“She is an awesome all around young lady, who is the ultimate leader by example both on and off the ice,” stated Coach Mike Carroll. “Ever since she arrived on campus, Melissa has immersed herself into her studies and has been one of the best examples of a player who works hard day in and day out in practice.”
Melissa grew up in Burnsville, a suburb south of Minneapolis. She is the middle of three girls. “My younger sister, Ariel, was the first of us to play hockey,” Melissa said. “When she started playing, Brittany and I decided we should play, too. Brittany played at Mankato State, and Ariel is a sophomore there and plays for them now.”
The Mackley sisters went to Burnsville High, where Melissa played soccer and golf as well as hockey. She was an outside midfielder on the soccer pitch. After playing on the JV as a ninth-grader, Melissa moved up to the varsity as a sophomore and into the Blaze’s starting lineup the following season. Burnsville was eliminated in the middle rounds of Section play in Melissa’s sophomore year and the semifinals of Sections her junior year. “We won the conference title my senior year, but lost to Eden Prairie in the Section final,” she recalled.
Melissa was on the varsity golf team starting in eighth-grade and was part of five consecutive conference champions. They made it to the State Meet when she was an eighth-grader and again her junior year. “We finished second both times,” she said. “My junior year, we lost to Bemidji by one stroke.”
She earned All-Conference honors her senior year, and was an All-State honoree that season.
She played center on the varsity for five seasons, earning All-Conference Honorable Mention as a ninth- and tenth-grader, and All-Conference honors her junior and senior years. Melissa was All-State Honorable Mention as a junior and received All-State honors her senior season. She was a nominee for the Ms Hockey award her senior year. Melissa helped the Blaze reach the State Class 2A tourney as an eighth-grader, and scored a pair of goals in their semifinal loss. Burnsville went on to capture third place. “We made it to the Section final in each of the next four years, but never made it back to State,” she recalled.
Away from sports, Melissa was a member of the National Honor Society and was involved in a peer-mentoring program. She also was active in programs through her church. “We helped out at a Blood Drive with the Red Cross, volunteered at Feed My Starving Children and did fundraising for a shelter for battered women,” she said.
Coming out of high school, Melissa was recruited by many schools for hockey, both locally and nationally. There also were some smaller programs, mostly Division III, that talked to her about playing golf for them. “I was mostly interested in playing hockey in college,” she said. “I looked at Division I schools Niagara and Mankato State, both of which offered me a partial scholarship. I also looked at UW-Stevens Point, St. Thomas and Gustavus. What weighed my decisions to Gustavus was that I liked the style of play and intensity of play that I saw when I watched them play. I also was attracted to the environment at the game I watched at GAC; it was the kind of environment I wanted to play in. When I visited the campus, I really liked it. It felt like home.”
Melissa has been an integral part of the Gusties’ program since she arrived on campus. She has played in every game of the last four seasons and has helped GAC to three MIAC regular season and MIAC Playoff championships. As a freshman, she scored six goals with 11 assists in MIAC play as the Gusties rolled to a 17-1-0 record. Her 18 points ranked third in the conference among first-year players, and the coaches recognized her by naming her to the MIAC All-Rookie Team. Gustavus beat Hamline (4-1) and St. Thomas (3-2) in the MIAC Playoffs, securing a berth in the NCAA Division III playoffs. They fell to UW-Stevens Point, 4-1, in the opening round to close the season 25-3-0. Overall, Melissa scored nine goals with 18 assists (27 points).
In her sophomore year, Melissa was named All-MIAC Honorable Mention as she tied for 15th in the league in scoring with 15 points (four goals and 11 assists). She tied for the league lead in power play points and was third in short-handed points. The Gusties breezed through the MIAC season unblemished and blanked Hamline (5-0) and St. Thomas (1-0) en route to the NCAA tourney. They were upset by UW-Superior (3-1) in the opening round to finish the year 25-3-0.
Last year, Melissa had a breakout season. She finished second in the MIAC in assists (15) and points (22) and was tied for 12th in goals (seven). She earned All-MIAC First Team honors as the Gusties posted a 16-0-2 record. Melissa led the league in short-handed goals and points, and was second in power play points. Gustavus captured the MIAC Playoff crown by sweeping St. Olaf and St. Thomas, but lost to UW-River Falls 2-1 in the opening round of the NCAA playoffs to close the books with a 22-2-4 record. The American Hockey Coaches Association named her First Team All-American.
Last season, Melissa was named an Academic All-American by CoSIDA/ESPN The Magazine.
Melissa is a Biology major with a minor in Neurological Science and sports a 3.97 GPA. She took the MCAT in January and is in the process of applying to medical schools. Her career plan is to become an ophthalmologist, specializing in surgery.
Toward that career goal, Melissa has had internships with an eye clinic in nearby Mankato and spent the summer of 2009 at the University of Rochester (NY). “I interned there, doing research work in visual science,” she stated. “The program is working toward developing new techniques in LASIK and other eye surgeries.”
She has found time to be involved in an array of campus activities. Melissa has been active in the Pre-Health Club for three years. “We bring together students who are either planning on a career in health care or are interested in a career,” she explained. The group helps interested students investigate and pursue careers in various health care fields. Melissa also is a member of Tri-Beta, a Biology honor society.
Melissa has been active in the Student-Athletic Advisory Board for three years. The group looks out for the well-being of student-athletes on campus, encourages attendance at home games and events and promotes support of Gustavus athletics. “Through SAAB, I have been involved in Little Gusties, which is a program where kids in grades 2-4 come on campus where we help them improve at sports,” she added.
She also participates in the GOLD Leadership Series. “The series helps you get ready for leadership roles, trains you in leadership and helps leadership skills for on campus and in life,” she said.
Melissa has been active in the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Partnership (LSAMP) on campus, first as a mentee and for the last two years as a mentor. “LSAMP is a mentoring program in Science and Math for minority students,” she explained. “Its goal is to help get minority students involved in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics studies.” She also has helped at the Diversity Center on campus. “That is another mentoring program on campus for minority students, but its scope is broader than LSAMP.”
She also has been active in Pound Pals, a group of Gustavus students who volunteer at the local Humane Society and conducts fundraising activity for the Society.
For Melissa, Gustavus has proved to be the right place for her collegiate years. “It has been the place where I have been able to figure myself out,” she said. “Being here has helped me learn my strengths and my weaknesses. I have made connections here with people- professors, coaches, teammates and classmates- who will remain in my life for years. I am grateful for the education and opportunities Gustavus has given me.”
Coach Carroll knows he has been blessed with more than just a talented hockey player these past four seasons. “It has been a privilege to be and have been Melissa's coach the last three-plus years,” he said. “She is an awesome all around young lady. Simply, she is a difference maker.”
[Photos are courtesy of the Gustavus Adolphus College Sports Information office.]
The Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) is widely respected as one of the premier conferences in nearly every sport competed in Division III. Year after year, the MIAC produces teams and individual student-athletes who excel in their given sport. At the same time, the MIAC schools maintain a reputation of commitment to academic excellence. This article is one in a series of spotlights on some of the young men and women who represent the league’s commitment to excellence, both in the classroom and athletics during the 2008-09 academic year.
This feature will be included in the "Profiles of Excellence 2009-2010" book which will be available for order at <a href="http://www.rdmpublishing.com/products/book08.html" target=_blank>RDM Publishing</a>. It will feature profiles of student-athletes from the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, written by CSN’s "Mapping the MIAC" columnist Rich Mies.