Olivia Hayenga is the NJCAA Division III National Women's Basketball Player of the Year
Hayenga is the first Lady Jay to win a national award since Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka won the WCBA Player of the Year in 1992.
WORTHINGTON — Minnesota West freshman Olivia Hayenga has been selected as the NJCAA Division III Women’s Basketball Player of the Year.
The last Lady Jay to be awarded a national player of the year award was Rosalie ‘Moz’ Hayenga in 1992. Hayenga won the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association National Player of the Year.
Now Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka is the head coach for the Lady Jays basketball team and the aunt of Olivia.
“Having her at practice every day just reaming on me about specific things, and really being a coach to me was so much different,” said Hayenga. “She just had the opportunity to work on me personally and really pay attention to my game.”
“I don’t think anyone can say that I favored Olivia,” said Hayenga-Hostikka with a laugh.
Olivia credits the jumps made to her game this past season to coach Hayenga-Hostikka.
“I was just thinking how cool it is (with) how well I have improved,” said Olivia. “I don’t know if there is a certain place where I have improved on one certain thing — it is just my whole entire game. I have become a smarter, better basketball player and I give a lot of that to Moz just with everything she did this year.”
Hayenga led the nation in total points scored with 680, and was a vital member to the Lady Jays. The Lady Jays finished the season with school records in games won with 30, and points scored in a game with 124.
Hayenga averaged 19.4 points per game throughout the Lady Jays’ season. She was sixth in the nation in field goal percentage, making 55.9 percent.
“She works hard, she has a lot of energy, she can play multiple positions,” said Rochester Community and Technical College women’s basketball coach Jason Bonde. “I think the style of play that Minnesota West plays kind of fits into what she does. … Olivia is always willing to run the floor harder than anybody else and a lot of time there she is getting easy buckets because of the way they play. Their defense this year led to a lot of points for her.”
Hayenga said that she always wanted to come play for her aunt, Rosalie Hayenga-Hostikka.
“It has been such a fun season,” said Hayenga. “I have never enjoyed playing basketball as much as I have this year.”
After an unexpected loss to Anoka-Ramsey in the district championship game the Lady Jays — after a period of limbo — were awarded an at-large bid and the fifth seed in the NJCAA Division III national tournament.
“Just being at the national tournament you watched so many good players,” said Hayenga. “I mean we played just a bunch of really talented girls. To be a part of the ranking that I saw them at is pretty cool — to know that I am up there.”
At the national tournament Hayenga was selected to the All-Tournament with 19 ppg, 10.5 rebounds, and three steals.
“I felt like she was (in the running for the award) but you kind of get stuck in this corner of the world and when you think on that national scene you are not sure where you fit,” said Hayenga-Hostikka. “All the stars have to align in order to get an award like that but I am not shocked … I am very pleased and excited but not shocked that the rest of the country saw what I saw.”
The Lady Jays faced a very difficult schedule with four Minnesota College Athletic Conference teams finishing the national tournament in the top five.
“It was super cool just to be a part of the national tournament just knowing all those Minnesota schools were there,” said Hayenga. "It just showed how good our conference was and how hard we had to work to gain that spot.”
Hayenga remains humble and recognizes that she was put in the position to excel due in large parts of the Lady Jays’ team chemistry and talent.
“I give a lot of credit to my team and how well we all worked,” said Hayenga. “This has been my favorite season ever and I think a lot of that is just because of how well we all got along. It wasn’t just on the court… it was like we were a family almost. It was just fun to be around every single person and I think that helped incredibly.”
Hayenga was able to stun crowds with a desire to gamble and create disruption.
“I don't think it always works out super great for me in some situations, but on the other side it works out pretty good,” said Hayenga. “I kind of got a knack for it this past year — I feel like more than I ever had. I don’t know why but it just became so much fun to be able to get steals and just work on other parts of the game rather than just score.”
“She came in and she drove me crazy this year with her defense,” said Hayenga-Hostikka. “She would gamble and she would not guard her person. I am probably the reason that her steals per game went down. When she started she was getting six, seven but part of it was the competition. Then as we got against better competition, I needed her to guard the best player.
“We had a lot of conversations where I said, ‘quit running around like a chicken with your head cut off and you’re going to actually guard her.’ or I said, ‘Can anybody guard her because Olivia won’t guard her right now,’ and she said, ‘I can guard her!’”
“As a coach I think I had to be a little bit careful too, because — some of that gambling and those instincts — you got to be careful not to squash them,” said Hayenga-Hostikka. “That is what gets her the steals, if you don’t take those gambles you don’t get those steals.”
As for what is next for Hayenga, she said that winning the award is certainly a boost, but that she still has goals yet to achieve. She is currently working on an off-season program tailored to her by coach Hayenga-Hostikka.
“I lift, I shoot, do some other types of workouts — mostly every day,” said Hayenga. “Just to keep myself in some sort of shape and just keep working on stuff to get better for next year.”