MSU President's column for Traill County Tribune

March 9, 2013

Women’s basketball team makes school history with trip to national tournament


The Mayville State University women’s basketball team has made school history. They are the first Mayville State women’s basketball team to play in a national tournament. The news came February 27 when the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) announced that Mayville State was one of 11 at-large selections for the tournament. 

A total of 32 teams are competing in the 22nd Annual State Farm-NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship March 6-12 at the Tyson Event Center in Sioux City, Iowa. Mayville State was among seven other teams to make their first-ever appearance in the national tournament. Eight other teams were appearing at nationals for at least the tenth time in school history, led by the 19 appearances made by the College of the Ozarks, and 17 trips by Cardinal Stritch (Wisc.). Two other North Dakota teams, Valley City State and Jamestown College also played in the tournament.

The Comets are led by Head Coach Dennis Hutter. David Moe is his assistant coach, and Megan Groen and Hannah Wenaas are student assistants. The roster includes Samantha Heier, Ray, N.D.; Hailey Longtin, Walhalla, N.D.; Liza Hoglo, Thief River Falls, Minn.; Kay Laforet, LaSalle, Ont.; Missy Kassube, Eagle Bend, Minn.; Nicole Meyer, Mounds View, Minn.; Brooke McNary, Williston, N.D.; Sabrina Rude, McVille, N.D.; Marcisa McMillan, Seattle, Wash., Erica Henrikson, Moorhead, Minn.; Erica Amann, Hawley, Minn.; Angela Tauer, Hutchinson, Minn.; Riley Francis, Fordville, N.D.; Apiphany Asberry, Brooklyn Park, Minn.; and Shannon Ritten, Rockford, Minn.

The Comets built an impressive résumé in 2012-2013. They experienced a 20-win season, multiple victories over nationally ranked opponents, and six weeks ranked in the top 25 national poll. Their record entering that tournament was 20-5.

Marcisa McMllan was named the Association of Independent Institutions Division II Women’s Basketball Conference Player of the Year. Joining McMillan on the A.I.I. All-Conference first team is Hailey Longton. Sabrina Rude earned A.I.I. All-Conference second team honors.

It takes significant funding to send a team to a national tournament. To help defray expenses associated with the trip, Mayville’s local radio station, KMAV, hosted a telethon on Monday morning, March 4. During the telethon the coaches and players were interviewed and Comet boosters called in with their monetary contributions for the team. About $3,000 was raised in a couple of hours! Thank you to all who pledged their financial support, and to Dan Keating for organizing the carrying out the telethon. We are grateful to the Keatings and KMAV for their constant support for Mayville State.

After some practice time and a short send-off social in the Lewy Lee the morning of March 4, the Comets boarded the bus and were on their way to Sioux City at about 1:15 p.m.

The team had the privilege of working with some youth basketball players in Sioux City Tues. morning, March 5. Along with players from five other schools, the Comets led a basketball clinic for Special Olympics basketball teams. The children represented 10 local teams, all special needs athletes. The Comet women helped lead the participants in stretches, drills, shooting skills, and scrimmages. Time was reserved for many of the athletes to show off their dancing skills as well. At the conclusion of the clinic, the Comets headed to a local Girls Club for their final practice prior to their first round game.

Erica Amann, a member of the Comets team, made a big splash on the front page of the Sioux City Journal Wed., March 6. In the newspaper’s photo, Amann is shown interacting with Liz Sprague, a fire-eater. Sprague was a part of the circus storyline that surrounded the NAIA Banquet of Champions held at the Sioux City Convention Center Tuesday evening. Some 976 diners, including all 32 teams playing in the tournament, enjoyed the circus theme that included everything from the fire-eater to clown escorts to animal crackers to a grand entrance “under the big top.”

The Lady Comets made their debut in the first round of the tournament went they took on Northwestern (Iowa) Wednesday afternoon. A group Mayville State supporters were able to make the trek to Sioux City to be a part of the excitement live and in person. There was a bigger group - 75 or more faculty, staff, students, and community members - following the Comets from afar in the MSU Campus Center Luckasen Room. These Comet boosters gathered to watch the game via live video stream, and we know many others were watching from their desktops and other electronic devices, while still others listened to the KMAV radio broadcast. Whether at the game in person or listening and/or watching from afar, all Comet boosters were with the team in spirit!

Despite their best efforts, the Comets came up short. The final score of the game was Mayville State 66, Northwestern 92. And so, the Comets’ run at the national tournament ended after the first round.

Participating in a national tournament is an incredible honor and accomplishment. We are so very proud of our coaches, athletes, and fans who represented Mayville State as a class act at the national tournament. Go, Comets!