mark in conference play.
Grinnell lists eight upperclassmen on a roster of 22 players. The Pioneers have been led by freshman forward Katherine Ni, who has tallied 13 of the team's 64 goals, including five game winners. Defensively, Grinnell is led by junior goalkeeper Liz Carrier, who has only given up 10 goals this season and carries a 0.56 goals against average into the NCAA Tournament.
The Pioneers and the Muskies did not meet during the regular season, but both programs have played two common foes - St. Norbert and Ripon College. The Muskies defeated St. Norbert 1-0 on Sept. 15, and beat Ripon 4-0 on Oct. 25. The Pioneers defeated St. Norbert 5-0 on Oct. 2, and beat Ripon College 7-0 on Oct. 23.
"They are pretty strong and can score some goals," said Colwell. "Our strength is our defense and we play as a team and that's the big thing. We are going to be a tough team to beat. Once it comes tournament time I think it defense that wins you games and I'd put our defense up against anyone right now. We just have to find a way to score a goal, you never know those first 15 minutes are key and we need to be able to set the tempo."
Tickets for this game can be purchased at the gate. Prices are $6 for General Admission, $3 for students and seniors, while children aged 3-12 are $2.