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Thursday, September 16, 2021

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


Jay Larson (second from the right) with some of his Maverick teammates.

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 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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Center of Things

Dan Donovan was an All-NCC
center for the Mavericks in 1989

Former Minnesota State football offensive lineman Dan Donovan played for the Mavericks from 1985 to 1989. In 1987 Minnesota State finished with an 9-3 record, 8-1 in the NCC finishing first and claiming North Central Conference champions and in doing so, became a part of the first Maverick football team to make an NCAA tournament appearance.

A 1985 graduate of Burnsville (Minn.) High School and a First Team All-North Central Conference selection for the Mavericks in 1989, Donovan went on after college graduation to get his master’s degree from Georgia Tech while serving as a graduate assistant coach for the Georgia Tech football team. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Donovan worked on the event side of sports. He ran sports technology for the 1996 Summer Olympic local committee in Atlanta. Dan continued to work Olympic games being the Head of Sport Competition in the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Then in Athletes 2004 and Beijing 2006 he was the Consultant for Venue and Games readiness. 

 Now Donovan is the founder and managing partner for Stratoscope security and crowd management.

MavBlog: Talk about your playing days here at Minnesota State, what do you remember the most?

Dan Donovan (DD): I enjoyed all five years I was with the Mavericks! The 1987 North Central Conference championship and NCAA playoff year was a special team to be a part of. Beating North Dakota State in Fargo that season was a real highlight! I happened to have had mono leading up to that game and It was my first game back, so it was a huge win that led us to believe we could be NCC Champions!

MavBlog: How would you describe winning the NCC and being the first Minnesota State football team to make the NCAA tournament?

DD: The experience is hard to describe given the growth of the program and how quickly the pieces came together. Alot of the credit goes to those who laid the foundation before our ’87 team. I came in with the ’85 class and we had great upper-class leadership. We lost our starting QB, Greg Von der Lippe, in the middle of the year and fortunately Mike McDevitt did a great job stepping for Greg.

MavBlog: Do you still keep in touch with any of your former teammates?

DD: We have a group that stays connected (Darryl Wills, Von der Lippe, Chad Gossard, Ken Otto, Dain Jeppson, Ron Dorf and Drew Ekstrom) communicate regularly. We each have others that we are connected to that keeps us all together.

MavBlog: How much pride do you take in the success of the Minnesota State football team now?

DD: I follow as much as possible. I live in Palm Beach, Fla., now so I am not as connected as I could be, but our group keeps us all informed. I am closely watching the Mavericks in the Frozen Four this week given the NCAA is a major client of my company.

MavBlog: Talk about how head coach Dan Runkle had an impact on your life?

DD: Coach Runkle led the effort building the foundation to get to the ’87 Championship. Coach Krohn, Schlichte, Roach and others were great mentors. As a center I was closest to Coach Krohn, he did a great job balancing the personalities!

MavBlog: Tell us about your family.

DD: I have two great kids, Sydni (22) and Chance (21) who were born in Sydney, Australia while I was in charge of the sports department for the Sydney Olympics. Sydni plays college basketball and Chance works for a division of my company.

MavBlog: What are you doing now and how did you get to do that?

DD: I own and run two companies, Stratoscope and Ingressotek, in the sport & entertainment industry. Our typical clients are teams, leagues, stadiums and major events. I began in the event industry, after leaving Georgia Tech as a grad assistant in 1994, starting with the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. I have been fortunate to work with 7 Olympic Games, 13 Super Bowls, 4 NBA All-Star weekends, numerous engagements with the NCAA and many stadiums and arenas over the past 20+ years. 

 My Stratoscope team is currently working with the NCAA on the delivery of all the 2021 Championships. We have a full time Operations Center in NCAA HQ in Indianapolis staffed by our team and staff at each round of every event operationalizing the Resturn to Championships Protocols we wrote in 2020. My leads at the Di Hockey Regionals were very busy dealing with issues with the Notre Dame and Michigan hockey teams and their COVID results onsite. With the completion and Men’s and Women’s Final Fours we have completed over 50 events in the past 6 weeks.

MavBlog: What is it like working during the Super Bowl?

DD: Super Bowls are a unique experience! Our engagement started after they had multiple challenges with the game in Houston, streaker, ingress challenges and a halftime wardrobe malfunction that included Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson. We were hired as the “what if” operational readiness team and helped the NFL develop contingencies and more robust NFL Control centralized operations on game day. Our first Super Bowl in Jacksonville, the service level of the stadium basically flooded during pre-game, just a few operational challenges! Was involved in the lights going out in New Orleans, train problems in NY/NJ and a variety of issues along the way. It’s a great event to be a part of working alongside a large team of experts.

MavBlog: What is it like working the Olympics? And what is the most memorable one?

DD: International events are completely different beast. From language challenges to various funding models the objectives for each organizing committee vary. Bringing 28 Olympic sports together during a two-week event in one city is a significant challenge. My most memorable was the 2000 Sydney Olympics! I was essentially the Athletic Director responsible for the delivery of all 28 sports. I had the opportunity to travel the world attending events and International Federation meetings while leading a team for 400 staff and 8,000 volunteers dedicated to providing the best events we could for the athletes. All of the politics aside that is what we the Olympics are there for. I also had the opportunity to be an Olympic Torch runner that year which is one of the most memorable experiences from the Games.

MavBlog: Do you still come back for some Football games or any Mavericks athletics?

DD:  The last game I was able to attend was the national championship game in McKinney, Tex. We had a great group of alumni at that game. Prior to that it was the reunion of the 1987 team in 2017. We had a great turnout there and it was fantastic to catch up with a number of our former teammates.

                       Contributed by Tanner Johnson, Minnesota Athletic Communications intern

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Rushing Ahead


Minnesota State has been one of the most dominant NCAA Division II football programs of the last decade and a case could be made that one of the key reasons for the success starts with the Maverick offensive line.

These things are cyclical, of course and long-time followers of the program will point to the Bob Otto-era of the 1950s and 1960s when the likes of Hall of Fame running back Bernie Maczuga rambled for 3,129 yards along the ground from 1967-69. The program had All-Americans in the trenches with the likes of Scott Annexstad and Duane Goldammer in the late 1980s when the Mavericks featured an option-oriented offense, but it's only been recently that the program's rushing numbers from those times have been surpassed in the school's record books.

Todd Hoffner was named head coach of the Mavericks before the start of the 2008 season and he transformed a team that finished 4-7 the year before into a team that finished 9-3, won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference South Division and qualified for the NCAA tournament for the fourth time in school history. 

In 2007, Minnesota State finished 4-7 while throwing the ball for 376.4 yards a game and rushing for 41.5 yards a game. Hoffner changed the narrative to running the ball. In his second season in 2009, Minnesota State finished with a 10-2 record and were NSIC South Division Champions. The Mavericks qualified for their second straight NCAA Tournament  and hosted the first playoff game at Blakeslee Stadium for the first time. That year, they ran for 216.8 yards per game and 34 total rushing touchdowns while throwing the ball for 180.8 yards per game and putting up 23 touchdowns through the air. Hoffner quickly turned that pass-first offense around with a win-in-the trenches mentality where his team ran the ball through opponents unrelentlessly.

Chad Henning, a Sun Prairie, Wis., native who played on the Minnesota State offensive line from 2007-11, now is a coach with the Mavericks where he serves as the program's offensive line coach. He had been a part of two completely different offensive schemes while at MSU.

“Well, my freshman year we were a 95% passing offense,” Coach Henning said. “When Coach Hoffner got here, we changed that completely. We ran the ball about 60% of the time and had some really good luck doing so. The size of the offensive line helped run block for sure.”

You cannot run the football without a great offensive line. Over the course of history, Minnesota State football has had 18 All-American offensive linemen, dating back to 1974 when Dan Miller was the first offensive linemen to receive All-American honors. Minnesota State’s Evan Heim, who was named an All-American in 2018 and 2019, was the last Maverick lineman to be honored before he graduated in the fall of 2019. Heim, who started in all 54 games at left tackle during his career at MSU, was the anchor in the offensive line while the Mavericks made a run at the national championship in 2019 - group of offensive linemen that refer to themselves The Hogs.

“Being a hog offensive lineman just meant about being something bigger than yourself and offensive line is one of the only positions in sports where all five guys need to do their job in order for us to be successful,” Heim said.

As successful as they were, in the 2019 season the Mavericks set a program record 4,246 total yards along with the single-season rushing yards record, the Mavericks also set records in points scored (712), rushing attempts (713) and rushing touchdowns (59) and ranked fifth in the nation for rushing offense.

“We were very dominate up front but the offensive line only gets you so far like ten yards but all runs more than that is thanks to offensive line sustaining blocks and caring about the team and doing it for the team and wide receiver downfield blocking where most schools wide receiver don’t care about blocking and normally wide receiver are very selfish but not at Mankato,” Heim said. “Also helps to have great tight end (Tyler Schmidt) and an All-American running back (Nate Gunn). Having a great offensive line is just part of the equation.”

Minnesota State takes pride in its offensive line and bringing in the best linemen every year. The Mavericks rushing offense had made the top 20 in the nation seven out of the last nine years. Those two seasons they did not, were the only two seasons they lost more than one game, one was in 2015, they finished 10-2, with 227.7 rushing yards per game, 25th in the nation for rushing offense. The other was in 2016 where they finished 8-3, with only 169.5 rushing yards per game, 60th in the nation for rushing offense.

 Colin Prosser joined the Minnesota State staff as offensive line coach in 2017 and now serves as the program's offensive coordinator. Under his leadership the Maverick offensive line led a third-ranked rushing offense in the nation with 4,036 rushing yards on the year for an average of 288.3 rushing yards per game in his first year. The Mavericks set a program single-season rushing yards record with 4,246 yards on the ground in 2019. MSU also set records in points scored (712), rushing attempts (713) and rushing touchdowns (59) and ranked fifth in the nation for rushing offense.

“Coach Prosser has done a great job of holding everyone accountable and getting the most out of his players,” said Henning. “We are a lot better now than we were back then when I played, not only as a talent level but also from a depth perspective. We have a lot more pride in the offensive line room now.”

 Contributed by Tanner Johnson, Minnesota State Athletic Communications student intern

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Checking in with Rachel Shumski

Rachel Shumski is averaging 13.6 points
per game as a senior for Minnesota State

A senior forward (and a graduate student academically) with the Minnesota State women’s basketball team, Rachel Shumski is a three-time member of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference All-Academic Team.  She's also president of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.  MavBlog took a moment to check in with the Granada, Minn., native to see how she and and head coach Emilee Thiesse are doing in this challenging season. 

MavBlog: How is the season going?

Rachel Shumski (RS): The season is going well as we can play and have the opportunity to get better each day. Not many teams have that opportunity, and I (we) are so grateful.

MavBlog:  What are some challenges you see when displaying leadership to a young team?

RS: Some challenges that I see when displaying my leadership style or leadership (in general): creating the understanding that the expectations are the same for everyone - no matter your age, etc.

MavBlog:  How stressful is COVID testing protocols and why?

RS: COVID testing protocols are not stressful for the student-athletes as it has created the opportunity for us to play. I can see this being stressful for others involved - trainers, athletic administration, coaches, etc.

MavBlog:  How frustrating is it when there are schedule changes to your games?

RS: It may be frustrating at the moment, as we love to plan - everyone loves to plan! But, again, we must look back and understand that this an opportunity that we can play rather than dwell on the changes that we can't control.

MavBlog:  How do you feel about how this season is going so far?

RS: The season has contained some highs and lows, but it sure has been fun to compete with my best friends beside me. We have four games left before the conference tournament. Taking and applying the learning lessons from the lows throughout the season will help us as a team have success as we move forward.

MavBlog:  Can you tell me about a time that Rachel demonstrated leadership skills?

Emilee Thiesse (ET): Rachel is a natural born leader. Rachel has gone above and beyond to keep our team connected. At times when we have had players in quarantine, she has been a true servant leader in reaching out to her teammates, checking-in regularly, offering to help anyone in need of supplies, etc. She truly cares about her teammates and their overall wellbeing. She has always had the natural ability to lead both in her communication and in her effort. As a sophomore Rachel experienced a season ending injury which can be hard to manage physically, but almost more of the battle during injuries is the emotional and mental toll it can take. Rachel handled her situation with an incredible amount of poise, maturity, and selflessness. She never felt sorry for herself and always put the team first! She would do her injury rehab around practice time, then during practice she was as engaged as the healthy players. She was consistently bringing energy and positivity, staying involved in drills and huddles, coaching younger players between reps, etc.

It made a significant impact on our team that even if Rachel wasn’t out on the court competing, we still felt her leadership and presence day in and day out. When she was cleared to return to basketball activities it was such a natural transition back to the chemistry on the team because of the involvement and leadership she brought while she was out.

MavBlog:  How does she hold her teammates accountable?

ET: She is so caring for those around her, always bringing positivity and lifting others up. She has a great balance of holding her teammates accountable by knowing what each teammate needs in a given situation and how to get through to them. Her teammates know that she cares for them and wants them to be their best.

 Contributed by Mason Tonsager, Athletic Communications student intern

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Where Are They Now? Blaine Joerger

Blaine Joerger racked up
1,475 points in his four years with
the Mavericks

Former Minnesota State men’s basketball guard Blaine Joerger played from 1996 until 2000 with the Mavericks where he was one of the best three-point sharp-shooters and overall scorers to ever don the Purple & Gold.

The Staples, Minn., native held the school record for most three-pointers made with 241 when he graduated in 2000, a record that was later broken by a recent inductee into the Minnesota State University Hall of Fame, Luke Anderson. Joerger ranked sixth all-time in scoring upon graduation and currently ranks tenth all-time with 1,475 points. Joerger scored 407 points in his sophomore season, 500 points in his junior season and 395 points in his senior season as a Maverick. 

Joerger also ranks third on the single-season three-point field goals made list with 87 made during his junior season.

On back-to-back nights back in 1999, Joerger enjoyed what was probably his best weekend of college basketball when he scored 40 points vs. Augustana and 42 against South Dakota State. All told, he shot 25-of-42 from the field, including 17 of 31 from three-point range, and was 15 of 18 on free throws.

While playing basketball for the Mavericks, Joerger ended up interning with Northwestern Mutual in Mankato back in 1999 and he has been with the company ever since.

MavBlog checked in this week with Joerger who now resides with his family in Richfield, Minn.

MavBlog: What are you up to these days?
Blaine Joerger: Living in Richfield, where I first moved to after graduating college. I work as a financial advisor for Northwestern Mutual, the same job and company I started with as a college intern while playing for the Mavericks!

MavBlog: Tell us about your family.
Blaine Joerger: Wife, Kyla, and three kids. Our oldest son is a junior this year in high school and plays soccer and basketball. Have a seventh grade daughter who is also into basketball and tennis and our youngest is in first grade and she does whatever her older siblings are doing!

MavBlog: How has Minnesota State affected your career after college?
Blaine Joerger: While I played for the Mavericks, I made several great relationships with professors, coaches, and other students. Having been on the basketball team, I was fortunate to be able to meet a number of community members as well as other athletes within the University. These interactions were beneficial as I transitioned from college to the work force.

MavBlog: Following his college playing career, your brother David has gone on to a coaching career that includes NBA head-coaching stints with Memphis and Sacramento.  What kind of impact has your brother had on you?
Blaine Joerger: While in high school and college Dave made a tremendous impact on me and the athlete I became. Very few people understand what he did and went through to get where he is today, but I was fortunate enough to have a front row seat! Yes, he is gifted in the sense of basketball acumen, but the amount of work he put in and the sacrifices he made are what set him apart. His dedication and work ethic (along with high expectations within our high school programs) set the bar high for me early in my athletic career. I learned from Dave that natural talent alone wasn’t going to make me successful.

MavBlog: What were some of your most memorable moments as a Maverick?
Blaine Joerger: It may seem a little cliché, but the most memorable moments are those with my teammates outside of games. Don’t get me wrong, my brain works in such a way that I could still tell you how many points I scored, how I scored them and the shots I missed from a good number of games in college. However, most of my retrievable memories include personal interactions and activities with my teammates.

If we’re talking on the court memorable moments —
    • Beating SDSU the last weekend of the season at Otto when they were ranked #1 in the country (during my sophomore season) that gave us a shot at being selected to NCAA tournament, which ended up not happening.

    • January of 1999 games - I had a decent month and was named National D2 player for the month.

    • Playing the last collegiate basketball game at Otto with the knowledge of the rich history of all that had taken place within the arena.

MavBlog: What was it like playing in Otto Arena?
Blaine Joerger: I have mixed feelings about Otto. When I was recruited to play, the idea was that home conference games were going to be played at the civic center, which had recently been built. That never transpired, which is too bad. Otto was really fun to play in when it’d get filled up- but I’ll tell you I don’t miss running on the concrete like floor! I’ll always be able to say I played the last college basketball game in Otto my senior year. I can also say it was tough to watch the new Taylor Center being built and walking by it each day knowing I was one year off from playing in it!

MavBlog:  Do you keep in touch with any of your former teammates from Minnesota State?
Blaine Joerger: Yep, quite a few actually. The cool thing about the relationships I built while playing basketball in Mankato is that I keep in touch with two different age “tiers” on a regular basis. I have the guys my age and older and then the crew that was younger as I was finishing college. Each group gets together at least once per year, including a fantasy football league that I started while in college as a team bonding activity that is still active. Some of my best friends are from the basketball team.

MavBlog: Tell us about your experience with your coach with the Mavericks, Dan McCarrell.
Blaine Joerger:  Mac was great and I’m very appreciative of him allowing the me the opportunity to play college basketball. He is simply a good, down to earth type of guy who cared for his players. Coach was full of basketball knowledge and I always enjoyed listening to his stories. I still keep in touch and now swap some of my own basketball stories with him!

MavBlog: Tell us about your experience with refereeing high school and college basketball.
Blaine Joerger: I got into officiating basketball while in college as I was intrigued to experience the game from an unbiased viewpoint and wanted to put my own basketball experience as a player to work. Plus, it was a great way to earn some money while doing something I enjoyed!

After college, I found officiating to be a way to stay connected to the sport as I had zero desire to coach. Also, I wanted to give back to the game as I didn’t always feel all officials fully understood the game from a player standpoint. I was fairly successful and given some opportunities early in my career to move up through the high school ranks. I also had a couple doors open to break into the local D2, D3 & JUCO leagues at a relatively young age. Eventually I only officiated college basketball and attempted to work my way into the D1 level. After several years attempting to get hired onto a D1 staff, I was told by the people in power that it likely wasn’t going to happen. While disappointed, it all worked out with the direction the rest of my life ended up heading. The last year I officiated basketball was the 2013-14 season.

Since officiating, I’ve gotten involved in coaching a lot of youth basketball. It’s kind of fun to be one of the few people out there with a good amount of experience from playing, officiating, and coaching and being able to see the game from multiple perspectives at the same time.

MavBlog:  How well did you know another sharp-shooting guard from the Mavericks.........Brian Koepnick?
Blaine Joerger:  I got to know him a little bit in the years after I played with the Mavericks. We had lunch a couple of times and we even officiated a few basketball games together. I knew of his battle (Brian Koepnick recently passed away after a lengthy bout with cancer), but he was never one to bring it up. He was a good dude with a positive outlook on life, even in his darkest hours. His legacy will live on as one the best basketball players to ever put on a Maverick jersey.

MavBlog: Do you still come back for some Mavericks athletics?
Blaine Joerger:  Not as much recently as I’d like. It’s amazing how quickly a calendar can fill up with your own kids! The guys I played with attempt to come back at least one time per season to take in a basketball game. I’ve missed the past couple of years due to scheduling conflicts, but it’s always fun to come back when I can. I’ve brought a few of my son’s traveling basketball teams to play in winter tourneys played at MSU simply because of my history at the school - has been a good reason to make a trip to Mankato!

    Contributed by Hogan Greenwood, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Where Are They Now? Shane Joseph

Shane Joseph registered 68 goals and 76 assists
for 144 points in 139 games at Minnesota State

Minnesota State's foray into the NCAA Division I men's hockey ranks only goes back into the mid-1990's and it wasn't until the 1999-2000 season that the Mavericks became members of the vaunted Western Collegiate Hockey Association - a league at the time that included the likes of the University of Minnesota, North Dakota, Denver and the University of Wisconsin.

Under the guidance of coaching legend Don Brose, Minnesota State put up a 21-14-4 mark in that first season in the WCHA, but three years later, in 2002-03, the Mavericks made a splash with a regular season that included an amazing 17-game unbeaten streak, a second-place finish in the league standings and the first-ever invitation to the NCAA DI men's hockey postseason tournament.

The Minnesota State offense that year featured a pair of dynamic forwards from Alberta in junior Shane Joseph and sophomore Grant Stevenson. Joseph finished the year with 29 goals and 36 assists for 65 points in 41 games, while his running mate Stevenson racked up 63 points on 27 goals and 36 points in 38 games. Both were named All-Americans.  Stevenson signed a free agent contract with the National Hockey League's San Jose Sharks following the conclusion of the season, while Joseph, who had 19 goals and 24 assists for 43 points as a senior with the Mavericks, would also sign with the Sharks following the 2003-04 campaign. 

Joseph, a Brooks, Alta., native, totalled 144 career points and ranks fourth on the school's career scoring charts for the DI-era.

MavBlog recently checked in with Joseph, who resides with his family in the Twin Cities.

MavBlog: How did you end up playing for Minnesota State?
Shane Joseph: I was originally planning on playing major junior.  Saskatoon cut me and at that moment I decided to go to college. Playing junior hockey in Canmore I believe Eric Means was the first to come watch, followed by Jutts and Brosie.  They asked me to come there a month into the year and I liked what I saw..... had the potential to make an impact on a program and didn’t look back.  

MavBlog: You were an All-American on the team that made the school’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I tournament.  Tell us what you remember about that season in 2002-03.
Shane Joseph: We had such a good group of guys, and it will go down as the most memorable year of hockey I have been a part of.  We worked hard, had fun and enjoyed a team confidence that propelled us to go on......what was it 17 games unbeaten?  That was Fun!

MavBlog: The chemistry you had with a fellow Albertan in Grant Stevenson was noticeable in that great run in 2002-03.  What was it like playing with Grant, both with the Mavericks and then later on with Cleveland in the American Hockey League?
Shane Joseph: Grant was a special player, very intelligent and extremely skilled......not to mention could fly.  We just had great chemistry.......we also pushed each other that year and we had a confidence going out together that we were going to make it happen.  

MavBlog: After your time in the San Jose Sharks organization, you headed to Germany where you played for four teams in the DEL.  What was it like playing pro hockey in Europe?
Shane Joseph: Europe was a lot of fun with a lot of great memories.  However, I remember getting there my first day and they dropped me off at my apartment.  This was before everyone had cell phones and GPS.  They gave me a map, circled the rink and told me to be here at 10 a.m. tomorrow.  I remember laying in that apartment with no phone, internet, tv and not speaking a lick of German and asking myself what I got myself into.  Made it to the rink the next day and met the team and it was amazing from that point out.  The hockey is great, the atmosphere of the games is exciting and it was great to travel and experience the German culture and make some great friendships along the way. 

MavBlog: Tell us what you’ve been doing following the conclusion of your professional hockey career.
Shane Joseph: I help people buy and sell homes.  In other words, I am a realtor here in the Twin Cities.  

MavBlog: How did your experience with the Mavericks and Minnesota State serve you after you graduated in 2003-04?
Shane Joseph: I was just a punk, naive 18-year old kid coming in......I grew up a lot during my time with the Mavericks.  There were a lot of great teammates, coaches and staff who guided me through those five years.  Other than the education of course, my time at MSU taught me a lot about being an adult and a professional. 

MavBlog: Tell us about your family.
Shane Joseph: I am blessed with a beautiful wife (former Minnesota State volleyball player Melanie Jude) and three beautiful daughters.   Lydia (9), Adeline (7), and Lucille (2).  We are busy with sports and activities......a wise person told me you aren’t busy, you are just are just living full and to embrace it.  I try to remind myself of that often  :)

MavBlog: Do you keep in touch with any of your former Maverick teammates?
Shane Joseph: That is one of the best things about playing with this program.  The tight-knit bond that is created there not only with players you played with, but with other hockey alumni, as well.  There is a large group of us that all hang out in the Twin Cities and, of course, the alumni events throughout the year bring everyone together. 

MavBlog: Are you still playing? What else do you do besides work and spending time with your family?
Shane Joseph: I started to play a little again last year with some guys, and it was great to get back on the ice.  I didn’t play for seven years after I retired and it was good to get back to enjoying the game again. Other than that, you can only have so many hobbies and the one I choose is golf.  It has become an addiction :)

Monday, October 19, 2020

Where Are They Now? Darryl Wills

Darryl Wills was an All-American
for the Mavericks in 1987

Throughout the years, Minnesota State Football has had great success and been fortunate to play in many big playoff games.

Realistically, though, considering the fact that varsity football has been here since 1922, NCAA playoff games are a relatively recent phenomenon. The head coach of the Mavericks beginning in 1983 was Dan Runkle. And after a couple of sub-.500 years, things began to get better. By 1986, Runk’s team won six of its seven games, serving as a portent of what was to come next fall. And what did come next fall was a 9-3 overall record and an 8-1 mark in conference play for the program’s first North Central Conference championship and, for the first time, a place in the NCAA Division II postseason tournament.

A key player on the 1987 team was Nicollet, Minn., native, Darryl Wills. A two-year starter at free safety for the Mavericks from 1986-87, Wills was second on the team in tackles as a senior with 107 and recorded seven career interceptions over the course of his college career.

A two-time All-NCC pick, Wills was named All-American by the Football Gazette as a senior and in 2013, he was inducted into the Minnesota State Athletics Hall of Fame.

MavBlog recently checked in with Wills, who lives with his family in Chaska, Minn.

MavBlog:  Tell me a little about yourself

Darryl Wills:
I’ve been married for 27 years to LizAnn (MSU grad) and we have two childern - Madyson 23 (MSU grad), Dawson 20 – attending Washburn University, where he’s a junior with the men’s golf program.  I work for Optum, serving the last 15 years in my current role of SVP Payer Sales.

MavBlog: What was the adjustment like, playing high school football in Nicollet, a small farming town, to the North Central Conference, where you and your teammates were going up against the likes of North Dakota State, North Dakota, South Dakota and South Dakota State every weekend?

DW: Players, as you can imagine, were bigger/faster/stronger and overall, much more skilled.  We did have some very good multi-sports athletes like myself from high school, Many of my high school teammates went on to play college sports.  A pretty quick adjustment had to be made if you wanted any playing time.

MavBlog: Why did you choose to come play football at MSU and how has your time at MSU impacted where you are today?

DW: I was looking at the University of Minnesota for football, Winona State for basketball, a few other North Central Conference teams also had a slight interest.  During the summer/fall of 1983 my dad became very sick and it was determined he had cancer (he is still with us today), so I decided to stay close to home. The number of friendships I still have today are because of MSU which has resulted in doing trips, extending business relationships and lifelong friendships that keep you motivated.

MavBlog: What was it like winning that first conference championship in 1987?

: Incredible – we had a very good recruiting class and many of the guys from that year stuck around.  It was even more special because it was the first team to accomplish it.  Demonstrated that when you put your mind to it and get the team aligned much can be accomplished.

MavBlog: Talk about your head coach Dan Runkle and maybe one thing you learned from him that you still use today. What kind of head coach was he and how did he get players behind him?

DW: Coach Runk taught me how to do your prep work – study your competition – work on all the small things and get to know your teammates.. Coach Runk was a players coach – while he had many rules, he made sure we had a lot of fun along the way and got to know each player as an individual.  I use all of those skills today in my sales leadership role in a fortune 6 company.

MavBlog: Talk about Optum, how it got started and what you do there.

DW:  I am one of 130,000 employees and been with the company for 15 years and the company started in 1997 as Ingenix. Optum is part of UnitedHealth Group (320,000 employees) and started as a technology company selling technology/consulting to healthcare organization.  I have always wanted to be in healthcare so my career journey has included selling computer hardware & services, disposable medical products to long term care, home care and hospitals.  So Optum is culmination of my previous roles where I get to utilize all of my previous experiences and I always wanted to make a bigger impact on peoples lives and healthcare is one great way to do that.

MavBlog:  Explain your relationship with former teammate and long-time friend Greg Vonderlippe.

DW:  Greg and I have always stayed in touch and been good friends and assisted him in getting into the company about 10 years ago and we still work together today as Greg is part of my sales leadership team.  Makes the daily grind much more enjoyable and we get to make the healthcare system work better for everyone together which is pretty cool.

MavBlog: Did you want to stay local in southern Minnesota? If so, why was that important to you?  

DW: I live in the Twin Cities/Chaska – I prefer bigger cities and I travel the world.  On average I fly about 130,000 miles a year primarily in the United States.  I did lead sales for our Life Sciences business for about two years which included a lot of international travel.  I will always have a home in Minnesota but looking to move to warmer climate during the winter season.

You’re an inductee into the Minnesota State Athletics Hall of Fame. What was that experience like?

 DW: Humbling.  To  be recognized by Minnesota State as a team and as an individual – so Hall of Fame twice is off the charts remarkable.  Motivates me to take the message of Minnesota State to all of my colleagues and friends. I had my family (LizAnn, Madyson, Dawson), Mom/Dad, my high school principal in attendance when I was inducted, so it was very rewarding and something we could all enjoy together.

MavBlog:  Have you been back to Blakeslee Stadium in the last couple of years and how much pride do you take in the success the program is currently experiencing?

DW: Yes, I have been back to Blakeslee and I go to a few games each year and have traveled to watch the Mavericks play in the national championship games along with a few of my teammates.  Blakeslee grass is among the best in the country and while the stadium is showing its age – when the ball is “Teed Up” for kickoff the chills still go through the body.  The level of talent MSU attracts now I do believe is in place to what we started back in 1987 and many of the teams following have continued that success and taken into higher levels.

      Contributed by Brevin Kaiser, Minnesota State Athletic Communications intern.


Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Where Are They Now? Lisa (Walters) Sukalski

Lisa (Walters) Sukalski was a
two-time All-American during
women's basketball career at
Minnesota State

Former Maverick women’s basketball great and member of the Minnesota State University Hall of Fame, Lisa (Walters) Sukalski is doing quite well, thank you.

The Henderson, Minn., native received a plethora of accolades during her time with the Mavericks, which spanned 1984-99. A two-time Kodak All-American who was named GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-American of the Year in 1988, Sukalski was named the North Central Conference's Stan Marshall Award recipient as league's outstanding female student-athlete for 1987-88 and MSU's Senior Female Athlete of the Year in 1987-88.

A three-time All-Region selection, Sukalski still owns several school records including most career points (2,072) and rebounds (1,074) and at the end of her time with the Mavericks. Sukalski owned the NCC records for career points, rebounds, and field goals.

 Significantly, Sukalski was the keystone on the 1985-86 team where as a sophomore center, she helped lead the Mavericks to its first-ever North Central Conference championship and first-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

After graduating from Minnesota State, she ended up playing professionally in Sweden for one year in 1988-89 before starting a teaching career that has lasted more than three decades.

MavBlog: What are you doing now?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: I am currently in my 30th year of teaching second grade in the St. Michael-Albertville School District. 
MavBlog:  Tell us about your family.
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: I am married and have three adult children, all graduates of St. Michael-Albertville. My youngest is still attending college. The other two are college graduates and live in the Twin Cities area.
MavBlog: How has Minnesota State affected your career after college?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: My degree from Minnesota State (it was Mankato State when I was there) was Elementary Education with a Coaching certification. Mankato State prepared me for my first teaching job right out of college. My time playing college basketball propelled me into getting the job as the head girls basketball coach at St. Michael-Albertville High School. The dedication and hard work ethic I learned through being a college student and a college athlete at the same time as well as the lessons I learned through sports, has carried over into helping me be a successful teacher and coach. 
MavBlog: What kind of impact did Mary Willerscheidt have on you during your time at Minnesota State?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: Mary was my coach my freshman year. She believed in me and pushed me to become a better player. This had an impact on my belief in myself and my desire to become the best player I could be. My growth in confidence and in setting my goals high carried over into my remaining years. Even when she stepped down as the coach, she remained a huge supporter. 
MavBlog: What is your best memory from the Minnesota State women’s basketball team?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: My best memory was the 1985-86 season. We had a very successful season and became the North Central Conference Champs. But more than that, I got a chance to play with some of the best players that have ever played together at Minnesota State including Pat Burns, Annie Christopherson, Carla Schuck, and Julie Cink. It was an honor to play with such talented teammates and a whole lot of fun! 
MavBlog: What do you remember from your time playing professionally in Sweden in 1988-89?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: Playing professionally was a great experience. The style of play was different from the women’s college game at that time, but it was fun to adjust to a new style of play. My teammates were very welcoming as was the family I lived with. I also had an opportunity to coach a youth team. Living in the city of Stockholm was a great experience for me as well. 
MavBlog: Are you still involved with or still have connections with the Minnesota State women’s basketball team? If so, in what ways?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: I don’t have a lot of involvement in the women’s basketball program anymore. My first decade out of college I stayed connected and in touch, attending alumni events and keeping up with the team. As time went by, my basketball involvement shifted to the high school basketball program at St. Michael-Albertville. 
MavBlog: Are you still involved with the game of basketball?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: After being a head coach for 10 years, coaching my own kids in youth and traveling basketball and then watching them play basketball through middle school and high and high school, I am now what you would call a basketball fan and enjoy attending both boys’ and girls’ basketball games. Up until my youngest child graduated in 2019, I had been involved in basketball as a player, coach, or parent since I was in 7th grade. 
MavBlog: What has the game of basketball meant to you in your life? Did it shape you in any way?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: The game of basketball has been a huge part of my life. Through basketball, I learned the importance of hard work, dedication, and teamwork and these things carried over into my teaching, parenting, and just being the person I am today.

MavBlog: Have you kept in touch with any of your former teammates from Minnesota State?
Lisa (Walters) Sukalski: Yes. I keep in touch with several former teammates and we are able to get together at least once a year.
Contributed by Hogan Greenwood, Athletic Communications intern

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.”