Haylee Yaeger has learned to roll with the punches during her high school career.
After leaving Hastings High School, where referees allowed her to play physically against her metro opponents, Yaeger had to make a few adjustments before acclimating to her new way of life in Prescott.
"It was definitely shocking at first," Yaeger said. "When I was younger, I wasn't as strong so I had to be tough and physical just to stick with the Minnesota girls. Then once I got a little bit older, I matured and was like, 'OK, this is how I have to play now. I'm not playing Minnesota ball, I'm playing in Wisconsin.
"'I have to adjust to the game, the game can't adjust to me.'"
Whether it be adjusting to a new school, new classmates, new teammates or a new way of playing basketball without getting into foul trouble, Yaeger has made the most of the cards she's been dealt.
The former Hastings Raider was named to the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association's Division 3 All-State honorable mention list on March 11, less than two years after leaving Minnesota's Metro East for a new way of life in western Wisconsin.
Yaeger moved over the Wisconsin border the summer after her sophomore year after her mother remarried. The recurring movie plot of being the new kid at school soon became her reality, but instead of eating lunch by herself or getting lost while trying to find her new classrooms, Yaeger received a warm welcome from the Cardinals.
"At first I knew nobody, so it was super scary, but the girls knew I was in basketball so they kind of came to me and kind of helped me get comfortable," Yaeger said. "They all took me under their wings."
"The girls did a fantastic job of making (Yager) feel a part of the team, but on the flip side, she also had to be willing to be a part of it, too," said Prescott head coach Ron Murphy. "She just goes about everything the right way."
Yaeger soon felt at home in Prescott, but admits that it took some time building on-court chemistry with girls who had been playing together throughout their careers.
Yaeger's first season with the Cardinals got off to a streaky start, but once she and freshman Bella Lenz began to mesh in the Cardinals' starting line-up, Prescott's potential began to emerge. The Cardinals completed the 2017-18 regular season on a five-game win streak and produced the program's first winning record since 2012-13.
The Cardinals' improvement was reliant on Yaeger's willingness to accept her new reality, and once her budding chemistry with her new teammates began to grow, so did her confidence.
Yaeger earned a spot on the Raiders' starting line-up as a sophomore and contributed averages of 12.4 points and 7.3 rebounds per game as an underclassmen. Yet, college basketball never felt like a realistic possibility until she came to Prescott.
"It was kind of more like ... almost like a dream," Yaeger said. "It was kind of something I looked at like, 'Wow, I could be there one day,' but I never knew the potential I had to be there until my first year at Prescott."
Yaeger led the Cardinals with 16.5 points and 7.2 rebounds per game as a junior and credits her uptick in stats to her Prescott coaches' ability to find the right role for her and her teammates' willingness to accept how often their offense was run through their star post player.
"They had a different plan for me (in Hastings), but then I came to Prescott and it was exactly what I wanted," Yaeger said. "The whole team chemistry is just kind of different there. Here, I can't think of one time where people were fighting or didn't get along. That just made the whole experience of basketball so much more fun."
Yaeger's growing love for the game, along with her realized potential, motivated her to plant herself in the gym and weight room during the summer before her senior season. Yaeger was named a senior co-captain after just one season with the Cardinals, and she was ready to prove the worthiness of her title.
"I worked on my whole game and put hours and hours into it," Yaeger said. "I put more effort into my dribbling and began to prepare for playing in college."
She was also joined by a familiar face: Tim Cerni. Cerni coached Yaeger in Hastings after spending some time on the Cardinals' coaching staff in the late 1990s. But he returned to Prescott to serve as a player development coach during Yaeger's senior year.
"I've been practicing with him for so long, and he knows my game better than I do," Yaeger said. "That really meant a lot to have him here my last season."
Cerni said he picked up on Yaeger's ability to play at the next level when she was a sixth grader, and was also quick to realize how fortunate she was in Prescott.
"I think I picked up on that the very first day I was in Prescott," Cerni said. "I think this group was probably as amiable to each other as you can imagine. I think everyone picked up on that."
Along with Yaegers' obvious talent, the Cardinals' genuine love for being on the court together was apparent to anyone who caught them struggling to control their laughter or refusing to resort to negativity during their historic 20-4 season.
Watching Allie Murphy complete a pass to a double-teamed Yaeger in the paint or witnessing Yaeger kick a pass out to Murphy for a corner 3-pointer instinctively made it hard to believe that the former Raider didn't grow up playing with Murphy, Sydney Benck, KiKi Carey and Kaelyn in elementary school. That's the reality she still wishes she could change.
"It feels like I've been playing with them forever," Yaeger said. "(Playing in Prescott) is all I know. It makes me kind of sad knowing I didn't get those opportunities to play with these girls for four years, but it is what it is. I'll just continue to keep those relationships with these girls throughout college and after that."
Yaeger's time in Prescott may have been shorter than she had hoped, but soon she'll have to once again adjust to a new way of life as a University of Wisconsin-Stout Blue Devil.
"I came to Prescott not knowing what to expect, just like I'm walking into college not knowing what to expect," Yaeger said. "You just have to be optimistic about the whole thing."
Like his former player, coach Murphy will remain optimistic about his limited time with Yaeger on the Cardinals' roster.
"I think we were blessed to get her for two years, and we won't be greedy," Murphy said.
Murphy is excited to watch Yaeger begin the next chapter of her career at Stout, but she'll always have a family of Cardinals to return to in Prescott.
"We're not just sending her off," Murphy said. "We'll still be around to support her. I wish every good thing for that kid, because she deserves it."
Yaeger and Allie Murphy were selected as members of the WBCA Division 3 North All-Star team at the conclusion of their senior season and will play one final game together on Friday, June 14, in Wisconsin Dells.