Mitchell beats Watertown in 5 setsWATERTOWN — The Mitchell High School volleyball team had its hands full as Watertown played its most complete match of the season Saturday night, but the Kernels outlasted the Arrows for a thrilling 3-2 Eastern South Dakota Conference win in Watertown.
By: Rich Remmers, The Public Opinion
By Rich Remmers
Public Opinion Sports Writer
WATERTOWN — The Mitchell High School volleyball team had its hands full as Watertown played its most complete match of the season Saturday night, but the Kernels outlasted the Arrows for a thrilling 3-2 Eastern South Dakota Conference win in Watertown.
Mitchell won the opening game 25-21 before the Arrows took the second game 25-17. The Kernels bounced back to take the critical third game 25-20, only to see Watertown respond with a 25-19 victory in the fourth game. After getting behind early in the fifth game, Mitchell rallied for a 15-12 win to wrap up the match.
“We played excellent tonight. I couldn’t ask for anything better from our girls,” said Watertown coach Kim Rohde. “They played hard and did everything we asked. They worked hard all match but we just couldn’t get the last few points we needed.”
Watertown (6-9 overall, 4-6 ESD) had all of the momentum early in the deciding fifth game after rallying for a win in the fourth game. The Arrows raced to a 6-2 lead — with the help of a number of Kernel mistakes — but couldn’t shake the Kernels.
Mitchell (9-5 overall, 6-5 ESD) answered with five straight points to gain a 7-6 advantage and the two teams traded points to a 10-10 tie. The Kernels were then able to rattle off four straight points getting two kills each from Kerri Young and Jenna Neugebauer to go ahead 14-10.
Taylor Grangaard’s kill for the Arrows stopped the spurt and McKenzie Werner followed with a kill to cut the deficit to 14-12. Megan Farnham scored the final point for the Kernels when her tip fell in the middle of the court.
“This is what we expected tonight. We have been going through some struggles lately losing our two matches before this and we knew Watertown would be a good team,” said Mitchell coach Deb Thill. “Everybody in the ESD, except for Aberdeen maybe, is pretty even. It is going to be battles like this all the time.”
Mitchell started off the night strong and led 18-16 in the opening game. The Kernels used five straight points to widen the gap and were able to hold off the Arrows to get on the board first.
The second game proved to be all Watertown. The Arrows bolted to an 18-10 advantage and were never threatened the rest of the way. Taylor Waba and Chelsea Murphy each slammed a couple of kills late to help the Arrows even the match.
In the third game, Mitchell led 20-16 but had a tough time shaking the Arrows. Watertown trimmed the deficit to 22-19 on a kill by Grangaard but kills from Sidney Neugebauer and Kerri Young and a hitting error by the Arrows helped the Kernels pull ahead 2-1 in the match.
“We had a lot of long rallies and made a lot of great digs to keep the ball alive but so did Mitchell,” said Rohde. “We did a lot better job blocking tonight and that is something we have been struggling with.”
Watertown used a strong finish in Game 4 to stay alive and force the fifth game. The Arrows broke an 18-18 tie by outscoring the Kernels 7-1 the rest of the way. Macy Denzer notched two aces during the scoring streak and Watertown took advantage of four Mitchell miscues to earn the win.
Taylin Alm, a 6-foot-4 junior, enjoyed a big night for the Kernels and led in kills with 22. Young added 15 kills and Jenna Neugebauer had four aces, while Kendra Morgan added two. Morgan also had 47 assists and Alm two solo blocks. Megan Farnham led the Kernels in digs with 30, Sidney Neugebauer had 19, Schmidt had 18 and Morgan added 16.
“Our kids found a way to win and I was very happy with that,” said Thill. “We just need to keep working hard every day. It is a marathon and you have to do the best you can and that is what we are working for.”
Ashtin McClemans pounded 18 kills on 40-47 hitting to guide the Arrows. Grangaard added 12 kills and four blocks and Ashton Foust had six kills and three blocks. Denzer went 28-29 serving with five aces and 13 digs and Waba added two aces on 16-16 serving.
Emily Pengilly converted 112 of 113 set attempts with 36 assists and also had 18 digs for the Arrows. Werner finished with four blocks and Hannah Whitlock recorded a team-high 32 digs.
“The girls really wanted to win this match,” said Rohde. “We have a tough road week coming up and we really wanted a win here but it just didn’t come out our way.”
Mitchell’s next contest is against Huron at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Huron.