College women's basketball: Lady Jays have a new look
Aaron Hagen Daily Globe WORTHINGTON -- Things are a little different for the Minnesota West women's basketball team. For the first time in more than three decades, it will be someone other than Mike Fury leading the Lady Jay program. For 34 seaso...
WORTHINGTON - Things are a little different for the Minnesota West women’s basketball team.
For the first time in more than three decades, it will be someone other than Mike Fury leading the Lady Jay program.
For 34 seasons, Fury was the head coach of the MW women’s basketball team. But following last year’s national tournament run, the longtime coach retired.
But first-year head coach Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka is no stranger to the MW program. Hayenga-Hostikka, who played for Fury and graduated from Minnesota West in 1992, and has spent the last 11 seasons as Fury’s assistant coach.
“I miss him. I do. I’ve called him probably about 15 times,” said Hayenga-Hostikka, who was named the 1992 National Player of the Year during her time playing for Fury. “I don’t know if he wants me to or not. He’s probably trying to not miss it and I’m calling him all the time. He’s been a big part of my life for a long time, 25 or 30 years probably. I played summer leagues out here with him since I was an eighth-grader. It’s very different, I miss him a lot. It’s an adjustment, I think for him to be retired and for me not to have him around is an adjustment.”
Minnesota West is coming off one of the best years in school history, including a sixth-place finish in the nation.
“It was kind of an once-in-a-lifetime thing,” sophomore Dani Hermeling said. “I’ve been on teams in the past that have been good, but I’ve never been to a national tournament or a state tournament. So that was really fun and a new experience.”
Sophomore Brooke Henning said she still relives the magical run from a year ago.
“It was unbelievable,” Henning said. “I still don’t have words for it. Even just the other day I re-watched the regional game. I have it on my laptop and I watch it all the time. Just watching it, I still get nervous. I’m acting like I don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Not only do the Lady Jays have to replace their longtime coach, but they will also have to replace a talented group of sophomores from a year ago.
“There are big shoes to fill, but I think we have a lot of potential and a lot of girls that know what they are doing,” Hermeling said. “I think we can be just as good as last year if we put our minds to it.”
To duplicate the success from a year ago, Hayenga-Hostikka is looking for her two returners to help fill the void.
“Brooke just came on all year and she was just gigantic all year for us at the end of the year,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “She’s a tough lefty who can shoot the 3, but she can post up really well. There’s no doubt we’re going to rely on her like crazy. She’s going to be our go-to person and the one we’re really looking to lead us.”
For Hermeling, it will be an increased role this season.
“She is a great shooter and she can do some of those things,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “She just came in as a freshman where we were stacked at the guards. It wasn’t that she couldn’t have played huge minutes last year; it was just kind of circumstances. But there were games where she came in and gave us great minutes last year. I’m excited for her to get some big playing time and see what she can do.”
Henning will team inside with 6-foot, 1-inch freshman Tanner Gunnink from Edgerton High School. Gunnink’s high school teammate, Breanna Nelson, will provide a 3-point threat, while Taylor Noid will see time as the point guard. Brenna Kramer (Ellsworth High School) will be a versatile player for the Lady Jays.
For MW to repeat its success from a year ago, the freshmen will have to get acclimated quickly. Henning and Hermeling are hoping to help with that transition.
“I think it’s more me and Dani stepping up and reminding the girls what they have to do to keep our team doing well,” Henning said. “Like teaching everybody their roles and how to step up, even if they are freshmen, to step up and be a leader. That’s what we learned last year, we had to step up even as freshmen. I think if they learn that, we can keep the streak going and we can do just about as well as we did last year.”
With a tough non-conference schedule and an always-competitive Southern Division, Hayenga-Hostikka is looking for her team to work hard and improve each day.
“We’re just going to do our best to keep the tradition up, work hard, play hard, just kind of what coach Fury did for 34 years,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “He always had teams that when people thought of Lady Jay basketball teams, they worked hard and didn’t quit. I hope I can carry that much on. I don’t know where we’ll be with wins and losses this year; we have a brutal schedule at the beginning. So they are going to get thrown into the fire very, very quickly.”
The Lady Jays open their season today at 6 p.m. against Northwestern College (JV) in the 12th Annual Sanford Worthington Basketball Classic. At their 4 p.m. game on Saturday, last year’s team - as well as Fury - will be recognized.
“We are going to hang the region championship and the national banner,” Hayenga-Hostikka said. “So we are going to kind of honor that team and we’re going to go out to the Hickory Lodge and have a social after the game. We are trying to get as many Lady Jay alumni back as we possibly can and make it kind of a fun atmosphere.”