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The Lakeland women's soccer team clinched its second trip to the NCAA Division III Tournament Saturday with a 2-0 win over Dominican in the Lake Michigan Conference Tournament Championship.
Sophomore Laura Engel provided the winning goal for the Muskies (14-4-2) in the 16th minute.
The Muskies will learn their seed and first-round opponent on Sunday evening. NCAA first-round games are played Wednesday.
"We were really ready for this game," said senior goaltender Alli Weiss. "I think this was the most ready we'd been all season. We were very focused. We came out with the idea we wanted to win and we wanted to go to the NCAA. That was our goal all season from the first match to the 90th minute of today's game."
Engel collected the ball about 23 yards from the goal and dribbled to the top of the box in the 16th minute and put a high shot above the keeper's head that fell into the back of the net to give the Muskies a 1-0 lead.
"I carried the ball up through a couple people," said Engel. "At the top of the 18 (yard line) I saw there was a gap and I just shot it and it went in just under the crossbar."
The Muskies suffered a scare with about 10 minutes left in the first half when senior and team captain Briana Plautz was injured on a play.
"I was a little timid coming back from the injury," said Plautz. "It was my last home game and I wanted to be out there playing. I wanted to finish strong and play through the pain. I don't like to show pain, I don't want to show weakness, so whatever it was going to take I was going to stay out there."
Plautz started the second half, but she was moved to the forward position for the first time this season.
"We put her up top because she hurt her ankle a little bit," said Colwell. "We put her up top so she wouldn't have to worry about cutting too much. It also caused them to react to her, and it worked because she was able to lead some of the attacks up there for us. It was an easy transition for us because Tracy Bins moved to the middle for us with Laura Engel. Bri did a great job for us up top."
In the second half, the Muskies added an insurance goal in the 60th minute when freshman Amy Christenson headed the ball into the back of the net off a Plautz corner kick.
"The ball was up in the air," said Christenson. "There was a big commotion and all of a sudden I saw the ball and I knew I had to get to it, so I just jumped up and headed it in."
Senior Susan Webb had a tremendous game, playing a major role in stopping the Dominican attack.
"Susan Webb was everywhere today," said Colwell. "She did a great job putting pressure on the outside. She just outworked everybody today. She knows what to do; she plays a smart tactical game and knows how to position herself defensively. She has just played incredible soccer the past six or seven games. She just kept getting better as the season went on. She played a tremendous game."
For the second time this season, freshman Maggie Short was given the assignment to mark up on Dominican freshman Mayra Camacho, one of the league's top offensive players. And for the second time, Short was able to shut Camacho down.
"Maggie Short did an awesome job today," said Colwell. "Camacho is one of the top forwards in the conference and Short was able to shut her down."
Lakeland's defense played great holding Dominican to eight shots, and Weiss made four saves.
"I think it was probably one of the strongest defensive years we've ever had," said Weiss. "The defense works extremely hard at practice, we man marked their best player today and Maggie (Short) did an excellent job doing that. Kelly (Hopfinger) played awesome. We just wanted to play hard defensively. We knew we'd win if we kept them at zero and that was our goal."
The Muskies captured their second LMC Tournament Title and moved on to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003.
"Honestly it is an un-describable feeling," said Plautz. "I was there as a sophomore, but this is a feeling of its own. It is prolonging the end. It is giving me a great end to my career."
"It's really exciting because I've never been a part of going to something this big," said Engel. "It has been a great season, this is a great team and we believe we have an opportunity to do something in the NCAA tourney."
"I don't even know what to expect because the teams are so much different once you get out of the conference season," said Christenson. "I am just excited it is going to be a whole new season and I don't really know what to expect."