MW SPORTS: Lady Jays add strong recruits

WORTHINGTON -- The first day of practice can't come soon enough for Mike Fury. The Minnesota West women's basketball coach inked five athletes last week, creating excitement for the veteran head coach. "You never want summer to be over, but when ...

MW inks recruits
Aaron Hagen/Daily Globe A group of athletes recently signed to continue their careers at Minnesota West. Pictured are: (standing l-r) Kayla Schroeder, Erica Thier, Christa Wik, Stephanie Maras, (seated) Kayla Vander Veen and Kathryn Kazemba. Not pictured is Erin Ebbers.

WORTHINGTON -- The first day of practice can't come soon enough for Mike Fury.

The Minnesota West women's basketball coach inked five athletes last week, creating excitement for the veteran head coach.

"You never want summer to be over, but when you get the girls together and see them together as a group, I'd be ready for practice I think tomorrow," Fury said. "It's kind of fun. You look ahead to next year, and you see combinations on the floor and lineups and things like that. It's a good day."

Worthington's Kayla Schroeder and Kayla Vander Veen joined Adrian's Erica Thier, Red Rock Central's Stephanie Maras and Webster, S.D.'s Christa Wik.

"With the people we have back from last year, I think it's going to give us some more depth and some more choices that we can do offensively and defensively," Fury said. "We have some size, which is good, plus shooting and ball handling. The thing that we always like is the attitude, because we like to play tough defense. I think we're going to see that in these girls, too. We're excited with the nucleus that we have back and the new kids. I think it's a good mix. The pieces should fit together pretty good. You never know until Oct. 11, but it's good to see, and we're really excited now."


Round Lake native Kathryn Kazemba and Worthington's Erin Ebbers also signed last week to join the MW softball program.

"For both sports, I'm very excited," said Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka, who is the head softball and assistant women's basketball coach. "Right now, we have three kids for sure committing for softball, and they are quality kids. We have a pretty good nucleus coming back, so I think it's going to fit in very nicely."

With Kazemba and Ebbers, Maras also committed to play softball.

"It's kind of nice to see six or seven students who are going to be attending Minnesota West," Fury said. "That's always a good thing that they feel good about coming to school here and playing."

For Schroeder and Vander Veen, the Lady Jays offer a chance to stay close to home while still being able to continue their basketball careers.

"I'm not ready to move away," Vander Veen said. "I need to save some money.

"The coaches are friendly. I know (Hayenga-Hostikka) from going to camps when I was younger with her."

Added Schroeder: "I've known Mike for a while. He's been talking to me a lot about coming out here. I know some of the players that have been out here, and they say it's a good program."


The two Trojans will hope to carry the winning tradition into the next level.

"We've always talked about how the Trojans have had such a great team," Fury said. "We're so fortunate to be able to pick up some of those girls because they are good players."

Thier, who didn't play basketball last season in her first year at college, transferred back and will reunite with former teammate and current Lady Jay Sam Lynn.

"I think she missed the game a lot from what she told me," Fury said. "We've had some of those over the last four or five years, where they go away for a year and then they come back. It's good to have Erica around. She'll really help, and I think she's excited.

"That's a pretty good combination (Erica and Sam). I think they had like 800 assists between the two of them, they just kept feeding each other. Erica is over a 1,000-point scorer."

Wik will give MW height, while Maras will add depth for both sports.

On the diamond, Maras, Ebbers and Kazemba all have the potential to pitch, giving Hayenga-Hostikka five pitchers for next season.

"I don't even know what to do with that," the coach said. "I had two last year, and it was wonderful. That's great because you never know when you're going to need them. Last year, at the end of the Fergus game, we needed another pitcher. It's nice to have the versatility and the steady, solid softball players coming into the program. We're excited about that because I like who's coming back, and to add these guys to the mix, I'm pretty excited about that."


But with the local talent, the players already formed a bond.

"It's nice and comforting; it's a boost knowing people, that's a plus," Vander Veen said.

"It's nice that I'll have people that I'm already used to," Schroeder added. "I know how they play, so we can mesh all that together."

With the addition of the seven athletes last week, the future of the two programs looks bright.

"I think Mike and I both look at each other and are scarily optimistic about the possibilities of how good we can be this year, and that's exciting," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "We think our biggest problem is going to be how we're going to get all these talented kids in the right position and getting enough playing time. So that's a very good bad problem to have."

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