Whereas JR's column talked about his perception five years ago as to whether or not Kendra, a Mankato native, would be able to have an impact as a softball player with the Mavericks (she did), our conversation was one in which now that her career is over, is there anyone, male or female, who has been as successful on and off the court as Kendra has been?
Kendra is probably the most decorated student-athlete in the history of the school. By decorated we are referring to awards she has won. And, in fairness to other great MSU student-athletes (of which there are many), the opportunity to win awards nowadays is much greater than it was 25 years ago. There are many more organizations doling out awards, athletic departments are doing a better job of publicizing accomplishments and the web has opened the door for more people to have a say, so current intercollegiate student-athletes have more opportunities to get recognition.
That being said, there's no denying Kendra's greatness as a softball player during her time at MSU which spans the last four seasons (five if you count a redshirt year). She holds school records for career strike outs and appearances and ranks highly in several other statistical categories as well. And while she was a NSCA Third Team All-America this year, it was her academic accomplishments that seperate her from the rest of the field. Named the Capital One Academic All-American of the Year for DII Softball this year (along with just about every other conceivable award she could win), she had a 3.99 grade point average and graduated with a degree in nursing. She's one of our all-time top softball players and will be remembered as one of the school's top all-around student athletes.
Her MSU doppleganger, albeit from a different era, is women's basketball player Lisa (Walters) Sukalski. Inducted into the MSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1998, Lisa was a silky and graceful forward/center who led the Mavericks to their first-ever women's basketball North Central Conference title and first-ever NCAA tournament appearance as a sophomore in 1985-86. Lisa, who like Huettl was the national Academic All-America of Year for her sport, MSU's top female student-athlete and the league's top female student-athlete as a senior, owns several of MSU's scoring and rebounding career records. The Henderson, Minn., native epitomized the term student-athlete, combining success on and off the court. And, again not unlike Kendra, one of Lisa's most likable traits was that it was pretty obvious that while she appreciated the awards, her focus was on the team and on her school work.
Lisa, who spent a year playing professionally in Sweden after graduating from MSU, was inducted into MSU's Hall of Fame immediately after becoming eligible following ten years after playing for the Mavericks.
We fully expect that Kendra will follow a similar path.
It's great to be a Maverick.