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The Lakeland College women's volleyball team clinched the Northern Athletics Conference regular season crown on Friday, Oct. 12, with a 3-0 win over Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wis.
The Muskies (17-11, 11-0 NAC) needed the win over the Raiders to earn at least a partial share of the title, but a loss by No. 2 Concordia, Wis. (8-2) gives Lakeland sole possession of the title, regardless as to what happens in the last few regular season NAC matches.
"Winning conference has become an expected accomplishment for this program," said head coach Chad Schreiber. "It's nice that we were able to get back to that this year, and it really means a lot to our seniors because this is what they are used to as well."
The Muskies also took care of their end of the bargain against the Raiders, although the scores in game one and three were a fairly close 30-27, while game two ended 30-17 in Lakeland's favor.
"We played a good strategy game, and the girls responded to our coaching the way we wanted them to," Schreiber said. "Our defense wasn't as aggressive as it usually is, but we still found other ways to win. "Shelly Bruni was unbelievable tonight, and between her and Tonia Strebelinski's defense, those two put on a show."
Bruni, a senior middle hitter, racked up 12 kills and hit an impressive .706, good for third in the Muskies' record books for hitting percentage in a match. Strebelinski, a sophomore defensive specialist, recorded a team-high 21 digs.
The Muskies' offense was also aided by the efforts of senior outside hitter Ashley Domask, who led the squad in kills with 14 and recorded 18 digs, while sophomore outside hitter Brittanie Paulus also contributed with 12 kills and 12 digs. Junior setter Jessica Sparling was also a key element to the squad's success, as she put up 35 assists in the match.
Although the NAC title is already sewn up for Lakeland, the squad play its final regular season conference match against Rockford College on Saturday, Oct. 20, as part of a triangular that also includes non-conference Lawrence University, at Lakeland.
The Muskies may have already won the title, but Schreiber knows his team is still focused on going through the conference schedule undefeated.
"It's nice having already won it because we wanted to celebrate our seniors," Schreiber said, as the triangular marks the Muskies' Senior Day. "It sets a nicer tone going into the match that we can be celebrating from the first point, but the girls are still determined to go out undefeated in conference."
Although the mood will be somewhat lighter with many due celebrations, Schreiber still plans on using the triangular to gear up his squad for a possible at-large NCAA bid.
"Rockford has played some great matches this season and is pretty unpredictable," he said. "Lawrence has gone about .500 against our conference this year, so we know what we can expect."
Match time with Rockford is set for 10 a.m., followed by Lawrence at 2 p.m.