MANKATO, MINN. - Making the jump from the class 1A high school girls basketball level in Iowa to the Division-II women’s collegiate level at Minnesota State University (MSU) last winter was a big one for former Springville superstars Mikayla Nachazel and Rylee Menster.
Everything was bigger and faster than what they were used to in high school, but after having a season of college ball under the belts this past year, both of the now Maverick sophomores feel more confident and comfortable with their roles with the team.
“No doubt about it,” said Nachazel, who played in 27 of MSU’s total of 29 games this past season averaging eight-minutes per game while scoring 2.5 points and pulling down 2.5 rebounds.
“From my freshman to sophomore year I felt a lot more confident in my abilities and my rebounding has really grown.”
Nachazel scored a season-high 10 points during a contest against Bethany Lutheran on Nov. 25, hitting 5-of-9 shots from the field and pulling down a season-best seven rebounds.
Nachazel’s role with the team was to come off the bench and grab rebounds and ignite the MSU offense, which was much improved this past season.
“My inside game has really improved,” she said. “My footwork is better and this year more than last year as a freshman, I’m doing a lot of the little things better to help our team compete. It’s amazing the difference one-year can make at this level, and I’m excited to see what I can accomplish next year.”
During Nachazel’s and Menster’s freshman campaign, the Mavericks didn’t qualify for the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC) tournament, but this year earned a berth and advanced all the way to the semi-final round before bowing out with an 80-77 loss against Minnesota-Duluth.
“That was one of the big things for me was seeing how our team improved so much over the last year,” said Menster, as the Mavericks finished with an 18-11 overall record and were 13-9 in conference play, good enough to place fifth in the 16-team league.
“Last year we didn’t even make it to the conference tournament and this year not only did we make it, but we advanced to the semi-finals. I’m hoping next year we can win the whole things and get an invite to the NCAA D-II tournament. That would be amazing.”
Nachazel relished the opportunity to play in the NSIC tournament at the Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota after opening post-season play with a first-round 87-54 triumph over Minnesota-Crookston on the Mavericks’ own home court in Mankato.
“That experience of play at the Pentagon was awesome,” Nachazel said. “As a team this year we had our bumps, but those just made us stronger down the road and we were able to do some things that we weren’t able to a year ago. With some hard work in the off-season, I’m excited to see where we go next year.”
Menster played in all 29 games this past season averaging 10.4 minutes per game, 4.2 points and 1.4 steals. Menster scored a season-high 10 points during a 91-83 loss against Wisconsin-Parkside on Nov. 30, going 3-of-5 from the field that included a pair of 3-pointers.
“My role didn’t really change a whole lot this year from what is was as a freshman,” Menster said. “I was asked to come off the bench and provide some energy on the defensive end of the floor, and I felt much more comfortable with that this season. If I had an open shot on offense, I’d take it, but I did feel more and more comfortable with the ball in my hands on offense, too.
“I’ve always felt I can defend just about anybody and with the defense we run here at Minnesota State, it fits my style perfectly.”
Both Nachazel and Menster are hoping for even bigger roles with the Mavericks next winter.
“There’s always going to be competition at this level,” Menster said. “But I do hope my role will increase because I believe I can help my team win. Everyone is bigger, faster and stronger at this level and I’m used to that now.”
Nachazel echoed Menster’s statement.
“We lose three seniors, two of whom were starters so I’ll get a chance to see more playing time next season,” she said. “I can play the four or the five positions and that should help me get more minutes next year as a junior.
“Through it all, the last two years here have been amazing. I’m so happy with how things have progressed and I still have a lot I can give to this program, too. I’m excited to see what the next two years bring.”