MANKATO, MINN. - For the longest time, Minnesota State University juniors, and former Springville High School superstars Mikayla Nachazel and Rylee Menster, weren’t sure they were even going to get the chance to play basketball this winter.

      COVID stunted the start of the Mavericks’ 2020-21 campaign, and there were no guarantees the team was going to be able to play all the games the program hoped they would.

      “We really didn’t know what was going on or what was going to happen, we just wanted to play,” said Nachazel, who with Menster took advantage of the opportunity that presented itself this winter, and turned in solid seasons for the Mavericks.

      “It was a weird year all the way around. At the start we had no fans, then towards the end we were able to get a few fans into the building, which was good. Overall, I felt as a team we had a pretty good year. I got some more playing time this season when our 6-foot, 5-inch girl left the program. I was able to take advantage of the extra playing time and really started getting more and more comfortable with my new role with the team.”

       Minnesota State squeezed in 16 games this past season, not starting until Jan. 2, and ending Feb. 26 with a tough 70-68 loss against St. Cloud State in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference tournament opener.

      The Mavericks posted a 9-7 overall record and were 8-5 in the league.

      Nachazel played in all 16 games this season, starting 10 averaging 6.0 points and 3.9 rebounds per game while shooting 44-pecent from the field (third-best on the team). Her 17 points in 17 minutes against Wayne State Jan. 17, was a career-high.

      “We had a good season, but it could have been so much better,” said Menster, as all of the team’s losses this winter were by single digit margins.

      “We had so many close losses and had several games we just could not close out. Most of our losses were games where we led. We’re so much better than our record, but overall I was just happy to be playing, because it looked there for a while like that might not happen.”

      Menster also played in all 16 games, scoring a career-high 17 points in 27-minutes at Winona State Feb. 5. She averaged nearly 20-minutes of time on the floor every night scoring 6.1 points per game while finishing second on the team with 31 steals.

      “I got some more playing time this year and got a lot of steals, which has been my game going all the way back to high school,” Menster said. “I just wish we could have gone a little futher in the tournament, but things just didn’t go our way. Coming into the season we wanted to win the conference, but the good news is we get to come back and give it one more try next year.”

      Nachazel can’t believe she and Menster are down to just one year remaining playing college basketball.

      “The time has absolutely flown by,” she said. “We’re going to put it all out there next year and just have as much fun as we possibly can. I want to do whatever I can for our class to leave a legacy here at this school, but I also want to continue to build on the relationships that I’ve made since I’ve been here. That’s what has been the best throughout this entire journey. My teammates are my best friends on and off the court, and I’m going to cherish every moment with them. It should be a fun ride.”

      Menster said the confidence that she gained with her increased playing time this past season will only enhance her game leading into her senior year next winter.

      “I’m coming home this summer and I’ll work on my game with my little brother (Luke) and get into the gym and do plenty of lifting too,” Menster said. “I want my senior year to be the best it can possibly be. All the close losses this year were tough to take, I’m hoping we can turn that around next year and have a big year and make a long run in the tournament.”

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