Hulne: Injuries have helped Hayfield girls build depth

Published 8:27 pm Monday, January 22, 2018

The last couple of weeks could’ve easily been the worst two weeks of the season for the Hayfield girls basketball team. Instead, they turned out to be two of the most exciting weeks the program has experienced in quite some time.

That stretch has seen Hayfield lose its top scorer Maggie Streightiff for two weeks with an injury and it has also seen seniors Carrie Rutledge, Olivia Matti, Caitlyn Severson and junior Payton Slaathaug miss time with injuries as well. But the Vikings (14-3 overall) didn’t fold, they kept battling. Hayfield has won six of its last seven games with the lone loss coming to perennial state power Mountain-Iron-Buhl and the team has picked up big wins over state-ranked teams like Goodhue and Stewartville. 

Hayfield has now had six different players lead the team in scoring in a game and juniors Brooke Bungum and Elecia Brown have been the latest to step up their game.

Hayfield’s Maggie Streightiff lunges for a lose ball against Lyle-Pacelli in the first half this season. Herald File Photo

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Hayfield co-head coach Kasey Krekling said it was only a matter of time before the junior class was able to show its potential on the varsity level, as they’ve been patient behind a very strong senior class over the past few years.

“The junior class has always kind of been in the shadow of the senior class,” Krekling said. “Everyone’s always talked about that senior class and how athletic they are and for good reason, but the junior class has always kind of had a chip on their shoulder. They’ve had success too. Now they’ve shown everybody that they can play at a high level.”

The change in dynamic has put Hayfield’s regular top scorers in a unique role over the past couple of weeks. Instead of being on the court with the bench supporting them, players like Rutledge and Streightiff were the ones sitting on the sideline cheering on their younger teammates.

It’s definitely a different role being on the bench and watching the action but all you can do is cheer and support them during the entire game and just let them play,” Rutledge said. “ The juniors have stepped up tremendously. They came through at a time where we needed them the most and won big games for the team.”

Hayfield has nine games left in the regular season and it is currently tied with Goodhue for first place in the HVL with an 8-1 conference record. The Vikings will likely have a different look as starters begin returning from injuries in the near future. Krekling is looking forward to the challenge of figuring out his new lineup.

 Practice is going to be real fun to see where everyone’s at,” Krekling said. “It’s going to make coaching difficult. There’s a lot of girls that will deserve minutes and it’s going to be tough, but it’s a good problem to have.”

Rutledge said she’s fully expecting to come back to a deeper team when she returns to the lineup.

Knowing that anyone of those girls subbing in will get the job done is relieving and it helps all of us to work together because not only a few of us have to take the ball but all of us can and score as well,” Rutledge said.

Hayfield is scheduled to host Kasson-Mantorville at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday.