Moments of Excellence: A Century of Women’s Athletics History Posted on February 2nd, 2022 by

On the 50th anniversary of Tilte IX, Gustavus looks back on some of the greatest moments in women's athletic history.

As in most areas of life, women have had to fight for an equal playing field — literally, in the case of women athletes. From national legislation to individual Gustie women, women’s athletics has come a long way. “We’ve gone from girls and women hoping there is a team to girls and women hoping they’ll make the team,” said Nicole LaVoi ’91, Gustavus tennis player and director of the Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women in Sport.

Here’s a look at more than a century of progress at Gustavus:

The women’s basketball team circa 1916, courtesy of the Gustavus Adolphus College Archives.

 1903: The first-ever sports season included women’s basketball. Gustie women played Mankato Normal women at the first intercollegiate game.

1920: The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) debuts. Women’s teams are not a part of it. Shortly after comes Women’s Athletic Association—with no intercollegiate competition.

1923: Gustavus women play an exhibition game of football in borrowed men’s uniforms. They make national headlines.

1951: Inga Carlson ’53 competes as a diver on the men’s team, prompting a MIAC-wide ban on women competing on men’s athletic teams.

A proud player from the Gustavus First Women’s Football Classic, which took place on Dec. 1, 1923.

1962: Coach Nancy Baker ’56 starts the women’s gymnastics program.

1965: Coach Mary Dahl Williams ’63 starts the Gustavus women’s swimming program.

1967: Women’s athletics shows up as a line item in the college budget.

1968: Coach Gretchen Koehler starts an organized women’s basketball program, then volleyball a year later, then softball a year after that. Mary Dahl Williams ’63 starts coaching women’s tennis.

The Title IX Amendment passes Congress in 1972.

1974: Women’s track and field is introduced under coach Sally Hokanson ’69.

1975: Gustavus women’s volleyball makes the Small College National Volleyball Tournament.

1981: The MIAC sponsors Women’s Championships for first time. Women’s tennis claims its first league title. The team has won 28 more since.

1984: The new Lund Center ushers in equal space for men’s and women’s athletics and recreation.

1991: The women’s tennis team wins its first NCAA D-III National Team Championship.

1992: Sarah Edmonds Harris ’93 Wins NCAA D-III National Cross Country Championship, the first national individual title for a Gustie in NCAA competition.

The women’s hockey team makes the NCAA Division III semifinals in 2011.

1998: Women’s hockey becomes a varsity sport. It’s since won 16 MIAC titles.

2000-01: The women’s program wins its first MIAC All-Sports title, with league titles in hockey and tennis, and second finishes in soccer, swimming and diving, and nordic skiing.

2005: Volleyball player Rachel Hollerich Batalden ’05 is the first woman Gustie to receive the NCAA Postgraduate Scholarship. Since then, 17 Gustie women have earned it.

2009: Softball advances to the NCAA Division III World Series for the first time.

2017: Volleyball team claims its first NCAA Regional title and advances to NCAA Finals.

2018: Women’s basketball advances to NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time.

2022: Women’s track and field wins the MIAC Outdoor Track & Field Championships for the first time.

To learn more about women’s athletic teams, visit


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