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Welcome to MavBlog • Providing Insite & Information on the Mavericks Since 1985Mankato, Minn.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A World Away

Bankok native Kanyapak Sethasompobe was the 2013-14
NSIC Women's Golfer of the Year
The flight from Bankok to Minneapolis is 8,298 miles.  Drive another another hour and half south from the airport to Mankato and you’re a world away from home.

A member of the Minnesota State women’s golf team, junior Kanyapak Sethasompobe, who hails from the most populous city in Thailand, seems to be doing just fine in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, thank you. Given the success she’s had in her first three years in the Key City, the long commute from her hometown has not stopped her from having an extremely successful career with the Mavericks. 

Named the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Women’s Golfer of the Year following her sophomore year in 2013-14, Sethasompobe has been one of Minnesota State’s top individuals since making her way to Mankato prior to the start of the 2012-13 campaign.  After averaging 82.3 as a freshman, she lowered that to 78.3 as a sophomore while recording four first-place tournament finishes and earning NSIC Women’s Golfer of the Week honors three times during the course of the season. She’s averaging 79.3 for her junior season.

In terms of international recruiting, every story has its own unique facet.  For Sethasompobe, rather than letting the recruiters come to her, she thought she would take the initiative and send out an email with her profile attached for recruiters to see. 

One of the email recipients was Minnesota State women’s golf coach Nick Campa. “When looking at the information we were seeing, we thought we didn’t have a chance to land her because she was so highly rated,” said Campa, who is in his 25th year leading the Mavericks.  “But the email she sent to us gave us positive thoughts on possibly getting her to come to Minnesota State.” 

While Sethasompobe occasionally traveled to the United States for tournaments before coming to Minnesota State, moving to Mankato was still a tough transition.  “It’s very cold here in Minnesota.  Before I had come to Mankato, I had never seen snow before.”  While the cold weather and becoming more fluent in English were two of the most difficult things to adjust to, Sethasompobe has really enjoyed her time with the Mavericks.  “We have a lot of fun as a team.  My teammates have been so supportive of me and have always been there when I’ve needed help with school or just someone to talk to.”

Campa was convinced Sethasompobe would be able to have an impact right away and has been impressed as his international player has grown as a person.  “She’s meant a lot to the program.  Right off the bat she was one of the top players on the team as a freshman.  She is a great teammate and a great leader. She is one of the girls who you like to point out to kids to show them how to be a great example.” 

Looking ahead to the rest of the season, Sethasompobe and Campa have similar goals in mind.  “We’re off to a great start to the spring and hopefully we can keep that momentum going into nationals this year,” Sethasompobe said. 

“These last few tournaments have been great confidence boosters for our team,” said Campa.  “We’re looking to keep our confidence up going into the end of the year and into the postseason.”

The Mavericks have made seven straight NCAA tournament appearances and in addition to hoping to make it eight straight, will be looking to improve on last year’s eighth-place finish at the regional championship.

A communications major, Sethasompobe is hoping to make a possible run at joining the LPGA following her collegiate career.  

    Contributed by Cameron Klade, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Right Back Where He Started From

Stephon Williams
Hockey culture is interesting, isn’t it.

For example, many of those involved in the game can recall that the sound track of the 1970’s movie Slap Shot included a Maxine Nightingale song entitled “Right Back Where We Started From.”

And for Minnesota State junior goaltender Stephon Williams that song takes on added meaning given the year he’s having.  For not unlike his freshman year in 2012-13, he appears to right back where he started from.

Fresh out of a stellar junior hockey career that saw him help lead Waterloo to an appearance in the United States Hockey League Clark Cup finals, the Fairbanks, Alaska native didn’t skip a beat in earning Western Collegiate Hockey Association Rookie of the Year and All-WCHA First Team honors, while racking up a 21-12-2 record and a .924 save percentage while helping lead Minnesota State to a second-place league finish en route to a NCAA postseason appearance in 2012-13.

Drafted in the fourth round (106th overall) by the New York Islanders in the 2013 National Hockey League Draft, Williams suffered a “bump in the road” season as a sophomore that saw his numbers and confidence dip.

But, now well into  the stretch drive of his junior campaign, he’s back to where he started from with even better numbers than his freshman year.  He’s back over the 20-win mark, his goals against average is well below 2.00 and the save percentage is in the .925 range. Williams attributes several factors as to the reasons why he’s rebounded.

“I think one of the biggest things has been maturation to a certain extent,” said Williams, who ranks amongst the nation’s leaders in wins, goals against average and save percentage. “It’s how you handle success and how you handle failure.  I learned a lot last year on how to take the best out of each situation and to learn.  How to block out things that don’t matter and to keep doing what makes me me.”

He also said that the culture of the program has played an important role. “The biggest thing about our culture is that we control what we control and strive to do that every day.  In practice and in games.  We can control our effort, our attitude and that’s something you have to bring every day.  Not every shift is going to go your way....how you approach things. And it all adds up.” 

Minnesota State head coach Mike Hastings echoes his netminder. “Stephon has continued to mature and grow as a young man in situations that call for handling success along with the different things that life can throw at you.  But there’s no doubt that his consistency has been the backbone for where we are as a team right now.”

And where the Mavericks are as a team right now is a place where the program has never been before.  Ranked #1 in the nation four times in a five-week span in January and February, Minnesota State has maintained a position amongst the country’s elite. 

Minnesota State has never been rated #1 before.  The Mavericks won the WCHA postseason tournament last year, something new for the program. And a league regular-season title has now been checked off the check list.  A a couple of other unaccomplished tasks, like advancing past the first round of the NCAA tournament and an appearance in the NCAA Frozen Four, still loom

Williams says it’s taken a concerted team effort in order to get where the program is now, but the expectations are set even higher.

“It’s really been everyone involved. The freshmen come in and have contributed right away. Everyone else is working hard to improve every day and we’ve had certain guys step up every game.  There’s been a positive effect with all of us on the same page to make the team better.  It’s been cool seeing it happen in front of your eyes and we’ve continued to get better on a weekly basis. The season has been an awesome experience, but we still have work to do. It’s been guys pushing each other. Coaches pushing us.  It’s great to be honored with the rankings, but ultimately we have goals and we have keep working hard every day.  We play in a tough conference and we play a tough schedule, but obviously we wouldn’t want to have it any other way.”

It's great to be a Maverick.

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Sleeping Giant

Now that we're thoroughly past last weekend's festivities in Mankato, we can fully jump in to what's going on with out spring sports.

Sort of.

Almost across the board, our winter sports teams have emulated what our fall teams accomplished.

That is, rank amongst the nation's best. Unequivocally. The Maverick football team and women's soccer team both at one point in the fall were rated number one in the country at the same time. To have two teams rated #1 at the same time is something that had never occurred previously at this fine institution. Then, at one point this winter the Minnesota State men's hockey program and our men's track & field program were rated #1 in the nation at the same time.

Having our football team play in a national championship game was something that had never happened before. So was having a pair of teams rated #1 in the nation happen twice in one season.  As is having four programs during the course of the season rated #1.

We hosted the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Indoor Track & Field Championships last Thursday and Friday, a pair of Western Collegiate Hockey Association games at Verizon Wireless Center Friday and Saturday and also hosted the NCAA DII Wrestling Super Region 3 Tournament in Taylor Center Saturday and Sunday.  Nearly 15,000 fans visited Mankato for these events over the course of four days and they saw some unbelievable performances in which our student-athletes won conference and regional championships. Hockey fans were treated to a battle between the #2 (Minnesota State) and #3-rated (Michigan Tech) teams in the country.

We're sending three wrestlers to the national championship meet, we're sending seven members of our track & field teams to nationals and four members of the Maverick women's swim team will also compete at the DII national championships. The brackets for the NCAA DII basketball tournaments will be announced Sunday and hopefully, both our men's and women's teams will find out their postseason destinations. 

The Maverick baseball and softball teams are in Florida with their seasons in full swing. Women's tennis and men's and women's golf will follow suit. Along with outdoor track, expectations are that those sports are ready to compete on a national level.

One of the top athletic departments in NCAA Division II (with DI men's and women's hockey) is situated in Mankato, Minnesota. I know it sounds like bragging, but as one of our local writing denizens likes to say "is it not true?"

When I first came to Mankato in 1985, I had a colleague tell me that he thought Mankato State was "a sleeping giant."  That was a while ago, but it appears that the giant is no longer so sleepy.

It's great to be a Maverick!