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MHS girls return several key soccer players

The Mitchell High School girls' soccer team is coming off a one-victory campaign in 2007, but with a new head coach and several returning players, the Kernels are looking for a better season this year.

New head coach Scott Duff -- who replaces Bob Lemon, who coached the Kernels for two seasons -- said he's excited to coach the girls' team this season and he hopes to turn the team around.

Duff makes his coaching debut with the Kernel girls today against Watertown. Mitchell also plays Saturday at Aberdeen Central.

Duff has coached soccer around the country, including a team in North Carolina. Last season, his first year living in Mitchell, he coached the Mitchell United boys' team, which went winless.

This season, Duff will coach a girls' team that finished 1-12 last year. The team's only win came against Watertown on Sept. 14.

"We have a good core group of players this year," Duff said. "We'll be competitive, no doubt."

Duff will coach his daughter, Kim, this season, but this isn't the first time.

"I've coached her at different periods of time since she's been able to walk," he said. "I've been pretty fortunate. I've coached all three of my children. (Kimberly) acts like just another player and handles it well."

This year the team will have seven returning starters, and Duff explained he's confident the younger girls will contribute to the team, too.

"I'm fortunate to have a JV program with the girls," he said. "We've recently divided up the teams, but nothing is set in stone."

Kimberly Duff, Kelsey Stern, Joelle Meaney, Kristin Wempe, Kirby Gregg, Jessica Weitzman, Wendy Sivik, Holly Zimmer, Lexi Aslesen, Jena Hotchkiss and Carissa Scherschligt all return to start this season for the Kernels.

Cassandra Ptak, who is only an eighth grader, will start in goal for Mitchell. Duff said Ptak has natural ability in the goal and has the desire to be in the net, too.

Transitioning from North Carolina to South Dakota has been "a little bit different," Duff said, especially when it comes to soccer.

"The season is so short around here," he said. "In North Carolina, we played basically year round. We're thinking about buying, renting or leasing an indoor facility in town. We've been working with the entire soccer community. We'd have some of the finest facilities in the state or even region if we can get something like that in place."

Practice has already started for the Kernels, and Duff said he doesn't have a definite style of coaching yet. He incorporates endurance and stamina into workouts, but he intertwines skill sets at the same time.

"We use fitness through the use of the ball," he said. "No one likes monotonous, boring running."