Amidst karaoke, barbeque, cornhole and line dancing on Wednesday in Salem, Va., you would never guess that it was the eve of the NCAA Division II Softball National Championship finals. Looking around, you would think that the attendees are just a group of friends having fun, as the teams were interspersed, line dancing together and entertaining each other with not a care in the world.

But in the back of each of their minds, they know that Thursday begins one of the biggest experiences of their lives. What better way to spend these precious moments than with those you care the most about?

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For two young ladies on the Minnesota State-Mankato squad, the experience couldn’t be more special. They have the rare opportunity to share this journey with not only their family of teammates, but also their sister.

“It’s unbelievable,” freshman designated player Lindsay Erickson said. “I just got chills thinking about it. There aren’t a lot of sister acts that come to the finals. When we won we just hugged each other with tears in our eyes and we are like we get to see this together. We get to tell this to our grandkids when we are older.”

Chelsea Erickson, junior centerfielder, arrived at Minnesota State-Mankato two years before her younger sister, thinking that this new chapter of her life would be her time to shine and become her own person. Before she knew it, she was encouraging her sister to come be a part of the ride.

“When I first came here freshman year, I was like I want to do my own thing,” Chelsea said. “The beginning of my sophomore year I realized how special it would be to have her here. I’m just so incredibly excited that she did come here and that we have this experience together.”

Certainly Lindsay had her thoughts at one time about wanting to take her own path, and not be in her sister’s shadow. When it came down to making the right decision for her, Lindsay was proud to follow in the footsteps of her sister and knew that Minnesota State-Mankato was the place she was meant to be.

“When I first came on campus, I loved it,” Lindsay said. “I knew this was the place for me. For two years [Chelsea] was at college while I was still in high school. She talked it up so much and how she loved it. All the girls on the team had really good relationships. Coming in as a freshman, I already had good relationships with the team and I was comfortable compared to other freshman who are more timid and nervous.”

Having a sister around isn’t always a bad thing. It has its perks. The two have played together since Chelsea’s sophomore year in high school, and the natural bond between two sisters even began to form on the field.

“I think we feed off each other very well,” Chelsea said. “We’re both very bubbly and like to smile and we have a good time. That kind of brings the energy up in our team. If I’m down she will say, ‘hey, you’re going to get them next time’ and vice versa. Even in the dugouts, I might see something in her swing and I let her know.”

The closeness of the sisters tends to filter into the rest of the team. With eating together, spending hours on the field each day, and traveling days on end, a family bond begins to form, much of the likeness of sisters.

“Everyone is really close on our team and we all get along great,” Chelsea said. “We have this awesome cohesiveness and compatibility.”

Lindsay added: “It’s a total family. We are with each other almost six hours a day, and for postseason we’ve been with each other traveling. They are all my best friends. It’s awesome.”

This family gets to embark on a piece of history on Thursday, as the Mavericks take the field to face Saginaw Valley at 2:30 p.m. ET. Minnesota State-Mankato’s last appearance in the finals was in 1987, finishing third.

The game plan is simple for the Mavericks.

“Be our team,” Chelsea said. “Don’t try and be something we are not. Go hard, have fun and play how we know we can.”

Until its time to dig their cleats into the dirt, take the field on Thursday and get down to business, Chelsea, Lindsay and the rest of the Mavs will revel in the moment, taking in the scenery along the way.

“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Chelsea said. “I still can’t stop smiling. We’ve had our ups and downs. It’s an amazing journey.”

And surely these siblings hope to add one more chapter to this amazing journey, with the program’s first NCAA Division II Softball National Championship title.