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WAUKESHA - Aurora (Ill.) University has been named the Northern Athletics Conference favorite while Lakeland College has been picked to finish sixth in the 2013 Northern Athletic Conference softball preseason poll of league coaches released by the conference last week.
The Muskies received 102 points in the poll, squarely in the middle of the 13-team pack. Aurora was a narrow favorite for the conference crown over Benedictine (Ill.) University, with the Spartans gathering 162 points and six first-place votes while three-time defending champion Benedictine received 157 points and the remaining seven first-place votes.
Concordia University Wisconsin came in third in the poll with 143 points, while Marian (Wis.) University was fourth (120) and Dominican (Ill.) University came in fifth (116).
Aurora and Benedictine have accounted for the previous six NAC titles. Aurora finished as NAC runner-up last season with a 20-4 league record (26-17 overall), while Benedictine won the conference with a 22-2 mark (33-11 overall).
The NAC's six-team double-elimination tournament takes place May 2-4 at Alverno Field in Milwaukee. The tournament champion receives the NAC's automatic bid to the 2013 NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
Lakeland finished 20-19 overall last year and 14-10 in the NAC, tying Dominican for fifth in the conference. The Muskies are led by first-year Head Coach Hailey Dreyer and will open their 2013 season on Feb. 22 at the Finlandia University Dome Tournament in Marquette, Mich.
2013 Northern Athletics Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll
1. Aurora (6 first-place votes), 161
2. Benedictine (7), 157
3. Concordia Wisconsin, 143
4. Marian, 120
5. Dominican, 116
6. Lakeland, 102
7. Concordia Chicago, 97
8. Alverno, 72
9. Edgewood, 66
10. Wisconsin Lutheran, 52
11. Rockford, 44
12. MSOE, 33
13. Maranatha Baptist, 20