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MHS tennis team opens season in triangular

This year’s Flight 2 singles player Halle Larson hits a backhand during a drill at the Mitchell High School girls’ tennis practice Monday at Hitchcock Park. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

Improvement is what the Mitchell High School girls’ tennis team is focused on.

And third-year head coach Pat Moller said Monday that it’s very doable for this year’s team.

The Kernels return six players who earned varsity playing time but lost its top two players to graduation last season.

The group begins its season today by hosting a triangular with Vermillion and Rapid City Central. The triangular begins at 10 a.m. when Mitchell faces Vermillion at Hitchcock Park. The start time was moved up 2 1/2 hours because of the heat.

Mitchell has even more youth than last season as it has no seniors. Moller said his team battled through challenge matches and are finally ready to face someone other than a teammate on the other side of the net.

“It’s hard to gauge your talent when they play each other all the time,” said Moller, adding there are 22 girls out this season. “The challenge matches really made those players earn their positions, and we’ll use our first match as a barometer for what we’ve got and make adjustments from there.”

Leading the team this year at Flight 1 singles is junior Grace Grabenstein. The Flight 2 singles player is sophomore Halle Larson, Flight 3 is junior Haley Smith, eighth-grader Sammy Pooley is at Flight 4, Flight 5 is junior Allison Buckley and seventh-grader Avery Larson earned the Flight 6 spot.

Yet, Avery Larson’s high school tennis debut is put on hold with a broken finger. Moller said she will likely return to the lineup come mid-September but until then, junior Kendra Hanks will fill the spot.

Grabenstein and Halle Larson will pair up for Flight 1 doubles, Smith and Buckley make the Flight 2 doubles team and Pooley and Hanks are at Flight 3 doubles for the first few weeks of season. Avery Larson will join Pooley at Flight 3 doubles when she is healthy, said Moller.

Junior Tatum Dean, eighth-grader Jaeden Lizakowski and freshman Kaihlen Smith round out the team’s top 10.

With the team’s youth, Moller said he’s excited about what the players have to bring this year and what’s to come.

“We don’t get any older as we go down the lineup,” he said. “We see a lot of potential and see the possibilities in the next couple of years. These young kids seem to like the game of tennis.”

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