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Mitchell junior Taylin Alm named Daily Republic volleyball player of the year

Mitchell's Taylin Alm was named Daily Republic volleyball player of the year (Chris Huber/Republic)2 / 2

Taylin Alm was the perfect person to fill a glaring void on the Kernel volleyball team.

The 6-foot-4 junior knew someone had to step in for go-to hitter Dana Misiaszek, who broke the school record for most kills in her senior season in 2011.

"I thought that I could do it," Alm said.

She not only filled the void, but exceeded expectations.

At the state tournament two weeks ago, Alm broke Misiaszek's record for number of kills in a season. She set the mark at 429 kills, beating Misiaszek's 2011 record of 413.

"We expected her to come in and have a good season for us, yes," Mitchell head coach Deb Thill said. "I don't know if we expected her to break that record.

"She was one of our go-to hitters and wanted to be in that role for the team."

Alm's record-breaking efforts earned her an all-tournament honor at the Class AA state tournament along with a first-team all-state selection, which is voted on by South Dakota high school coaches. She was also named to the all-Eastern South Dakota Conference first team.

For her outstanding season, Alm has been named The Daily Republic's area volleyball player of the year, an award determined by the newspaper's sports staff. The sports staff also consulted area coaches and fans while determining its choices. Alm received two first-place votes, receiving 14 points in a system that awards five points for a first-place vote, four points for second place, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth.

Mitchell senior Megan Farnham finished in second place with 13 points, receiving one first-place vote. Wagner senior Jessa Doom was third with nine points, followed by Andes Central's senior Kellie Winckler with six points, Lyman junior Anna Flitner earned two points and White Lake senior Maria Nightingale had one point.

Last season, Mitchell's Misiaszek won the player of the year award.

Before assuming Misiaszek's role, Alm needed to overcome an injury. She suffered a knee injury during her sophomore season and underwent surgery just two days after the 2011 state tournament.

"I knew that I had to work hard to get back to where I was before the injury," said Alm, adding that she had a five-month recovery. "I really worked on my lateral quickness and vertical jump to improve myself."

Alm, who has 703 career kills, said she came into the season wanting to give her best effort. It's clear that's what her team received.

"Honestly, I don't think about the records when I play," she said. "I just wanted to play the best that I could, and I think I gave my all this year."

Alm helped lead the Kernels to a seventh-place finish at the state tournament this year, matching Mitchell's finish from last year. She tallied 56 kills in the three matches, recording a game-high 23 kills in Mitchell's opening match against Sioux Falls Washington.

She said the tournament was a highlight of the year.

"We played some of our best volleyball there," Alm said. "Receiving those awards is an achievement, but playing state is the most memorable part for me."

Despite being a standout figure on the court, Alm's quiet personality allows her to keep excelling and progressing in the sport.

"She is very humble and puts forth her best effort in practices," Thill said. "She is very coachable and brings a lot of excitement to the game as far as how she can play."

Along with her work ethic, Alm's height only adds to her abilities and is a major threat at the net in both hitting and blocking.

"I think that my height is intimidating," said Alm, who has a 78-inch wingspan. "Other teams key on me because my height allows me to hit the ball straight down."

Even with all of Alm's accomplishments, Thill said Alem has yet to reach her full potential.

"She improved a lot from last season to this season and still can improve," said Thill, adding that the Kernels have never had a player break the 1,000-kill mark. "We want to keep developing her as a player."

Alm said she has always loved the sport and has looked up to family members as role models.

Her mother, Monica, played volleyball at South Dakota State University before transferring to Dakota Wesleyan University to finish out her career.

Ron Nelson, Alm's grandfather, has coached the sport for 25 years in the Mitchell area. He currently coaches for Marion High School.

"I think that after learning from them and all of their players, it really helped me to become the player I am now," said Alm, who recalls watching and being a part of the sport since she was a young girl.

Alm has played in Mitchell leagues and club teams since grade school.

"The game comes more naturally for her than other sports," Thill said. "She's been exposed to the game much more than others, and you can tell that it helps her."

Here is a look at the other players who received votes:

Farnham also played a key role in Mitchell's success this season. She finished the season with 607 digs and broke a Class AA state record for average digs per set with 7.1.

Farnham also broke a school record for number of digs in a match with 41. She broke the record twice before reaching 41 digs. Farnham was also named to the Class AA second-team all-state and Eastern South Dakota all-Conference first team.

Doom was selected to the Class A state all-tournament team for the second straight season. In addition, she was named to the Class A all-state team for the third consecutive year.

Doom finished the season with 906 set assists and 85 service aces. Doom also recorded 100 set assists at the state tournament.

n Winckler helped lead Andes Central to a fifth-place finish at the Class B state tournament. Winckler had 305 kills and 63 service aces.

She was also named to the Class B all-tournament team.

Flitner helped the Lyman volleyball team reach its first state tournament appearance in 17 years. Flitner tallied 38 kills in the state tournament, recording a game-high 19 kills against Timber Lake.

Flitner had 431 kills, 90 blocks and 502 digs this season.

Nightingale reached the 1000-kill mark in her final season with the Wolverines. This is the second year she has received votes for the player of the year award.

Past Daily Republic players of the year:

2001-Marcy Jacobsen, Mitchell

2002-Chelaine Knudsen, Andes Central

2002-Chelsey Miller, Mitchell

Note: 2002 season switch

2003-Katrina Brooks, Andes Central

2004-Gina Baldwin, Mitchell

2005-Kelli Fiegen, Parkston

2006-Jena Doom, Wagner

2007-Kelli Fiegen, Parkston

2008-Keaya Weber, Wagner

2009-Jilanne Doom, Wagner

2010-Charlee Nelson, Mitchell

2011-Dana Misiaszek, Mitchell

2012-Taylin Alm, Mitchell

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