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Mitchell girls tennis team returns six

Putting in the time over the offseason can sure pay off.

Freshman Sammy Pooley, who played the No. 4 spot for the Mitchell Kernel girls tennis team last season, has moved up the ranks to the No. 1 singles position.

"We've had a couple conversations about going up against every school's best player," Mitchell head coach Pat Moller said, adding she won all of her challenge matches in the preseason. "She wanted it from the beginning and worked up. Having a freshman at No. 1 sets up strong for the future."

Pooley played No. 6 as a seventh-grader and No. 4 as an eighth-grader. Pooley and the Kernels begin their season by hosting a triangular with Vermillion and Rapid City Central at 12:30 p.m. today at Hitchcock Park in Mitchell.

"The girls have come ready to work hard and learn," Moller said. "We have high hopes for the girls this year and hopefully, we can start that winning tradition on the girls side."

Along with Pooley, Mitchell returns five other letter winners, including seniors Haley Smith, Allison Buckley and Kendra Hanks, junior Halle Larson and eighth-grader Avery Larson. Halle Larson is Mitchell's No. 2 singles player, followed by Smith at No. 3, Avery Larson at No. 4, Buckley at No. 5 and Hanks at No. 6.

Pooley and Smith are teaming up for the No. 1 doubles spot, the Larson sisters are at No. 2 and Buckley and Hanks will play at No. 3.

Moller said it will be fun to watch the Larsons play together.

"It's going to be an interesting dynamic," he said. "They get along and I think they're excited about that opportunity."

Playing behind varsity for the Kernels will be sophomore Kaihlen Smith, seniors Rebecca Sadler and Sydney Zimmerman, sophomore Marissa Moller and seventh-grader Kelsey Dahme.

Last year, Mitchell placed 12th at the state tournament.

"It was a tough year for us," Moller said, adding there are 30 players out this fall. "That experience that we gained is going to be valuable for us this year. I'm looking forward to seeing some improvement and excited to get started."

Moller said Aberdeen Central is the favorite in the Eastern South Dakota Conference this season, while Sioux Falls O'Gorman looks to be strong again in the state. But the Knights lost their first match of the season against St. Thomas More.

"There are some tough teams at the top this year and hopefully, we can get in there and be competitive with them," Moller said.

Brooke Cersosimo
Brooke Cersosimo is The Daily Republic's sports editor.