Nelson, 2009 national championship squad await Morningside HOF induction Saturday

The ’06 J-S graduate was a starter on the undefeated Mustang team


Sports Editor 


With contributions from Morningside College


SIOUX CITY – One of the greatest teams in Morningside College history will be together once again Saturday, Oct. 1. 

The 2008-2009 undefeated NAIA Division II Women’s Basketball National Championship team is set to be inducted into the M-Club Hall of Fame in Sioux City. 

Jefferson-Scranton graduate Laura Nelson (Class of 2006) served as key starter and sharp-shooter in the Mustangs’ 38-0 championship run. 

Nelson’s contributions earned her a selection to the 2009 all-Great Plains Athletic Conference second team after sinking a NAIA II nation-leading 125 made three-pointers.

She averaged 11.7-points per game during the title run and pulled in a career high seven rebounds in both the semifinal and championship games. 

The current Denver, Colorado leasing agent drained a school-record 10 three-point field goals on her way to a 30-point performance for the Mustangs’ highest scoring total of the season, a 94-71 victory over Dakota State Dec. 30, 2008.

“There were definitely a lot of highs,” Nelson said. “A lot of preparation that went into it and a lot of sacrifice that we all gave to get that perfect season.” 

The former Ram is thrilled to receive such prestigious an honor alongside her former teammates Saturday. As a high school athlete, she was also named to the INA third team for Class 2A in 2006  

“It means a lot,” Nelson said of the Hall of Fame honor. “It’s a testament to all the work that we went through. To be able to win the championship, it took all the pieces and the offseason work and putting everything together to get that perfect season, which got us into the hall of fame.”

Morningside’s 2008-09 women’s basketball team defeated Great Plains Athletic Conference rival Hastings 68-63 in the NAIA Division II National Tournament Championship Game on March 217, 2009 to cap off a perfect season, one of only three teams in NAIA II history to complete an unblemished record. The victory was Morningside’s third championship title. 

The Mustangs shattered eight school records and tied another during their magical run. One of the Morningside’s most impressive performances came in a 99-44 victory against Nebraska Wesleyan University on Jan. 3 when they shot a sizzling 64.2 percent from the field - breaking a school record. 

The Mustangs outscored their opposition by nearly18 points per game with a scoring average of 78.5 points per game and a defensive scoring average of 60.7 PPG.

Head coach Jamie Sale was named the NAIA II Women’s Basketball National Coach of the Year and the GPAC Coach of the Year after he led the Mustangs to their fifth consecutive GPAC regular season championship and their third national title in a six-year span. Senior guard Dani Gass was named the NAIA II National Player of the Year and was joined on the NAIA II All-America first team by senior guard Autumn Bartel. Gass led the Mustangs with averages of 7.6 rebounds, 5.3 assists, and 3.7 steals per game. Bartel led the Mustangs in scoring with a 15.2-point average. Gass and Bartel finished their careers as the fourth and fifth leading scorers in Morningside history with 1,802 and 1,731 career points, respectively.

In addition to being named to the All-GPAC First Team, Gass was named the GPAC Player of the Year and Bartel was named the GPAC Defensive Player of the Year. They were joined on the All-GPAC second team by Brittany Williamson, while Leslie Foral received honorable mention All-GPAC recognition. 

 Williamson was the Mustangs’ second leading scorer and rebounder with averages of 12.2 points and 5.0 rebounds per game.

Roni Miller was the top scorer and rebounder off a deep Morningside bench that also included Kayla Weerheim, Katie Sponder, MacKenzi Mendlik, Erica Luetje, Sarah Culp, Jahde Hammer, Emily Christen, Brittany Alfredson, Nicole Van Heek, and Cara Anderson.

The championship squad, of course, spent a lot of time together and became extremely close friends. They often stay in touch these days through text messages, phone calls and on social media. But it’s tough for Nelson to recall when the entire team was last together at once. They all have committed to coming back for Saturday’s ceremony, regardless of where life has taken them. 

“I’m looking forward to seeing everybody because it has been such a long time and it’ll be (fun to) find out what everybody’s up to,” Nelson said. 

When she’s not at work, Nelson likes to explore all that Denver has to offer. She’s nearing the one year mark since she moved out west. 

“There’s a lot of stuff to do,” Nelson said. “I usually go out into the mountains, something along those lines. I’m really into cross fit now and I do competitions. I’ll go downtown and explore as well.”

Several former standout Morningside athletes will be inducted into the Hall of Fame Saturday as well, including Dani Gass, Chris Johnson, Ken Stripling, and Dan Travaille as part of homecoming 2016 festivities on Saturday, Oct. 1.

Saturday’s induction ceremony will take place at 10:30 a.m. at the annual M-Club Brunch in the Yockey Family Community Room of the Olsen Student Center, 3609 Peters Avenue in Sioux City. 

Cost is $20 at the door. 


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