A new chapter with familiar characters: Austin’s Walsh commits to Crookston, where she will team up with two former Packer teammates

Published 5:38 pm Friday, May 19, 2023

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The decision had been made for quite some time, but Austin senior Olivia Walsh finally found the time to make it official and sign her national letter-of-intent to play college basketball at Division II University of Minnesota-Crookston at Austin High School Friday.

The choice of schools wasn’t as tough as the choice of sport for Walsh, whose athletic run will go down as one of the best in AHS history. She played in two state basketball tournaments, she swam in two state swimming and diving meets and she is a favorite to make it to her second state track and field meet this spring.

“I’ve always loved basketball,” Walsh said. “I went back and forth between track and basketball and I thought about doing both for a while, but when the opportunity at Crookston came in, I couldn’t turn it down. I’m nervous, but I’m excited. I get to play with my two best friends again.”

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Austin grad Emma Dudycha played in 21 games for the Golden Eagles as she averaged a point a game off the bench in her freshman season and her twin sister and fellow Austin grad Hope Dudycha is also at Crookston. Hope, who is the all-time leading scorer at AHS, was injured for her entire freshman season.

The three players all left a huge mark on the AHS girls basketball program and now they’re excited to reunite in Crookston, which is located 386 miles northwest of Austin.  Hope is determined to be healthy and back in the lineup for the coming season.

“Taking a year off wasn’t what I had planned, but it made me realize that I’m not ready to be done,” Hope said. “College basketball is definitely something that I want to do and it will be really great to play with my best friend and sister again. Olivia will still be one of the best players like she has been her whole life. It’ll be kind of an Austin takeover in Crookston.”

Emma saw what it takes to play at the Division II level last year and she’s been able to provide insight to Walsh in what it takes to jump up to new heights.

“It’s a lot different than high school. It’s a lot faster pace,” Emma said. “Hope and Olivia will be able to fit in and they’ll both do well.”

While she will now focus on basketball, Walsh will still use her other sports to assist her in her training.

“I’m honing in on basketball, but I’m still going to swim laps and I’m still going to run,” Walsh said. “I’m also going to work on jumping, because that will help me on defense.”

Walsh averaged 14.6 points, nine rebounds, three assists and 2.2 steals per game, while adding 67 blocked shots this past season for the Packers.

UMC went 10-19 overall last season and the team will have a new coach this season in Natalie Moynihan. Moynihan was most recently an assistant coach at the Division II University of Bridgeport in Connecticut.

Walsh, who is used to winning at everything she competes in, is hoping to be part of a big turnaround at Crookston.

“We’re going to try and bring the program to the next level over there,” Walsh said. “I also want to thank my coaches (in Austin) and anyone who supported me.”