Kernels looking to improve off two state tourney appearancesThe Mitchell High School girls’ volleyball team gets under way this week and returns with new goals and plenty of experience.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell High School girls’ volleyball team gets under way this week and returns with new goals and plenty of experience.
The Kernels qualified for the state tournament for its second straight year, last season finishing in seventh place. Despite losing Dana Misiaszek, Lexie Weier, Tara Palmer and Olivia Willis to graduation, eight players are returning for another shot at a state tournament berth.
Head coach Deb Thill is in her 22nd year of coaching the Kernels. She believes this year’s team is capable of returning to state and should place higher than last year’s group.
Returning players include seniors Megan Farnham, Kendra Morgan, Jenna Neugebauer, Kerri Young and juniors Taylin Alm, Sidney Neugebauer, Miranda Goldammer and Emma Schmidt.
“This is a nice mix of girls with great attitudes, and they want to continue to get better each day,” Thill said. “Also, Kerri is catching up after a year off, so it will be nice to have her back again playing with this group.”
Last year, Young was on the cross country team in the fall. She played for the varsity volleyball team before that. Other players who will see playing time are juniors Shelly Iburg, Alison Murphy, Taylor Sebert and sophomore Rachel Bucholz.
This season, the Kernels have one key component that will help the team immensely — height and plenty of it. The Kernels have at least five players who are 5-foot-11 or taller.
“In all my coaching years, this is the tallest team I’ve ever had,” Thill said. “This will improve our defense in a great way because we’ll be able to block more balls at the net and take control of the ball during each point.”
One challenge the Kernels are dealing with is the MHS gymnasium has been renovated with new flooring, bleachers and paint, which has kept the team from practicing in its competition atmosphere. Thill said the Kernels will practice in the high school gym today for the first time.
Thill said her team is excited about the gym’s changes. Mitchell opens its season with back-to-back games against Spearfish and Sturgis this week, both games at the high school gym.
“At the beginning of the year, we’re going to focus more on ourselves and the way we play the game rather than on our opponents,” Thill said. “This weekend, we’re going to figure out what strategies work for us. We’ll be able to change our offense and defense according to the opponents later on, but right now we want to find our strengths and weaknesses.”
Thill expects the team to go through learning curves, but the returning experience and discipline will allow the team to go far.
The home opener against Spearfish is set for 7 p.m., while Saturday’s game against Sturgis begins at 2:30 p.m.