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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Q&A With Minnesota State Baseball All-American Cam Klein


Q&A With Minnesota State All-American Cam Klein
A junior pitcher/outfielder with the Minnesota State baseball team, versatile Cam Klein earned All-America honors last year after posting a 10-2 record while recording a 2.47 earned run average with 112 strikeouts in 80 innings pitched. The Stacy, Minn., native, who also patrols the outfield, hit a team-high .386 with six home runs and 36 runs batted in.

Minnesota State went 39-15 last year and 28-8 in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference regular-season standings.
    
One of the most successful NCAA Division II programs in the country, the Mavericks made their 37th postseason tournament appearance last year.  Klein took a moment to discuss the upcoming season with MavBlog correspondent Mason Tonsager.


MavBlog: “What kinds of things that the team is looking to improve on for this season?”
CK:  “The pitching staff has all came back from last season along with some freshmen. We also have new transfers that have come here to play and the overall starters from last year are back. The pitching will be solid, but we just have to work in some of the new players into this culture that we have.”

MavBlog: “How has the adjustment been like when working with a new catcher?”
CK:  “It’s difficult at times because Tom (Imholte) and I had a really great connection with each other and were both on the same page on certain situation that we get into. I have to develop that same kind of communication with the new catchers and the freshman have to get games in as well, so they know what it is going to feel like.”

MavBlog: “What are some challenges that you face coming into the season?”
CK:  “I have high expectations and I am surrounded with tons of talent that we have ever since I got her 2 years ago. The team itself has high expectations especially when a lot of returning players are back and healthy.”

MavBlog: “What are you looking at on improving this year?”
CK:  “We plan on winning conference and conference tournament which can help us with regionals. Expectations for the team are to make it further and getting over that hump last season and have a better record.”

MavBlog: “What are some fun memories that you’ve had so far in your career here at Minnesota?"
CK:  “The Florida trip is always fun especially this time of the year where it is really cold here and hot down there. We also have a fun time playing against some good competition. I also had fun last year because we didn’t make it to regionals my freshman year.”

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Jay Larson's Journey from the Mavericks to the Golden Bears


Former Maverick guard Jay Larson (second from the right) is
associate director of athletics at Cal Berkeley. In addition to
Larson, also pictured at a recent Minnesota State men's
basketball game are former Mavericks Jevin Budde, Luke
Anderson
, Eric Siebrands, Drew Carlson, Dan Corley and
Jamie Nelson.
Like many people coming into college, it’s hard figure out where you’ll be in five years or what it is that you want to do with your life. Jay Larson, senior associate athletics director and administrator, at University of California was in a similar position.
Larson originally hails from Saint Francis, Minn., and when it came time to decide where to attend college in 1997, he chose to stay in-state and attend Minnesota State University, Mankato. Receiving a scholarship to play basketball was his primary motivation for attending MSU.
His scholarship wasn’t the only factor which led him to Minnesota State. At the time of his decision, his father was a successful high school basketball coach and his brother was attending the University of North Dakota. His desire to play basketball at the highest level he could, along with Mankato’s close proximity to his family, were a few other factors that lead him to the Mavericks.
“The proximity to my hometown factored in, to be able to enable my parents and family to travel around the upper Midwest and watch me compete,” said Larson.
Due to an injury, Larson redshirted his freshman year but was able to get back on the court 1998-02.
When it came to academics, Larson had a tough time choosing which direction to take. After changing his major six times, he eventually landed on a major in marketing and minor in political science. It wasn’t until his junior year in college that he decided he wanted to pursue a law degree.
“I was a son of a coach, so I always had an interest in athletics, but I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to coach. I just kind of found myself reading more and more about the law and the sports law and the business of sport,” Larson said.
Mentioning further that it all came together and decided to get his business degree at Minnesota State and then pursue his law degree, where he would eventually receive after his time at the University of Minnesota.
After graduating in the spring of 2002, Larson jumped right into studying law at the U of M in fall of 2002 and completed his degree in 2005. After one year at law school, he landed an internship at the University of Minnesota’s athletic department in their athletic compliance office for two years.
Despite having a fulltime job at a law firm lined up for after graduation, he decided to not take the job and follow his passion.
“I had a job lined up to work at a midsized law firm in the Twin Cities, where I also had done a clerkship,” said Larson. “I just decided to follow my passion I guess and I took a 50 percent pay cut by taking the job in the athletic department at the U and spent three years there working in the compliance office.”
After spending three years in the compliance office post-graduation, he was able to land a job at San Diego State University. Larson has always been a big proponent in following your passion and hasn’t regretted his decision.
When he was hired at SDSU, he was hired on as an assistant AD for compliance and eventually received the associate AD of compliance. With a lot of the people in NCAA having a law degree, Larson credits his law degree that has helped him in the compliance department.
One thing Larson notes that was rewarding during his time at SDSU was playing a role in helping the sport’s program. Naming Kawhi Leonard and Stephen Strasburg as a few athletes that was a spark in the right direction.
After spending about seven years at San Diego State, Larson landed a job at University of California working as a senior associate athletics director and administrator.
When talking about his time at Cal, Larson said, “University of California is a special place, it’s the No. 1 public school in the world,” Larson said. “We’re combining elite athletics, the highest level of college athletics, at an elite academic school and there are not that many in the country that are able to say that.”
Larson doesn’t like to put a timeframe on his future but said that working as an athletics director in the future would be something he would enjoy doing.
 “I have a young family, three young boys and we really enjoy living here and I enjoy our football program is on the rise,” said Larson. “It’s been fun to be a part of and we’ll ride this out and just see what develops.”
The most important thing lessons he gained from his time with Dan McCarrell, who coached the Mavericks from 1984-2001, were learned by being a student-athlete. He explained that being a teammate is what helped get him where he is today
“Be a good teammate really first and foremost, right? All great things in life are accomplished by teams,” said Larson. “To really learn how to be successful as an individual within the context of the team to help the team succeed is something that I really take away from as my time as a college student athlete.”
There were many people in Larson’s network that helped him be where he is now, whether that be coaches, boosters or friends.
Larson is excited to be where he is now in life and is looking forward to what’s to come.
“It’s been a fun five years for me personally, you know sometimes I still have to pinch myself.”
Contributed by Andrew Neururer, Athletic Communications intern


Monday, December 30, 2019

Bigger Than Basketball


Former Minnesota State men's basketball guard
Cam Hodges is a player development coach with the NBA's
Philadelphia 76ers (76ers photo)
Cam Hodges, a Minneapolis native, spent the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons with the Minnesota State men’s basketball team where he averaged 6.5 points and 3.9 rebounds as a junior and 13.7 points and 4.8 rebounds as a senior. His junior season almost didn’t happen because of a military commitment. He has since been honorably discharged from the military.

Under the guidance of veteran head coach Matt Margenthaler, Hodges and the Mavericks finished the 2010-11 season with a 28-5 record. Named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Hodges enjoyed a stellar senior season, earning Second-Team All-NSIC honors. The 6-foot-5 guard helped lead Minnesota State on a memorable run through the NCAA tournament which led all the way to the NCAA DII Final Four in Springfield, Mass.  The Mavericks eventually fell to second-ranked Bellarmine in the national semifinals, but Hodges was playing his best basketball, tallying a career-high 24 points and grabbing seven rebounds in the loss to the Knights.

Following his collegiate career, Hodges played professionally in Romania, Hungary, Luxembourg and Slovenia.

Stemming from an internship with the National Basketball Association's G League that he competed in 2015, Hodges knew that he wanted to coach in some capacity.

“I knew I wanted to coach once I was done playing, I just wasn't sure at what level,” Hodges said. “I kind of found my path once I did an internship in the NBA G League and the rest is history,” he said.

And he did just that, becoming an assistant coach under one of the NBA’s legendary coaching minds, Gregg Popovich.

Hodges spent three seasons with Popovich and the Spurs, serving as a player development assistant during the 2018-19 season, where he worked under shooting coach Chip Engelland, who took over as San Antonio’s head of player development after Brett Brown left to take the head coaching job with the Philadelphia 76ers.

After three seasons with the Spurs, Hodges was hired as a player development coach with the Sixers, where he currently works individually with three players.

“Day-to-day, I'm in charge of the development of three players on our roster. It's usually some on-court development work followed by some individual film sessions with those players to identify areas we are excelling in and areas we can improve in,” Hodges said.
.
Hodges gives a lot of credit to Margenthaler and the rest of the Minnesota State coaching staff for putting him in the position he is in today. 

“The impact that the coaching staff at Minnesota State had on me was huge,” Hodges said. “I realized that coaching wasn't about the X's and O's. At the core of it, it's all about relationships. They brought out the best in me on the court and helped me develop into a better man off the court because of the time and energy they invested in me as a human being before a ball player. So naturally I wanted to have a career that would allow me to serve others,” he said.

Another trait that Hodges carries over from MSU to his career is accountability.

“I think the biggest lesson I learned from my time at MSU was being able to hold myself accountable day in and day out,” Hodges said. “If for one second Coach thinks you're slacking, you will be called out in front of the group. Being able to hold yourself accountable every day and perform your job the best you can was the mindset and that has carried over into my coaching career and my personal life,” he said.

When asked what his favorite part of his career is, Hodges gave a simple but incredibly important answer that he learned from his time with the Mavericks.

“The relationships,” Hodges said. “Investing my energy into another person to help them get to where they are trying to go in life and their career. In sports, we are all trying to accomplish something greater than ourselves and being able to play my role in doing so I find very fulfilling,” Hodges said.

Looking into what the future may hold for him, Hodges isn’t concerned about it as he focuses on his time with the Sixers.

Honestly, I really try not to think about the future too much,” Hodges said. “I try to focus on learning and developing myself every day and life will come together like it should,” he said. 

Contributed by Collin Wilmes, Minnesota State Athletic Communications Intern


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Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Mission Possible: Mavericks Work to Overcome Injuries to Get Back on the Mat

At any second in the game an injury can occur, whether it’s in practice or during one of the most important matches of your career. It’s the moment you face adversity that will dictate the outcome of your career, will you let it beat you or will you conquer it?

For a pair of Minnesota State wrestlers in senior Matthew Blome and sophomore Trevor Turriff, it's this type of adversity that would put them to the test in the past year.

Blome, who wrestles at 197, dislocated his knee during practice on October 6th, 2018, resulting in a full tear of his anterior collateral ligament, medial collateral ligament, posterior collateral ligament, and a partial tear in both his lateral collateral ligament and meniscus.

“You could say it was catastrophic because he had a complete knee dislocation, it was everything,” said Jim Makovsky, Minnesota State's veteran wrestling head coach. “He stayed really stoic amidst it all, though.” 

An All-American as a freshman in 2016-17 when he went 28-11 overall, Blome went 18-8 and became a two-time NCAA national tournament qualifier as a sophomore in 2017-18. The injury, which happened before the start of the 2018-19 campaign, ultimately took Blome out of the game for a year, and it’s the recovery period that is so essential to his healthy return.

“A lot of my time overcoming adversity was done with the team, having people to work with every day; especially Christian Goetz, out athletic trainer that helped me through a lot of my recovery who was there from the day it happened,” said Blome. “It was nice to be able to be on the side of the mat with them instead of just being up in the stands, I was still with the team.”

“Matt is someone who has a lot of passion with a positive outlook on things; but when its go time he gives everything he has, and we are lucky to have him,”  said Makovsky.

"Being away makes it that much better to be back on the mat, watching people do the stuff you do is difficult; but when you get to go back out there and do it with your teammates that’s probably one of the best feelings ever,” said Blome, a native of Mount Horab, Wis. “If I were to have to do it alone, I don’t know how it would go but with the team and the people we have in the room it makes it that much easier.”

For Turriff, who wrestles at 184, he season ended last year when he tore his PCL and LCL in the semi-finals round of the 2018-19 NCAA DII Super Regionals. These injuries ultimately led a lengthy rehabilitation process over the course the next six months.

“I stayed busy with the rehab and we have a great team; the athletic training team as well as the wrestling team that constantly kept me on my toes to get better,” said Turriff, who finished his freshman year with a 13-7 record.

“Overcoming adversity was all about just staying hungry and rearranging my goals, to now let’s get healthier every day and reach a new goal in rehab.”

“Trevor has had to put a lot of extra work in," said assistant coach Ty Eustice. "He’s been doing a lot of things on his own or meeting with the athletic trainer when he’s supposed to and putting in those extra workouts. He's is very coachable and upbeat every day. He’s not the kind of kid you got to get on to bring energy and he’s always showing up ready to work and push himself.”

"The love for the game is really what fuels the flame," said Turiff, a native of De Pere, Wis. "Knowing I’m a part of a team that I am very close with helps fuel my motivation as well.”

The Mavericks, who entered the 2019-20 season rated seventh in the national preseason poll, hope that with both Blome and Turriff healthy, that they can improve upon last year's 31st-place finish at the NCAA DII Championship.

contributed by Schaelly Hildebrandt, Athletic Communications intern





Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Drost Leads Mavericks into 2019-20



Taylor Drost averaged 13.4 ppg and was named All-NSIC
Second Team as a junior in 2018-19
The Minnesota State women’s basketball team opened the 2019-20 season with a 91-74 nonconference home victory on Nov. 6 vs. against UW- Eau Claire.


Emilee Thiesse, who is beginning her eighth season as head coach of the Mavericks, has been impressed with the energy and consistent effort the team has put in this year. “This season is looking bright and our goals are centered around the core values of this program.”


Thiesse expects to lean on the 13 returnees from last year’s roster and especially so on the leadership of senior forward Taylor Drost.


Drost, a Menominee Falls, Wis., native, had an outstanding junior season in 2018-19. Named All-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Second Team, Drost led Minnesota State in scoring with 336 points last season, averaging 13.4 points per game and 3.4 rebounds per game.


“Taylor’s growth over her career has been incredible. She is a tough match-up due to her ability to score in multitude of ways. She has become more aggressive at disrupting shots at the rim and making plays off the ball.” said Thiessse.


Drost, a three-year letterwinner who is a two-time NSIC All-Academic honoree, said that while the returnees will have to lead, it’s expected that the newcomers will also contribute. “We have four freshmen that came in this season and they have been picking things up quickly in practice. Even though we only lost two seniors last season, our junior class is very solid for how small our group of seniors is. Our core group of junior and senior are strong leaders of the team who are dominant players on the court.”


Thiesse agreed, stating that the young players on the roster have fit in nicely with the veterans. “The chemistry the team has on the court is second to none and it shows by how well they play together and how much fun they have.”


In addition to the nonconference contest vs. UW-Eau Claire, the Mavericks also squares-off in nonconference play vs. Northern Michigan (Nov. 14), Michigan Tech (Nov. 18), Bethany Lutheran (Nov. 25) and UW-Parkside (Nov. 30) prior to starting NSIC action Dec. 6 with a home game vs. Southwest Minnesota State.

     Contributed by Morgan Keim-Wolfe, Minnesota State Athletic Communications Intern

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Olson Hitting Her Stride

Minnesota State senior Morgan Olson was earned
All-America honors last year after racking up 468 kills
Minnesota State volleyball senior Morgan Olson has accomplished about as much as any Maverick has in program history. 

She came to MSU as a freshman eager to get started. “It was a different atmosphere than going to different schools,” said Olson. “I was really excited to play with the girls and excited to play for Lori too.” Lori being now-fifth year Maverick head coach Lori Rittenhouse-Wollmuth.

Olson came to the Mavericks having played at Annandale High School, along with two and half years of experience at the club level. “When she first started, she was pretty raw, pretty green to the game,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. Olson agreed with her coach’s assessment. “I didn’t really know much about the knowledge and much about the game itself” she said. “Coming in I was really open to anything.”

It was that mentality that changed everything for Olson. When Rittenhouse-Wollmuth approached her about a position change before her junior year, she was all for it. Olson played on the outside her first couple of years, but when Olson was moved to the right side, the Mavericks had struck gold. “It became real apparent that she could be an even greater player on the right side,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. She cited not only her vertical, but also the quickness of it along with her arm swing. “She brings the thunder with her arm swing.”

Olson proceeded to register 468 kills, averaging 4.33 a set in her junior season and the accolades rolled in AVCA All-America Third Team, NSIC All-NSIC First Team honors and CCA All-Region Second Team.


Olson attributed her junior year success to higher confidence. “I didn’t let outside factors affect it” she said. “I just played for my teammates, forgot about all outside factors, and just went and tried to make my teammates better while making myself better at the same time.”

This summer, Olson, along with teammate Mara Quam, were selected to take part in the USA D-2 Volleyball Brazil Tour. “I just went in there and played and it was really fun getting to know the girls and playing different teams,” said Olson of the experience. “The coaches there didn’t know me before, the players didn’t know me before so showing them who I was, was really exciting and fun.” Olson said her biggest takeaway from the experience was the importance of playing free.

It was that takeaway that has allowed her to continue her success, including joining MSU’s 1,000-kill club, into her senior season. She admitted that having been an All-American last season was something that brought on a lot of pressure. “Once I start thinking ‘so what I did it last season, prove to them I should get it this season too’ or playing like I didn’t know I got it last season that kind of helped me play free and really focus on encouraging my teammates and cheering for them and doing it for my teammates rather than for myself.” 

Her selfless attitude has not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff. “She’s a great role model,” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “She’s a great listener. She’s someone that players know they can go to and she’ll give them an honest response, but one that’s supportive. She takes good care of her teammates.” 

Olson has accomplished many things in her career, but what will the biggest thing she’ll be remembered for? “I think never giving up, and always having a positive attitude because obviously there’s going to be hard times but knowing that I always came out with a smile,” said Olson. “She’ll walk out of here as one of the best Mavericks that ever played” said Rittenhouse-Wollmuth. “She will be missed, and her impact will last far longer than just her time here.”


A three-time NSIC All-Academic honoree, Olson carries a 3.67 grade point average and is majoring in math education.  She will graduate in the spring of 2021.

                   contributed by Minnesota State athletic communications intern Jason Backman

Thursday, October 17, 2019

That's the Goal

Abbey Levy was named All-WCHA Second Team
as a freshman in 20018-19
Minnesota State goaltender Abigail Levy completed her first career collegiate start with a win and a shutout in last year's season opener, a 2-0 home win over Rensselaer on September 29th, 2018.  

The win was the first of five shutouts for Levy, which tied the school record for most shutouts in a single season at Minnesota State. As well as being named to the All-WCHA Second team and the All-WCHA Rookie Team, Levy also earned Co-Rookie of the year and Most Valuable Player for the Mavericks. To say Levy’s first collegiate year was anything shy of impressive would be an understatement.  


A native of the Big Apple, Levy emigrated to the Land of 10,000 Lakes where the hockey-focused environment at prep power Shattuck-St, Mary's helped to develop her game under the tutelage of goaltending coach Des Christopher, a former Minnesota netminder in his own right. Before beginning her collegiate career at Minnesota State, Levy helped backstop the Sabres to three national championships.
 
Levy, who went 9-18-7 with a .924 save percentage and a 2.35 goals against average in 34 appearances last year, had the second best goals-against average (on Minnesota State's single-season list), tied for second best save percentage, tied for fifth most wins and had the seventh most saves in a single season at Minnesota State.

Following her outstanding debut in 2018-19, the Congers, N.Y., native had the opportunity to travel back home in the summer of 2019 for two weeks in Lake Placid, participating in the 2019 USA Hockey Women's National Festival. This opportunity, which served as a training camp for the U.S.'s top-level players, was utilized to choose both U18 and U22 Select Teams which compete against Canada in the annual U18 and U22 Series. “This was an insane experience that I wish a lot of others could experience as well,” said Levy. “It's something that was a huge step in my athletic career.” 

Levy hopes to continue to move forward from last year's season, building on the work she put in during the summer with the goal of “being a leader for the team and work on being someone who others can look up to even with the upperclassman looking up to me.” 

More importantly, her goals for the team are key for a successful season, which is “coming together better as a family.” Given family plays such an important role in Levy’s life. Whatever the distance may be, her parents work to make it to over 85% of all-season games wherever they are playing. Although being away from family has caused some homesickness to occur over the years; it’s the continuous support she receives from them that drives her motivation on and off the ice. 

Minnesota State head coach John Harrington, who is in his  fifth year in charge of the Mavericks, describes Levy as someone who is “happy go lucky” individual both on and off the ice.  

"She is someone who “doesn’t take things with her, she doesn’t let things build up on her, she learns from things but she doesn’t carry things on," said Harrington. "She’s good with the what’s next approach.” Which are key attributes to have as a player who can than lead with these skills to both mentor and grow the teammates she plays alongside."

Contributed by Schaelly Hildebrandt, Minnesota State Athletic Communications Intern 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Something in the Water

Shane Zylstra holds the Minnesota State record for career
touchdown receptions
Minnesota State senior wide receiver Shane Zylstra has had a decorated career with the Maverick football program. 

Through 44 career games, the Spicer, Minn., native has reeled in 171 catches for 3,154 yards receiving and 42 touchdowns. Those 42 touchdowns are a school record. The previous record for career receiving touchdowns at Minnesota State was 36, held by former Maverick wide receiver Josh Nelsen (1991-94). The record is something Zylstra takes great pride in. 

“It means a lot,” Zylstra said. “Just being able compete at a high level each and every day at such a great institution, it’s just nice to be able to contribute to the team and win games because that’s what I came here to do. To not only contribute but to play at a high level,” he said.  

Named to the All-NSIC First Team and and AFCA Second Team All-American last year, Zylstra totaled 66 catches for 1,261 yards and 14 touchdowns as a junior in 2018 in helping lead the Mavericks to the semifinals of the NCAA Tournament.

Shane Zylstra (right) with
his older brother Brandon
Zylstra’s football success is obvious. But what isn’t known is that Zylstra was a competitive water skier long before he became an elite college wide receiver. The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Zylstra grew up near a private lake called Green Lake in Spicer and attended New London-Spicer High School. One of the family traditions was to water ski.

“Every weekend we were out on that lake water skiing barefoot and just hanging out,” Zylstra said. “My dad and grandpa used to ski a lot, so that’s who got us into that, and it just built off from there,” he said.  

He started water skiing at age five and barefooting at age seven. Water skiing is one thing, but barefooting is a whole different required skillset. It’s similar to traditional water skiing, except you don’t use any water skis at all, just your feet, as you perform jumps and tricks behind a boat. Unlike traditional water skiing, barefooting requires faster boat speeds that reach up to 40 mph, which is required for the athlete to plane on his bare feet. The barefoot events of wake slalom, tricks and jumping are also similar to traditional water skiing. One may wonder, how does this help with being an elite receiver?

“It definitely helps with balance,” Zylstra said. “You constantly have to worry about balance when you’re on the water. There’s a lot of times when you’re basically balancing on one foot, so it’s just a huge part. And then on the mental side you have a constant challenge of improving on new tricks and new styles,” he said.

Zylstra, along with his three brothers Justin Zylstra, Brandon Zylstra, a wide receiver who plays for the Carolina Panthers, and Jaden Zylstra, joined the Little Crow Ski Team of New London, Minn.. He competed for ten years with the ski team, where he had weekly tournaments in the summer all around the Midwest.

“Every Friday, you host a show for public attendance, and then we traveled to different cities around us for public shows for Water Days events and things like that. And then we often traveled the Midwest doing competitions against other teams in the Midwest,” Zylstra said.  

From there, the water ski teams and individuals compete in regional tournaments for a shot to compete at the national level.

“Growing up we were always really successful at regionals, so we always went to nationals and competed at that next level,” he said.

Looking back at is water skiing days, Zylstra isn’t shy about who the best in the family is.

“Best water skier in the family, I have to give it to myself. Brandon’s great and all, but he’s even said it too, in college at least, that I’m a little bit ahead of him. We all have our own unique talents that make us all great, but I have to stick with myself,” he said.  

All four of the Zylstra brothers, Justin, 27, Brandon, 26, Shane, 22, and Jaden, 16, found success in water skiing at the national level. Brandon and Shane ultimately chose football over water skiing, but Jaden plans to pursue water skiing in college.

“Water skiing is probably my younger brother’s favorite sport. He’s working on pursuing it down in the southern states,” Zylstra said. “You can go to college for it, and that’s what he’s thinking about doing,” he said.

Fast-forward to today, Zylstra and the Mavericks are 5-0 and hold a No. 3 overall national ranking in the American Football Coaches Association Coaches Poll. He has one goal in mind for this season, and it’s to win a NCAA Division II national championship.

“It’d be really nice to finish that senior year with a National Championship,” Zylstra said. “It’s one last go-around, and I think we have the talent to do it. It’s just a matter of getting it done at the end of the day,” he said.  
              contributed by Collin Wilmes, Athletic Communications intern

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Thursday, October 3, 2019

Hockey Dads




The old saying goes “like father, like son.”

In the case of a quintet of current Minnesota State men’s hockey players this certainly is the case.

Connor Mackey, Dryden McKay, Riese Zmolek, Jaxson Stauber and Ryan Sandelin are unique in the fact that they all have had fathers who played in the National Hockey League.

Connor Mackey, a junior defenseman for the Mavericks, is the son of Dave Mackey. The elder Mackey played in 126 National Hockey League games as a forward with Chicago, Minnesota and St. Louis.

Dave coached Connor from a young age up until he was about 14 years old.

“He has helped me a lot,” said Connor, noting his father’s impact on his game. “We talk through things still today after games and what he saw and his take on the game. He knows so much about the game with how he played at the highest level so it’s great to hear what he has to say.

“What I have learned most from him, is playing the game the right way. Both ends of the ice and just to always work hard, even if you’re not having the best game you can always control how hard you work. Just staying with it.”  Connor said.

Dryden McKay is a sophomore netminder who enjoyed a stellar first year of college hockey and was named 2018-19 CHN National Rookie of the Year last year after logging a 24-7-2 record in 32 starts in 2018-19.  He is the son of former Hartford Whalers goaltender Ross McKay.

Dryden’s father was his goalie coach he had until he was 16 years old and today Ross helps Dryden with the mental side of his game more than the physical. The mental side of the game is a major part when being a goaltender.

“My dad is very humble and quiet about the fact that he played in the NHL. Growing up he was a goalie coach at the junior level so the reason I became a goalie was to hang out with him. I saw playing goalie as a way to spend time with my dad and I think that’s ultimately what drew me to the position. As I got older I began to understand just how good my dad was when he played and that he knew so much about hockey and goaltending.” Said Dryden.

 “He basically shaped me into the goalie I am today. He always had a huge focus on skating and positioning and I believe those two aspects of my game are the biggest reason I am where I am today. Now that I am older I still call him after every game and it’s always nice to talk to someone who understands everything I am going through, both good and bad.”

Riese Zmolek, a junior defenseman whose father Doug was a rugged defenseman with San Jose, Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago, had an opportunity to go the rink when his dad was still playing. Doug would take Riese to the ice when he was little and that is how he got introduced to hockey.

“Just being around hockey and seeing it at such a young age impacted me a lot. I think it started growing my love for it right away” Riese said. Riese had his father as a coach every year growing up during youth hockey.When Riese went to high school Doug helped coach his hockey team as well.

“I think he’s had a huge impact on me and my game. For the most part, once I got old enough he let me be and let me try to learn on my own unless I reached out to him for help on something with my game. He has taught me many things and without him helping and teaching me things there’s no way I’d be where I am today. He taught me how to play the game, and what he thought I needed to work on to keep playing past high school.”

Jaxon Stauber is a freshman goaltender for the Mavericks and his father, Robb, had a lengthy professional career that saw him tend nets in the NHL with Los Angeles and Buffalo.  Another freshman, forward Ryan Sandelin, is the son of Scott Sandelin, who saw action in the NHL with Philadelphia, Montreal and the Minnesota North Stars.

Along with Connor Mackey, Dryden McKay and Riese Zmolek, three Maverick veterans, the two newcomers to the squad in Stauber and Sandelin, another adage comes to mind in that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

          - contributed by Morgan Keim-Wolfe, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern.

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

A Football Legacy

Mankato native Ryan Schlichte has played a big role in
Minnesota State's success the past four years
A legacy always has to start somewhere. 

RyanSchlichte, a senior quarterback on the third-rated Minnesota State football team, came to the Mavericks with probably more knowledge about the program than most of his teammates.

A three-year starter at Mankato West, Schlichte racked up over 2,000 yards passing and 25 touchdowns as a sophomore and junior with the Scarlets. His senior year of high school, in which he threw for 3,141 yards and 45 touchdowns, he earned Minnesota High School Gatorade Player of the Year, Minnesota AP Player of the Year, Big 9 Player of the Year and USA Today Minnesota Player of the Year honors.

The connection with the local NCAA DII football program came with Ryan’s father, Dave, a defensive back and quarterback for the Mavericks in the early 1980s. Dave, a native of Wilmont, Minn., native who prepped at Worthington High School, served as offensive coordinator under Minnesota State head coach Dan Runkle following his college playing career.

“From as long as I can remember, our family went to the games at The Blake. It seemed like every Saturday the Mavericks had a home game and in the back of my mind it wasn’t me watching the Gophers, but it was me watching the Mavericks play. That kind of transitioned as to what I was playing when I was younger and into high school. My dad was a coach and always had great insight. I didn’t always listen to it first, but I’ve come to appreciate his knowledge of the game and for what he’s done for me as a player and for a young man as well,” Schlichte said.

“As a young man he definitely helped me mature and to treat everyone that I would like to be treated,” said Schlichte. “My dad treated everyone with respect and treated everyone the same. That’s how I’ve always kept that open mind and try to get to know as many guys as I can. I try to find something about someone on the team if I don’t know everyone on the team. I’ve always tried to be a leader and pick people back up when they are down.”

Following a redshirt year on 2015, Schlichte saw action in seven games as a freshman in 2016 prior to assuming the starting role for the Mavericks as a sophomore, helping guide the team to a 13-1 record as they claimed an NSIC Championship and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Sharing starting duties with J.D. Ekowa in 2018, Minnesota State again posted a 13-1 record.

Dave Schlichte feels Ryan’s exposure to the Mavericks and the college football culture likely has played a role in Ryan’s success at Minnesota State. 

“Being a part of a team was one of the best moments I had at college and I thought it was something that would be good for him to be exposed to,” said Dave. “I think the ups and downs we had when we played made our group closer and that’s what being a part of team is all about.”

 In playing for his college coaches, Dave learned that there’s more than one way to get things done in understanding Al Sandona and Dan Runkle very different coaches and how they not only wanted their teams to play, but also how they worked with their players. “Sandona was more defensive than an offensive style and Runkle was more offensive than defensive,” said the senior Schlichte.  “It was an adjustment switching everything around between the two coaches, but we were able to overcome all of the years that we were struggling to winning the conference championship within a five-year span.”

On becoming a college coach right out of college, Dave felt that it was something he was ready for, even if it was a young age. “Runk’s staff was allowed to voice your thoughts and opinions on what to do. Sometimes as a team we were trying to figure out a way to be competitive. The hardest thing about changing from a player to coach was that it wasn’t about you anymore it was about the players and what their future holds. It also was about their families and what was best for them. Sometimes the mindset changes completely and it can’t be about you."

A football family, which besides Ryan and Dave includes Ryan’s mother Jody and brother, Jay, who was a tight end at Minnesota Duluth, you know where you’ll be able to find the Schlichte’s in the fall.  Most likely they’ll be at a football game.

                          - contributed by Mason Tonsager, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern