Close call for No. 1

Last season, Northwestern (St. Paul) became the first UMAC team other than St. Scholastica to earn the conference’s automatic berth in the Division III playoffs, since the conference’s champion started receiving the bid in 2011.

Northwestern, under first-year coach Matt Moore, and St. Scholastica, are again expected to contend for the conference title. St. Scholastica edged the Eagles 73-72 for first place in the UMAC preseason coaches’ poll.

Northwestern ended the Saints’ 35-game winning streak in the UMAC in October and went on to win its first outright conference title since 2008. The Eagles defeated Eureka 37-15 on the final day of the regular season to earn the title.

The Eagles’ 8-1 conference record placed them one game ahead of three teams tied for second — Eureka, MacMurray and St. Scholastica.

Macalester picked third

Macalester (7-3 overall, 6-2 MWC) has been picked to finish third (behind St. Norbert and the University of Chicago) in the North Division of the Midwest Conference. The Scots have eight returning starters on defense among 55 returning players.

Joel Rippel