Lani Van Zyl vs. SCSU (copy)

Winona State infielder Lani Van Zyl lays out for a groundball hit her way by St. Cloud State. Van Zyl was named the NSIC Preseason Player of the Year while teammate Jordyn Kleman was named Preseason Pitcher of the Year.

BURNSVILLE, Minn. — The defending Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular season and postseason champion Winona State University Warriors have been tabbed the favorites once again with the release of the 2019 NSIC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. It marks the fourth time in the past five seasons that WSU has been selected by the coaches to win the league.

Along with the release of the poll, the conference office also announced that junior Jordyn Kleman has been voted as the Preseason Pitcher of the Year and senior Lani Van Zyl the Preseason Player of the Year. Kleman was the 2018 NSIC Pitcher of the Year and Van Zyl took home Player of the Year honors at the conclusion of last season.

Kleman has been one of the most dominant pitchers in program history as an underclassman and will look to continue her upward trajectory into her third year. She was named the 2017 NSIC Freshman of the Year before earning Pitcher of the Year honors as a sophomore. Kleman led the pitching staff with a 19-2 record in 2018 and had an NSIC-best 165 strikeouts. She tossed two no-hitters a year ago, including a five-inning perfect game vs. Moorhead. Kleman recorded 17 complete games in 23 starts, posting eight shutouts, and a 1.86 ERA.

Van Zyl established herself as one of the best offensive threats in the country last season en route to being named the 2018 NSIC Player of the Year. She was named an All-American by three organizations at the conclusion of the year, including First Team honors twice. Van Zyl led the NSIC in batting average (.473), slugging (.822) and OBP (.531), while ranking second in runs (55), fourth in hits (80), RBI (59) and homers (13). She ranked 10th in all of Division II in batting average, 13th in total bases (139), and 14th in slugging. Van Zyl enters her senior campaign just three hits shy of 200 in her career.

Winona State posted a 45-7 (20-2 NSIC) record in 2018 for its highest single-season winning percentage (.865) in program history. The Warriors won their fourth regular season and sixth postseason titles under Greg Jones who was named the NSIC Coach of the Year for the third time in his 18th season. Jones, one of the winningest head coaches in DII history, guided WSU to its 12th NCAA Regional appearance a year ago.

Accompanying Van Zyl in the heart of the Warriors’ offense is Alison Nowak, who has batted over .400 in each of her first two seasons. She is a two-time NSIC First Team recipient. Fellow junior Katie Kolb was a spark for the WSU offense out of the leadoff spot last season; batting a career-best .314, leading the team in walks (24), and ranking third in runs (47). Catcher Rylee Stout had a breakout freshman campaign in 2018, launching 12 long balls, including a grand slam in the second collegiate game. Her 46 RBI ranked second on the team.

Winona State officially opens its 2019 campaign with a doubleheader against Grand View University on Tuesday, February 19 at the RCTC Dome in Rochester.

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