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UMM hosts opening rounds of UMAC soccer tournament

The cities of Morris and Duluth will be busy places on Tuesday as both the University of Minnesota, Morris and College of St. Scholastica will each host two games for the opening round of the 2012 Upper Midwest Athletic Conference (UMAC) Men's and Women's Soccer Tournaments.

In men's action, St. Scholastica will enter their tournament as the top seed after winning all 14 conference games throughout the regular season. The Saints are anxious to return to the NCAA Tournament in 2012 after losing to the University of Minnesota, Morris in last year's conference tournament championship game that finished in a 6-5 overtime shootout that went in the Cougars' favor. St. Scholastica has out-scored UMAC opponents 81-5 this season. The Saints' 11:30 a.m. opponent on Tuesday will be fourth-seeded Bethany Lutheran College, who wrapped up its conference schedule with an 8-5-1 record. Joseph Perez has led the Vikings with nine goals and 20 points in 2012.

At the same time, the tournament's No. 2 seed, Minnesota Morris, will host Northwestern College, who enters the UMAC postseason in the No. 3 spot. The Cougars went 11-3 in conference games throughout the regular season behind the 13 UMAC goals of Ebrima Badgie. Morris won both regular season contests against the Eagles, but last Saturday's 1-0 finish in Roseville between the same two teams certainly ups the ante heading into Tuesday's semifinal. Northwestern finished its UMAC campaign with an 8-4-2 mark and is led by Sam Mann, who scored seven goals in 11 games played this season.

Both women's semifinal games will begin at 2 p.m. at the same sites in Duluth and Morris. St. Scholastica won its ninth straight UMAC Regular Season Championship on Saturday and will enter this week as the top seed in the women's tournament. In addition to their success in the regular season, the Saints have claimed four of the last five UMAC Tournament titles, earning bids in four NCAA Tournaments including the 2011 playoffs which saw St. Scholastica fall to third-ranked Trinity (Texas). CSS will host No. 4 seed Northwestern College, who the Saints beat 2-0 and 3-1 during the 2012 campaign. Francie Piche leads the Eagles, who went 8-4-2 in UMAC play this year, in goals (seven), assists (10), and points (24).

Minnesota Morris, the tournament's second seed, will host third-seeded Bethany Lutheran. Morris lost just two games throughout the UMAC regular season, with one of those losses coming against the Vikings in Mankato on Sept. 22. Zoe Bergstrom has had quite a junior year for the Cougars, scoring eight goals to go with 11 assists. At the same time, the Vikings' Paige Taylor was enjoying a successful season with nine goals and 16 assists for 34 points. Bethany Lutheran won 10 of its 14 UMAC games, with three of the Vikings' losses coming against St. Scholastica and Morris.

Tuesday's winners from all four games will advance to each gender's UMAC Tournament championship game on Saturday with the highest remaining seeds hosting those contests. A free pass to the NCAA Tournament will be on the line for both contests, as the UMAC Tournament champions will learn about their first-round opponent and destination in Monday afternoon online selection shows at