Middle hitters lead Kernels through seasonThe Mitchell High School volleyball team has leaned heavily on its middle hitters during the course of the season, with good reason.
By: Brooke Cersosimo, The Daily Republic
The Mitchell High School volleyball team has leaned heavily on its middle hitters during the course of the season, with good reason.
The Kernels have recorded 953 kills this year, and junior Taylin Alm and senior Kerri Young have combined for 58 percent of them.
Alm leads the team with 342 kills, while Young follows with 210.
Mitchell coach Deb Thill said the duo has so much success because Alm and Young play differently.
“Kerri can hit several different kinds of sets and is good at all of them,” Thill said. “Taylin is more of a high-ball hitter, and it’s hard to dig up her ball because of the angle it comes at.
“A lot of our team success is because of those two hitters.”
Although being middle hitters may seem complex, Young said their job is quite simple.
“Taylin and I try to lead the team by getting kills every point so we can get the momentum going our way,” Young said.
Alm has been in double-digit hitting numbers 18 times this season and recorded a season-high 31 kills against Rapid City Stevens Oct. 12.
“(Taylin) has really developed her offensive game as far as working hard on figuring out how to go around the block, what kind of shots she should use and where she should place the kill,” said Thill about the 6-foot-4-inch hitter.
Young has tallied double-digit kills 11 times for the Kernels.
Thill, whose team is 14-7, said her team uses the middle hitters to open up other offensive options.
“If we establish the middle hitters first, we are able to use our outside hitters more,” she said. “If we can establish that, then it disrupts the other side of the net and we’re hard to defend.”
Thill said this strategy was successful for the Kernels against Huron in the first round match of the District 3AA tournament. During Mitchell’s five-set victory, outside hitters Emma Schmidt and Sidney Neugabauer each recorded season-high kills 15 and 14.
One team that shut down the Kernel offense twice this season is Aberdeen Central, which Mitchell plays in the District 3AA championship match at 7 p.m. today in Aberdeen.
The Golden Eagles held Alm to seven and eight kills in the first two meetings and Young to just five and six kills. The last meeting between the two Eastern South Dakota Conference teams was Sept. 25.
Thill said the Kernels are a different team now than they were six weeks ago.
“We’ve gotten a lot better and our middles have improved since then,” said Thill, whose team was defeated in straight sets in both matches against Aberdeen. “Our defense and serve receive has improved as well, and if we can do those things well against them, our middles are going to have a better chance and more opportunities to score.”
Alm said the team has to play smart if it wants to advance against the No. 1-seeded Golden Eagles.
“We have to mix up our hits and not always attack the ball but look for tips,” she said. “We have to go around their block and be aggressive.”
With a win against Aberdeen, Mitchell will earn a berth to the state tournament, which is Nov. 15-17 in Rapid City. With a loss, Mitchell hosts the winner of Douglas and Sturgis, which play in a District 4AA match today.