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Hot off a doubleheader sweep of Milwaukee School of Engineering on April 30, the Lakeland College softball team clinched the No. 5 spot in the 2011 Northern Athletics Conference Tournament, set for May 5-7. The tournament will be held at its host, Alverno College in Milwaukee.
The Muskies make their fifth straight appearance in the tournament and are eager to square off against No. 4 seed Dominican University on Thursday at 3 p.m.
Lakeland met Dominican earlier in the season and the Muskies swept the Stars, winning game one, 11-10, and game two, 8-4. Lakeland scored nine runs in the first inning of game one, but the Stars showed their lot and rallied back to tie the game at 10. Junior left-fielder Leah Sheahan (Salem, Wis.) scored the go-ahead run in the seventh inning on freshman Brittany Jurek's (Gladstone, Mich.) sacrifice fly.
Thursday's meeting will have a different tone as both teams are vying for the NAC Championship. The winner of Thursday's game will face NAC regular season champs Benedictine University on Friday morning at 9 a.m.
"We know we can compete with all of the teams in the conference," said Lakeland head coach Chad Buchmann. "We swept Dominican earlier in the year, but it was at home. Playing at a neutral site is going to be a different atmosphere."
The NAC Tournament is a double-elimination competition with the No. 1 and No. 2 seeds earning a first-round bye. The loser of the Lakeland-Dominican matchup will play Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. in a must-win-to-advance game.
"We've seen and learned from a lot of situations in our games this year, so I think we are physically and mentally prepared," said Buchmann. "Our hitting and defense needs to be on to make it to Saturday."
In the 2010 tournament, Lakeland advanced to round two with an 11-5 win over Concordia, Wis. The Muskies made it to the semi-finals before falling to No. 1 seed Benedictine, 9-1.
Aurora University won last year's tournament and earned the NAC's berth in the NCAA Tournament by upsetting regular season champ Benedictine. Benedictine won this year's NAC Championship after splitting its games against Aurora on May 3.
For the latest 2011 NAC Tournament updates, click here: http://athletics.alverno.edu/live-webcast.