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The Lakeland College women's basketball team is picked to finish sixth in the Northern Athletics Conference this season according to the preseason coaches' poll, as the results were announced Wednesday.
Concordia University, Wis., is the overwhelming favorite to repeat as NAC champions with nine first place votes for 161 points. Benedictine University was slated for the No. 2 spot with 143 points, followed closely by Wisconsin Lutheran College with three first place votes and 142 points. Aurora University and Edgewood College tied for the No. 4 spot at 122 points, with Aurora receiving the remaining first place vote.
The Muskies finished 15-11 overall, 12-7 in the NAC last season, and were bumped out of the first round of the conference tournament by Benedictine. It was the first time since 1995 that Lakeland did not make a championship game appearance. Although the squad will have to contend with the loss of All-NAC forwards Jenna Boehm and Danielle Duranceau, who combined for 22.3 ppg and 12.8 rpg last season, the squad returns three starters, a host of talents returnees and some new faces under the direction of a brand-new coaching staff.
"I would definitely like to improve on last year's mark," said head coach Teri Johnson. "I'd like to get back to playing solid defense and focus on getting high-percentage shots in the paint."
Concordia, Wis., (23-4) clinched both the NAC regular season and tournament titles last season with only one loss in conference play, and looks set to achieve similar goals with four returning starters.
Wisconsin Lutheran (15-11) placed fourth in 2006-07, but with four returning starters and a strong recruiting class, the Warriors have the ability to make vast improvements.
"Wisconsin Lutheran returns a lot of starters, so they are at the top of my list," Johnson said. "Concordia, Wis., is tough coming off an NCAA Tournament appearance last year, and Benedictine could be difficult for us to match up with. However, we can't overlook anybody because this is a tough conference and everyone is a threat right now."
The complete Northern Athletics Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll follows:
2007-08 NAC Preseason Poll
1. Concordia University, Wis. (9) 161
2. Benedictine University 143
3. Wisconsin Lutheran (3) 142
4. Aurora University (1) 122
Edgewood College 122
6. Lakeland College 104
7. Concordia University Chicago 97
8. Marian College 83
9. Rockford College 66
10. Maranatha Baptist 45
Milwaukee School of Engineering 45
12. Dominican University 34
13. Alverno College 19