One thing Montana State University-Northern junior volleyball player Dayna Jensen knows ... she knows about rivalries.
After all, Jensen, a 5-8 outside hitter, hails from Lewistown, one of Havre High’s biggest volleyball rivals. Now, Jensen is a Skylight, in her first season as a full-time starter, and while the Pony-Eagle rivalry is in her past, the Northern-Carroll rivalry is in her immediate future.
Jensen and the Skylights play their home, and Frontier Conference opener Friday night against Carroll inside what is expected to be a raucous Armory Gymnasium. After losing to Carroll in last year’s dramatic Frontier Conference championship match, Jensen and her teammates have been waiting for this moment seemingly for ever.
But Jensen has also been waiting for her moment to shine. Playing behind two-time All-Conference standout Hillary Isleifson the last two seasons, Jensen has now assumed a pivotal starting role for Northern, and she’s enjoying every minute of it. The two-time Class A All-State selection, and former state champion with the Eagles in 2010, already has 93 kills on the season and is 11th in the Frontier in hitting percentage.
She’s also enjoying her time in college, an experience she says is unique because she’s going to school with and playing alongside younger sister, Erin. It’s an experience Jensen has worked hard for, just like the Skylights have worked so hard to get ready for Friday night’s huge match with the Fighting Saints.
Here’s five questions with the former Golden Eagle, who’s now spending her golden college years playing for the Skylights.
HDN: You have a much bigger role in the rotation this season. How’s that going for you?
Jensen: “It feels good so far. I really worked hard this summer. I felt like I had to come back this year and earn my spot. So I really put in a lot of work. Playing at this level is so much fun. And it’s going really well for me. It’s just so much fun to be a part of this team.”
HDN: You came to Havre from one of the town’s biggest high school rivals, Lewistown. How did that happen?
Jensen: “I wasn’t really planning on playing after high school. But my high school coach told me Bill (Huebsch) was coaching at Northern, and was interested in me. I didn’t really think I’d ever move to Havre, because we were such huge rivals in high school. But I went on my recruiting trip, met all of the girls and just instantly felt comfortable there. Coach Huebsch offered me and I was really excited. And I’m so glad it all happened that way because now I love Havre. Havre’s my home now.”
HDN: Last year was a historic season for the program. What was it like to be a part of that?
Jensen: “It was awesome. Hard to even put into words. I think a lot of people underestimated us. But after what we achieved last season, and what we’ve built, I think we’re finally getting that respect. Teams fear playing us now. Everything we’ve went through has really given us a lot of confidence as a team.”
HDN: You have the opportunity to play with your sister, Erin. That must be special.
Jensen: “Erin and I are really, really close. We didn’t used to be, but we finally got to play together my senior year of high school, and from that point on, we really clicked. Playing together in college is a great experience. And she’s improved so much. She’s doing so well and I’m really proud of her.”
HDN: Friday night is the long-awaited rematch with Carroll. What are the emotions you guys are feeling going in?
Jensen: “Oh my gosh. We’ve been talking about this match since the championship match with them ended last year. And as it’s gotten closer, our practices have gotten even more intense. We practice like we’re playing against them. It’s so intense. There really are no words for how excited we are. We definitely want that revenge, and we’re ready. We’re excited to have a huge crowd and play them on our home floor. We’re definitely ready for this.”