Muskies win NAC Tournament to earn return to NCAA Tournament
Athletics - posted on 11/8/2008
SHEBOYGAN - Jessica Sparling and Heidi Kramer wanted to know what it felt like again.
After reaching the NCAA Division III Tournament as freshmen in 2005, the senior captains hoped to qualify for a second time before ending their careers at Lakeland.
That wish was granted on Saturday, as the Lakeland women's volleyball team wrapped up an automatic berth in the national tournament with a 25-20, 18-25, 28-26, 25-17 triumph over third-seeded Concordia University Wisconsin in the Northern Athletics Conference Tournament championship game at Lakeland.
"Jess and I are the only ones on the team who have been to nationals before," Kramer said. "It was great to get a win in our final match at home, but we still have work to do."
A second consecutive conference tournament title wasn't easy for the top-seeded Muskies (25-10).
After splitting the first two sets, the two teams traded points as the third set went on. With the score tied at 26-26 after the Muskies squelched three set points chances for the Falcons (15-14), Lakeland fed off of an electric home crowd to take the last two points and the set, capped by a block that fell just over the net by Kramer.
"We fought through some tough calls in the third set, but our girls continued to fight back," Lakeland head coach Chad Schreiber said, "Too often this year, we've been off our game to start, but we've never been off to finish a set."
Following the match, players and coaches gushed about the play of freshman middle hitter Allison Davis during the match-turning third set.
Davis, who hasn't seen extensive playing time in recent matches. sparked the Muskies off the bench, finding the floor by out-jumping opponents to balls high above the net. She finished with 10 kills for the match.
"Allison has had some highs and lows this season," said junior Brittanie Paulus, the Muskies' third captain. "To come back like she has and perform the way she did in that situation was big. I can't wait to see her as a senior if she keeps playing like this."
Paulus, a Belgium native, posted 33 digs, the second-highest total for one match in Lakeland history. Sparling finished with 41 assists.
The Muskies haven't lost in NAC regular season play or the league tournament since 2006.
"This is surreal," Sparling said. "I feel like I could come back every year and just play forever."
The Muskies now await the pairings of the NCAA selection committee to find out their first-round opponent. Regional play begins on Thursday.
The tournament bracket is expected to be posted here
late tomorrow night. Check back to the Lakeland women's volleyball home page
for the latest.
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