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St. Scholastica is UMAC softball pick

The College of St. Scholastica, winner of the 2009 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference regular-season championship and 10 of the last 11 league titles, was predicted to finish atop the conference yet again in 2010 following a poll of the coaches. 

St. Scholastica is coming off one of its most prolific offensive seasons to date, scoring a record 351 runs and maintaining a program-best .373 batting average in 2009. The Saints finished last year's season winning 26 of their final 28 games that included victories over 2008 NCAA Champion UW-Eau Claire and 2009 third-place finisher Gustavus Adolphus.  The 2009 UMAC Player of the Year and NFCA All-Midwest Region Second Team member Kristin Swartz returns to head coach Jen Walter's lineup, as does all-region second team member Theresa Tauer. In the pitcher's circle, a pair of UMAC First Team All-Conference hurlers in Jen Falk and Kayla Jenkins heads the staff.

Finishing in the same order in the poll as they did in the 2009 final conference standings, Northland College and Northwestern College earned second and third places, respectively. 

Northland went 16-5 in UMAC play last year. Three of the four infield positions, as well as that of catcher, feature returning starters led by all-conference honoree Asia DeVlaeminck. Brittany Schmitt, who was named to the all-conference team, returns to the circle to lead the Northland pitching staff.

Without three of the team's top players from a year ago, Northwestern will have a new look in 2010. Alicia du'Monceaux finished her first season as the team's head coach with a 14-7 UMAC record.   

The University of Minnesota, Morris and Martin Luther College tied for fourth place. 

The Cougars will work to improve on their 12-9 record from 2009 (fourth place) with eight starters returning to the lineup, including catcher Julie Rohling. Rohling earned All-UMAC accolades in 2009 after posting a .294 batting average to go with eight stolen bases. Liz Leuty and Diane Blommel, a pair of two-time UMAC All-Defensive team members, will join Rohling on the field yet again in 2010. Leuty hit .379 with 13 steals last season, while Blommel maintained a .289 batting average.

Martin Luther finished an even 10-10 in UMAC play last year, which was good for fifth place in the conference standings. Head coach Barb Leopold and the Knights return nearly their entire lineup and pitching staff from the 2009 squad. Karla Opperman was one of two freshmen in the UMAC to be named to the all-conference first team last year, while Brittany Jensen joined fellow returner April Cook as an honorable mention all-conference award-winner. 

Coming in sixth place was Bethany Lutheran College. The Vikings will have a strong group of senior leadership this season after finishing the 2009 season with a 7-14 UMAC record. Amanda Edmison, an all-conference honorable mention winner, returns to the field.

Crown College and Presentation College round out the league's eight teams. Both teams will have new coaches this season, with Ed Harkness taking over at Crown, while Evan Ormand will give the signs at Presentation. Both teams will be looking to build off of 2009 seasons that amounted to a combined three wins in conference play.

Most UMAC teams will kick off the conference schedule in the beginning of April. All eight teams will circle the weekend of April 30-May 1 when the UMAC crossover tournaments take place, just one week before the four-team conference tournament kicks off in Aberdeen, S.D.