MANKATO — Eric Means is entering his fifth season as coach of the Minnesota State women's hockey team, and selecting a captain hasn't been much of a problem for him.
Just three players have had Cs sewn on their sweaters in Means' tenure. This year, senior forward Kari Lundberg is the Mavericks' second straight two-year captain.
"She's just a natural, lead-by-example person," Means said. "I think she's more comfortable in that (captain's) role the second time through. She seems a lot more at ease right now than the last time around."
Lundberg, a center, had a lot to manage as a junior. Two years earlier, she had been part of an 11-player freshman class, Means' first full class of recruits. Ten of those players were still around, as were four seniors.
"You learn a lot, definitely, being a junior captain," she said. "You're still learning, but you have to be a good leader, and everyone's eyes are on you. I wasn't quite sure what to do, but I was more excited than nervous."
The Woodbury native had a mentor in another two-year captain and two-year teammate, Ariel Mackley, a 2012 graduate.
"She was my big sister," Lundberg said. "I looked up to her. I thought, if Ariel can do it, I can do it. I always talked to her a lot."
Said Means: "That's a great example. Mackley's a great person to model yourself after."
While Mackley made an impact on a young leader-in-the-making, Lundberg's hoping to leave her own impression.
The Mavericks are coming off their best season of the Means era, but they still had a record of 10-21-5. They struggled to score goals, getting shut out six times. Their top scorer, Lauren Smith, had 24 of the team's 69 goals (35 percent), graduated.