MCAC Honors National Girls & Women in Sports Day

MCAC Honors National Girls & Women in Sports Day

Rochester, MN

Today, Wednesday, February 6,  marks National Girls and Women in Sport Day across the United States. This year will mark the 33rd edition of the annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day event, designed to provide communities, schools and programs a national platform and voice in celebrating the extraordinary achievements of women and girls in sports. 

Leading the way for the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the honoring of Darlene Palmer, a pioneer in the development of the women's sports programs at Central Lakes College and the establishment of the first state community college women's athletic conference in Minnesota in 1974. 

The signature event for this celebration is the National Girls and Women in Sport Day Awards ceremony to be held today at Noon at the Minnesota History Center.  This important presentation is led by the Minnesota Coalition of Women in Athletic Leadership and features athletes, coaches, sport administrators, journalists and others from around the state who have had a major positive impact on women and girls in sport. For more on the Minnesota event, go to:

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference includes over 20 NJCAA-affiliated colleges as a part of the Conference, allowing the MCAC to be one of the largest in the country in terms of quantity of schools and geographic footprint. The MCAC is proud to include over 30 women in head coaching and sport administration roles, hundreds of female student-athletes and dozens of women's teams taking to the hardwood, fields and diamonds and other competition venues. 

In honor of today's celebration, please read on to learn more about several notable women from the Minnesota College Athletic Conference.  Also, with such a strong pool of great athletes, coaches, leaders and administrators in the MCAC, please note any list of persons created will be incomplete. 

Our apologies to all great student-athletes, coaches and administrators not specifically mentioned in this list. Please accept our picks as a representation of the strong culture of women in sport who are making a difference in our MCAC communities. 

To learn more about the 33rd Annual National Girls & Women in Sports Day (NGWSD) at the national level, visit:

Darlene Palmer 

Administration / Coaching  

When Darlene Palmer got to Brainerd Community College in 1969 (now Central Lakes College), women didn't have any school-sanctioned varsity sports teams to be a part of. By the time she left in 1987, not only were there several varsity programs for women – but they also had their own conference.

Palmer started women's athletics programs at BCC in 1969 and was on the committee that helped develop the state community college women's athletic conference, which became a sanctioned conference in 1974 and is now known as the Minnesota College Athletic Conference. Not only did Palmer start the women's athletic programs at BCC, she also coached most of them. She served as the school's volleyball, basketball, and softball coach until 1976 while teaching physical education classes, and in 1976 she stopped coaching basketball but added the title of Women's Athletic Director. In 1984, she helped bring golf to BCC and coached men's and women's golf.  (Courtesy of NWGSD program). 

Darlene Palmer, NGWSD 2019 Award Recipient, Central Lakes College. CLICK HERE for complete CLC Press Release, or visit:



Mikayla Homola

Women's Basketball

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference has long been established as a strong NJCAA Division III basketball league and 2018-19 is no exception.  Helping lead the way in this years campaign is a ARCC Golden Ram who recently broke the 1,000 point mark for her NJCAA career.

Mikayla Homola is having a record-breaking season on the basketball court forAnoka-Ramsey Community College in the 2018-19 season.  The sophomore guard has hit the most field goals of any NJCAA DIII athlete this season, shooting 221-503 from the floor and is third in the nation at the NJCAA Division III level for points-per-game (28.3).  Only one player has scored more points so far in 2018-19, as Houmla's 595 total points sit second nationally.  The Osseo High School product contributes defensively as well, ranking 7th in the country in steals per game (4.7).  

A durable player, Homola has started all 21 games she has appeared in for the Golden Rams, who currently sit at 17-4 overall and are 5-1 in the MCAC Southern Division; ARCC has also been a mainstay in the NJCAA Top 10 this year and are currently #8 in the nation.  Homola and Anoka-Ramsey will take on Minnesota West at 5:30pm in Coon Rapids on Wednesday, February 6 in a key Conference match-up. 

NJCAA Division III Women's Basketball Statistical Leaders:

MCAC Women's Basketball Statistical Leaders:


Laura Anderson 

Clay Target 


At the inaugural 2018 MCAC Clay Target season championships, no competitor had a better fan section than mom-of-five Laura Anderson, a student-athlete at Itasca Community College

Anderson had not only the great support of her kids during the October 16 event, she enjoyed home-field advantage as ICC hosted the MCAC Championships.  The Minnesota College Athletic Conference - together with partner USA Clay Target - was proud to be the first two-year college varsity clay target league in the country.

Anderson was one of over 25 female competitors to take part in the MCAC Clay Target championships.  CLICK HERE for the full championship press release or go to:


ShaRon Miller 

Women's Basketball


From the "where-are-they-now" category: Former Northland Pioneer women's basketball player ShaRon Miller is continuing her stellar career at NCAA Division I Grand Canyon University. Miller's work ethic in the paint and on the boards is an important part of the GCU Lopes program. The Blaine, Minnesota product, now playing in her 2nd season at GCU,  has started 16 contests for Grand Canyon, averaging 11.7 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

As a Pioneer, Miller was a two-time NJCAA All-America honoree and competed for one of the top coaches in the NJCAA, Shannon Nelson. While with Northland, Miller helped Coach Nelson claim 52 of her now-209 wins as a Pioneer. No doubt that Nelson's own playing experience as a University of Minnesota Gopher between 2003-2006 helped Miller on her own Division I journey. Nelson was Ms. Basketball in Minnesota in 2002 and a 2X Class 3A Player-of-the-Year.

To read more about the leadership of Coach Nelson and her impact on Pioneer student-athletes like ShaRon Miller, please visit this link:


Read more about Miller's journey at this link.

To learn more about Shannon Nelson as featued in the MCAC Profiles, click here.  

Minnesota College Athletic Conference 

2018 Volleyball Coaches 

This past fall the 2018 MCAC Volleyball season was notable in several ways, including the opportunity for two programs - Rochester Community & Technical College and Central Lakes College - to battle their way deep into the NCJAA Division III National Championship Tournament.  In fact, the Yellowjackets and Raiders completed their year competing against each other in the NJCAA third-place match in November. 

In the MCAC volleyball ranks in 2018, there is one other common factor.  All of the MCAC programs are led by women.   

Dr. Missy Majerus, Dean of Student Life at St. Cloud Technical & Community College noted: "as a former head coach in the MCAC I know how much time and effort these coaches put into, not only preparing their team during the season, but the countless hours they spend recruiting and assisting students during the off-season.  ... most impressive is that these coaches do this work not for fame and fortune, but like their players, they do it for the "love of the game!"  

The range of mentors on the volleyball sideline included several first-year coaches such as Courtney Nordby, Nina Kangas and Courtney Lemke, as well as established veterans like Mel Millerbernd (Rainy River CC, 29th season) Jane Peterson, (Central Lakes, 28th season) and Leslie Reed (Itasca Community College, 18th season). 

For more on the 2018 MCAC Volleyball season, click here or please go to:

Photo Courtesy of SCTCC Athletics

Front Row:   Sara Matuszak, Mesabi RangeLeslie Reed, ItascaMel Millerbernd Rainy River; Heidi Smith, SCTCC; Jane Peterson, Central Lakes

Back RowNina Kangas, Hibbing; Courtney Nordby, Northland;  Courtney Lemke, Ridgewater; Amber Zitzow, RCTC;  Abby Crowser , M State-Fergus Falls, Rebecca Colon, Minnesota West CTC.

Not pictured: Krystal Brodeen, Vermilion; Jen Watson, Western Technical; Laura Sylvester, FDLTCC and Helen Jahr, Riverland.


Cavalier 2018-19

Women's Basketball

Western Technical College is one of only two MCAC member schools in Wisconsin (along with Southwest Technical College); this winter, the WTC women's basketball team is also one of only two Conference schools still unbeaten in league play.   

The Cavalier program is having a record-setting season so far at 7-0 in the MCAC Southern Division and at 13-5 overall.   Western Tech boasts one of the deepest benches in the league and presents opponents a balanced attack that is tough to stop.  The Cavaliers routinely have four, five or more players impact the boxscore and rarely have to depend on one athlete to carry the team.  Coach Chad Dull has assembled a 13-player roster from the La Crosse area and their stat sheet shows players routinely having an impact in their games. 

There is a lot of basketball left to play this winter, but Western Technical College women's basketball is in the drivers seat to host this year's Region XIIIA tournament.

Western Tech Women's Basketball Homepage:





Talyn McClaflin 


Talyn McClaflin tore the cover off the ball in 2018 for the Itasca Community College Vikings softball team, and was recently featured on a NJCAA twitter feed as the top returning NJCAA Division III hitting. 

Last spring, McClaflin finished the season with a .607 batting average, 11 home runs and 88 hits overall.  Her .972 slugging percentage was good for third nationally for the year.  With McClaflin at the plate, ICC advanced to the 2018 NJCAA Division III National Championships, held in Rochester, Minnesota. 

In 2019, the sophomore will look to lead the nationally-ranked ICC team to success when her squad hits the diamond later this spring.  Itasca will open the 2019 season in Florida at the Chain-of-Lakes Complex, where they will face fellow MCAC power, St. Cloud Community & Technical College on Friday, March 8.

(ICC Softball celebrate their Region XIII Championship) 

Rosalie Hayenga

Coaching / Teaching / Administration

Minnesota West Community & Technical College, located in Worthington, Minnesota, is home to LadyJay mentor Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, who serves as the Women's Athletic Director, women's basketball coach and is an instructor in the Minnesota West Biology department.

The 2018-2019 season marks the fourth campaign as head coach of the Lady Jays for former Worthington High School and Worthington Community College Lady Jay star.  Coach Hayenga-Hostikka has had two 20-win seasons and led the Lady Jays to a 23-6 record in 2017-2018, good for a Southern Division Championship and the opportunity to host the Region XIIIA tournament.

As a MnWest student-athlete herself, Hayenga helped lead the Lady Jays to the 1992 State Championship, is the all-time assist leader, and is 6th all-time leading scorer in Lady Jay basketball history. In addition to earning All-State, All-Region and All-American honors, she was named the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) National Player of the Year in 1992. She completed her collegiate playing career at Moorhead State University where she was named to the 1995 All-American team and was also a 2012 Hall of Fame inductee.

Hayenga is also the NJCAA Region XIIIA Assistant Women's Director, helping administrate and coordinate women's sports programs within the states of Montana, North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and upper Michigan.


Kati Beckman

Women's Soccer 

Kati Beckman was one of the most dynamic players on the most dominant women's soccer team in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference this past fall.  The sophomore Golden Ram #10 was tops on her team and the Conference with 12 goals while adding six assists for a total of 30 points in the 2018 campaign. 

Beckman led ARCC to a MCAC regular season championship and a Region XIII crown as one of the top goal-scorers in the upper Midwest. 

Beckman's strong season propelled her to 2018 NJCAA All-America 2nd Team honors, a nod to the great season and strong history of soccer success at Anoka-Ramsey.  Former ARCC standouts Rochelle Perzel, Jessica Miller-Ulmer and Makayla Halford were all named to the 2016 NJCAA All-America squads in 2016, with Halford the 1st team goalkeeper, while Miller-Ulmer and Perzel both earned spots on the 2nd team as a defender and forward, respectively. 

(Kati Beckman, ARCC Women's Soccer)


President Hara Charlier 



Central Lakes College has enjoyed success over the years in all sports and the women's sports programs established by 2019 NGWS Day award receptient Darlene Palmer continue to thrive and grow.  One of the best Raider fans one will find in and around Brainerd is Central Lakes College president Dr. Hara Charlier.   

It is no suprise that the Raider teams in Volleyball, Women's Basketball and Softball all are found among the top programs in the Conference consistanly and lead the way with one of the largest number of MCAC All-Academic award winners. 

Taking the helm at CLC in 2016, Dr. Charlier holds a bachelor's degree from Cornell University, a master's from Miami University (OH), and a doctorate from Old Dominion University (Va.).  She also is a frequent attendee at Raider athletic events; CLC student-athletes know that the support for their programs starts at the top. 

Dr. Charlier welcomed authur Shelly Boyum-Breen to the CLC campus recently as the Raider family recognized #NationalGirlsandWomenInSportsDay at CLC! 

Clay Target 

Women's Division Champions

Bryenna Kuhn (below) of Southwest Wisconsin Technical College took top honors among the women's competitors at the MCAC Clay Target Championships with a tiebreaking sudden-victory win over Vermilion's Elizabeth Hintze (left), both just one shot ahead of third-place Alyssa Kasprick (right, Northland CTC).   

Kuhn finished 11th overall among all 136 student-athletes (male and female), and was the top woman in the competition, needing a tie-breaker with Vermilion's Elizebeth Hintze to claim top honors. Both Hintze and Kuhn turned in 91-of-100 performances for their respective teams.   


The MCAC Clay Target Fall Season women's champions were Kallie Kimmes of Lake Superior College (right) and Alyssa Kaprick (left) of Northland Community & Technical College; both Kimmes and Kaprick completed the five-week regular season at the top of the Eastern and Western Divisions, respectively. 


 Carly Mekash   / Emily Shaffer / Paige Wallevand

     Northland CTC / Central Lakes College / MnWest CTC

(MnWest Shaffer, photo courtesy Daily Globe) 

Women's sports in the Minnesota College Athletic Conference have long been a great place for multi-sport student-athletes to compete and 2018-19 is no exception.

Carly Mekash (Northland Community & Technical College), Paige Wallevand (Central Lakes College) and Emily Shaffer (Minnesota West CTC) are three of several MCAC student-athletes who take on double-duty for their colleges. 

Mekash was a NJCAA Division III Volleyball All-America honoree and was recently named a National Player-of-the-Week in NJCAA women's basketball.  Wallevand, a CLC Raider standout was also a NJCAA Division III Volleyball All-America selection and is averaging 20.8 minutes a contest in basketball and 11.8 points per game.  Lady Jay Shaffer finished the volleyball season third in the MCAC in kills-per-set (3.23) and is currently 4th in the MCAC in rebounds-per-game at 10.7 a contest as a standout on the women's basketball team.  

For even more on multi-sport female athletes across the Minnesota College Athletic Conference, please click here to read "Four for Three for IX",  a 2017 MCAC story featuring three, 3-sport athletes from MnWest and Mesabi Range College.



Ashley Pool


St. Cloud Technical & Community College softball pitcher Ashley Pool won 13 of the 20 games she started in the circle for the Cyclones in the 2018 spring season.  And, when not striking out batters, she was likely at the plate delivering clutch hitting for SCTCC. 

Pool was named MCAC Southern Division Player-of-the-Week while hitting nine home runs and driving in 47 RBI's. Her strong spring earned her All-Division and All-State Honors along the way. 

St. Cloud Technical & Community College will see a strong early-season test in a few weeks when they face off against Itasca Community College in a 1pm game at the Chain-of-Lakes complex in Titusville, Florida.  The Cyclones home opener is scheduled for April 9, against MCAC Southern Division foe Anoka-Ramsey. 

(Ashley Pool, SCTCC Softball)


Katherine Brau

Women's Basketball 


Hibbing Community College has been a mainstay in the NJCAA Division III Top 10 in 2018-19 and head coach Kate Brau has the Cardinals peaking as the post-season approaches. Brau is entering her fifth season as the head coach at HCC and has earned two Master's degrees in education in addition to a BA in Exercise Science. 

Coach Brau, a graduate of Hibbing High School, played at NCAA Division I program University of Minnesota-Duluth, where she earned multiple awards,  including Freshman of the Year, All-Conference, All-Region and All-American honors. Brau is currently fourth in UMD's all-time scoring record book. 

Coach Brau continued her basketball career playing professionally for the country of Sweden, where she was able to compete at the highest level of play in Euro Basketball and lead her team to regional play.

Returning to the states, Coach Brau began her coaching career at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, serving two seasons as a graduate assistant coach for UMD mentor Karen Stromme.  Hibbing Daily Tribune sports writer Gary Giombetti featured Brau and her team recently in this article.

Learn more about Hibbing women's basketball at:


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This release sponsored in part by Gopher Sport. 

Gopher Sport, based in Owatonna, is an industry leader in Physical Education, sports and fitness equipment.  Gopher Sport is dedicated to providing programs and departments with the products to improve fitness, develop skills, create fun and reach a high standard of learning and living. Gopher Sport has diligently served teachers, coaches and athletic directors around the world for over 65 years. 

About the Minnesota College Athletic Conference

The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State system.  The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions.  The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.