Lady Jays still aiming high following loss of scoring due to graduation
WORTHINGTON -- It’s been nearly eight months since the Minnesota West women’s basketball team has been on the court.
But the sting of the double-overtime loss in the region final is not forgotten.
“I’ll probably never forget that game,” MW sophomore M’Kayla Mike said. “Everytime we have a recruit come in, we tell them about it, how we lost by four points in double overtime. Hopefully this year we get to change that. Hopefully we have a different end result.”
Mike is one of three returning players from last year’s team that hosted the Region XIIIA tournament.
“That’s one of those games those kids from that team will never forget,” MW head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka said. “The good and the bad. The heartache of losing it, but yet the fun of that week and being a part of the Southern Division Championship team. We have some expectations when you have a season like that. You want to repeat and you want to do those things, but you also realize at the beginning of the season, I know we’re rebuilding. I think we’ll be fine, but I think we’ll learn by fire for the first week.”
Sophomores Mike, Alex Stanley and Avery Van Roekel will look to take a bigger role for the Jays, which are ranked No. 9 in the nation to begin the season.
“Before I was a backup point guard, but now the pressure is all on me because (Hayenga-Hostikka) was a point guard and she expects the point guard to lead the team,” Mike said. “I’m basically more of a leader this year.”
One of the keys early in the year will be to find scoring from after graduating many of the offensive leaders.
“I figure we’re losing 90 percent of our scoring from last year, probably, I haven’t done the math,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “You have those kids that really contributed for two years and they’re gone. But that’s life at the junior college.”
With a shorter team, Mike said rebounding will be an emphasis. However, the team’s quickness will be a strength.
“The shorter people are faster and we can rebound, too,” Mike said. “Height doesn’t really matter, it’s all about hustle.”
For Hayenga-Hostikka, that means changing her philosophy a bit.
“We’ve been trying to do some things a little more up-tempo than we have in the past,” she said. “Maybe a little bit more pressing once we get used to each other and figure out what we’re doing. That’s my hope, we can pick up the pace because I think we’re going to have to. We can’t grind it out with a lot of teams this year.”
The Lady Jays open their home schedule this weekend with the annual Sanford Classic.
“I always think that’s such a fun weekend because you have basketball all day long, so the girls can come and watch the games in the afternoon and get that atmosphere,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “It’s exciting. I hope we have good crowds. Sanford does a great job of putting that on. Instead of being on the road and starting off, you get that feeling right away to get on your home court and get some games under your belt. Hopefully we play well.”