Jaecy Engebretson is a gym rat. She grew up bouncing balls and doing homework in the gym at Grant-Deuel High School. “Both of my parents were always involved with athletics at Grant-Deuel,” she says. “So, from a young age, I was always with them at the gym.” Her dad, Jared, coached girls and boys basketball. Her mom, Amanda, coached volleyball and helped run programs for younger kids. Jaecy and her siblings — Brendan, Avery, and Lance — tagged along and made the gym their second home. In time, Jaecy got pretty good at shooting hoops.
But when Grant-Deuel School closed, Jaecy transferred to Milbank and suddenly went from being a gym rat to a little frog in a big pond. “I’m not going to lie, she says, “It was a lot different coming here. At Grant-Deuel there were about six kids in each class. We all knew each other and did everything together. The whole school was like a huge family. Everyone was invited to everything. So, coming to Milbank, I was quite nervous. I told myself to just stay open-minded.”
Her first year in Milbank, she was on the middle school’s eighth grade team. It might have been viewed as a step down as she had already played varsity for the Wildcats as a seventh grader, but Jaecy proved her ability to play ball. The next year, she was back wearing a varsity jersey — this time emblazoned with a Bulldog on the front.
“Getting a varsity uniform as a freshman was a great accomplishment for me,” she says. “I thought coming from such a small school to Milbank was going to be a struggle, but I feel I got to know everyone and joined a new family right away.”
Jacey’s first year as a Lady Bulldog turned out to be exciting for everyone. The team made it all the way to the Sweet 16 (as it was known in 2013). “That was super fun and I was glad I got to play with the older girls, she says.” “Coach Pauli expected a lot out of me, though. I had to cope with that and take his yelling because I knew he just wanted me to be a better player.”
“As a junior, I really enjoyed playing with the older girls like Taylor Thue, Gabbi Cummins, Jaden Hoeke, Makayla Johnson, Katie Wollschlager, and Kylie Kasuske. One of the best games of my career was the region semi-final against Aberdeen Roncalli. That was such a good game. It was so close, and we really thought we were going to win, which would have been a huge upset. We didn’t win, but it was definitely a highlight for me.”
During the 2019-2020 season, Jaecy was one of only two seniors on the team. She says, “I knew coming in that I was going to have to be a leader and be kind of the ‘mom’ to everyone. The younger girls came to me if they needed something and knew they could do that. I knew I had to be in control and help everyone else out.”
Jaecy enjoyed that role, but admitted it was frustrating at times. “I had to tell myself it was okay if the younger girls came to me. I had to take my time and remind myself that everyone was going to be okay. Some days we all just clicked.”
She says, “It has been fun to watch the younger girls grow. It’s crazy how good we have gotten, and I’m really excited to see where they go next year.”
When Jaecy isn’t in the gym with a basketball, she might be in the gym with a volleyball. She was a leader on the Lady Bulldog volleyball team the past four years and is a member of the Elite Alliance Volleyball Club in Watertown. She also plans to play collegiate volleyball for Presentation College in Aberdeen while majoring in radiology and earning a minor degree in coaching or healthcare administration.
In her spare time, when Jaecy isn’t working at SoDak Shores Supper Club, says she likes to hang out with her friends, visit her grandparents, shop, and ride horses. “I was not very good when I first started riding with the Yamaura family, but it’s gotten better. I even got my own cowgirl boots for Christmas this year. So, I’m set.”