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Kernels end regular season with 5-set win

Brooke Cersosimo/Republic Mitchell's Kendra Morgan sets the ball against Brookings in the Kernels' final regular season match Thursday in Mitchell.

The Mitchell High School volleyball team defeated Brookings in its final game of the regular season in Kernel fashion -- with a five set match.

Mitchell went down two sets early, but improved to 6-2 in five-set matches this season and finished 13-7 overall.

With the win, the Kernels took second in the Eastern South Dakota Conference and District 3, finishing behind Aberdeen Central in both.

In the deciding set of the match, Brookings had the momentum early, going ahead 3-0. Mitchell quickly stopped the run with a block and won eight consecutive points on Sidney Neugebauer's serve.

"We've got some good servers that we can go on some runs with, and when Sidney went back, I knew she was ready," said Mitchell coach Deb Thill, whose team won 22-25, 21-25, 25-16, 25-22, 15-12. "We gained the momentum that way and sometimes in set five you need a lucky break or two, and we had a few of those."

The Kernels maintained the lead as they earned five match points at 14-9, but Brookings fought off three match points. With a Bobcat kill error on the next point, Mitchell went on to win on its senior night.

Mitchell's Kendra Morgan said the Kernels were ready for the fifth set and played all the way to the end.

"We knew we had to start off strong with a great attitude and play point for point," said Morgan, who recorded 40 assists in the win. "We've been talking about how important this game was for days and we just all had to step up and make the plays."

The Kernels honored seniors Kendra Morgan, Kerri Young, Jenna Neugebauer and Megan Farnham before the match.

"Volleyball has meant a lot to those four young ladies that were on the court tonight throughout their careers," Thill said.

Kerri Young had 11 kills and two blocks, Jenna Neugebauer had 12 digs, five kills, three blocks and two aces and Megan Farnham added 16 digs.

Emma Schmidt tallied five kills, 12 digs and four aces and Taylin Alm had 15 kills and three blocks. Sidney Neugebauer had five kills and nine digs.

The Bobcats came out strong and had control in the first two sets. Head coach Jodi Melius said her team, which lost in straight sets in its first meeting with Mitchell, prepared well for the match.

"Mitchell did a great job of attacking our serve receive the last time we played and I think we were a lot more prepared coming in to this match," Melius said. "We were able to get the ball to our setter and our offense was flowing and that fell off a bit in sets three and four."

The Kernels rebounded in set three and took an early 12-6 lead. Mitchell went on the win the third 25-16 and took the momentum into the fourth set.

In the fourth set, the Kernels went up 20-15 but Brookings fought back to come within two points at 24-22, fighting off a set point. Alm earned a kill on the next point to force the final set.

Mitchell faces off against Huron at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mitchell.

JV: Mitchell, 25-27, 25-21, 25-20. Taylor Sebert had 16 digs and three aces. Rachel Bucholz recorded 13 digs, eight kills and three blocks and Kennedy Ischen had 10 kills and six digs.

Sophomores: Brookings, 25-17, 25-17.

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