Softball 50th Season Celebration Set For Sunday

Posted on April 20th, 2018 by

ST. PETER, Minn. – A staple of the women’s athletic movement during the 1960s, softball at Gustavus was recognized as a varsity sport in 1969 after previously competing on an intramural basis. Over the past 49 years, Gustavus softball has compiled an all-time record of 835-521-4 and a mark of 514-223-3 in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, including three league championships. The Gusties have earned a place in the NCAA Division III Tournament four times, which includes a third place finish in 2009.

Nationally, and similarly at Gustavus, the ‘60s were developmental years for girl’s and women’s athletics. To a degree, this represented a revival of interscholastic and intercollegiate competition that had existed in the early part of the century. Women were active members of the student athletic association which sponsored both men’s and women’s teams. As with the men, much of the competition was on an intramural basis among teams representing the academy, the school of commerce, and the four college classes.

Much of the early competition in women’s sports at Gustavus centered around invitational Women’s Recreational Association (WRA) and later Division of Girls and Womens Sports (DGWS) meets and tournaments sponsored by individual colleges. This was the state of affairs when Gretchen Koehler joined the athletic department. She proceeded to develop a more organized program with established schedules, first in basketball in ’68, then volleyball in ’69, and softball in ’70. The use of descriptive names for women’s teams was characteristic of the early years. The softball team was nicknamed the “Mudpies” and later coined the nickname “GAC PAC.”

Some of the leading softballers in the early years were Koni Milinkovich, Roxy Swenson, Linda Gruber, Judy Johnson, Jan Larson, Tonya Mouw, Shirley Vaughn, Jolene Nelson, Pat Briggs, Genella Mussel, and Mary Musil. The introduction of softball produced the momentum to develop a separate softball field behind the football stadium. Much of the construction was done gratis by the athletic director, staff, and softball players. There was some criticism for transplanting the flowering crab trees. The completed diamond provided Gustavus with one of the few and better exclusive women’s college diamonds.

Koehler coached the softball team through the 1973 season and then Julie Gessinger took over in 1974 for one year. Brenda Johnson coached the Gusties in 1975 and 1976 before Tom Witty took over for the following 21 seasons. Gustavus began MIAC play in 1981 and it took less than a decade to capture a league championship, which was achieved in 1990 with a perfect 20-0 record. Gustavus made its first NCAA tournament appearance in 2003 under the direction of Shanda Ness, which also featured the second conference title. Jeff Annis took the reins in 2006 and guided the Gusties to national tournament appearances in 2007, 2009, and 2015, including a MIAC title in 2009 and the program’s first conference playoff championship in 2015. Britt Stewart became the program’s seventh head coach in 2017 and is at the helm as Gustavus softball celebrates its 50th season.

50th Season Celebration Details

When: 1 p.m. Sunday, April 22

Where: Hollingsworth Field, Gustavus Adolphus College

What: A chance for alumni, family, and friends to socialize and reminisce about Gustavus softball. A potluck meal will be served between games as the Gusties host Bethel University.


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