Olivia Hayenga will play basketball at Augustana next season

May 14—WORTHINGTON — It's official, Olivia Hayenga is heading to Augie.

After two record-setting seasons for the women's basketball team at Minnesota West, the star player made her decision to continue her collegiate career at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota next season.

Since leading the Lady Jays to the national championship back in March, Hayenga has had a busy offseason. She recently played in an AAU basketball tournament in Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, and traveled to various schools around the country, figuring out where she wanted to go next.

"At the beginning of these two years, I never could have imagined some of the schools that reached out to me and just how crazy that is just that these bigger schools looked at a school this small or even a kid like me," Hayenga said. "It was just a fun experience just to like, travel and see these different places for sure, and just to be kind of wined and dined a little bit, just how they treat some of their players and stuff was fun."

Augustana ended up being Hayenga's last visit as the women's basketball program was undergoing a change at head coach.

The Vikings are an NCAA Division II program out of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference that previously had a string of successful seasons under longtime head coach Dave Krauth.

Krauth then retired after the 2022-23 season and Jillian Flores Bennett took over the program last year. The Vikings struggled that season and finished with a 7-20 record, their first losing season in 35 years.

After that, they moved on from Flores Bennett and have since hired Nate Vogel to be the next head coach in April. Shortly after that, Hayenga went on her visit.

"It was a super easy visit," Hayenga said. "(Vogel) was super casual about it, which actually made it better I think just because it wasn't as professional. It made me a lot more comfortable in that way, but I got to meet with the team for like 45 minutes or so and we all just kind of talked and hung out which made it nice too, because I knew then I would probably have some good relationships with them hopefully in the future. And then I got to play with them, so I got to kind of have a taste of what that could look like, and I mean, it all was really good."

One of the factors behind Hayenga's decision was that she'd remain close to home and to her family, including her aunt and former coach at Minnesota West for the last two years, Rosalie 'Moz' Hayenga-Hostikka.

With her niece and star player heading to a new school, it will be an interesting transition for Hayenga-Hostikka. She said that while she will miss coaching her niece, she very much looks forward to watching her play next season. She may even still offer some critiques along the way.

"I'll have to step back a little bit and it'll be a little different relationship again, you know, so that'll be an adjustment, but it'll be nice just to kind of relax, and maybe I can be a little nicer to her now," Hayenga-Hostikka said with a laugh. "I probably wasn't very nice at times, so it probably will be better for us."

Over their last two seasons, the Lady Jays accomplished more than either of them ever thought they could. The team went a combined 57-12 over those two seasons and made the NJCAA Division III championship game both years, including the program's first-ever national title this past season.

On an individual level, Hayenga set records and racked up many accolades. She was a two-time first-team all-American, a two-time NJCAA D3 player of the year, and the MVP of the NJCAA D3 tournament this past season.

She also set career program records for most points, rebounds, steals and blocks, along with single-season records for most points and rebounds.

A key element behind all of Hayenga's success at West was the continued progression of her game, and she credits a lot of that to coach 'Moz' and her Lady Jay teammates.

What sticks out to both Hayenga and her coach throughout her progression as a player is the 5-foot-10 inch guard's overall versatility.

After graduating from Worthington High School in 2022, where she averaged 19 points and seven rebounds a game her senior season, Hayenga improved in every facet of her game since.

"Out of high school, she didn't have a ton of options. I mean, there wasn't this brigade of colleges looking at her because, how much better she's gotten in these last few years, it's unbelievable," Hayenga-Hostikka said. "And so I think that that's just going to continue to go because I honestly think there's some things that she hasn't even tapped yet how good she can be. And when she gets around D2 players and those kinds of things, I think that that will just elevate her game more. But yeah, I mean, her progression to how good she's gotten is crazy."

Last season, Hayenga saw an uptick in just about every statistical category from her freshman season at Minnesota West. She ends her Lady Jay tenure with career averages of 21.1 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 3.6 steals and 2.1 blocks per game.

The next few months for Hayenga will include scrimmages with the Augustana team, which will help her fit in with the team's style of play and bond with her future teammates.

"I mean, it's crazy to look back and realize that I accomplished all this and that our team accomplished all this," Hayenga said. "It's a little hard to say goodbye to these past two years and move on but I mean, I'm excited for this next step."