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Mitchell girls' begin state tennis today

Mitchell’s Flight 4 singles player Sammy Pooley stretches to hit the ball during a match earlier this season at Hitchcock Park in Mitchell. (Brooke Cersosimo/Republic)

Mitchell High School tennis coach Pat Moller is optimistic as his team opens play at the state girls’ tennis tournament today in Sioux Falls and Brandon.

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The tournament is being played at McKennan Park and Washington High School in Sioux Falls and the Brandon Middle School tennis courts. The tournament kicks off at 9 a.m. today.

“At the beginning of the season, we set out a goal to improve,” Moller said. “I think we have improved as the season has gone on. Hopefully, we can put it all together these last three days of the season.”

Eighth-grader Sammy Pooley is the Kernels’ only seeded singles player. Pooley (19-7) is seeded fifth at the Flight 4 singles spot. Moller said the top eight players in each flight are seeded and a random draw is done for the rest of the bracket.

“If Sammy doesn’t lose any matches, she has a really good chance of finishing in the top five,” Moller said. “She has been playing pretty good tennis.”

Moller added he expects his Flight 2 and 3 teams to do well also.

The Flight 2 doubles team (12-14) consists of juniors Haley Smith and Allison Buckley.

Pooley and seventh-grader Avery Larson, who is 6-7 at Flight 6 singles after missing most of the season with an injury, make up the Flight 3 doubles team.

“I like the way they are playing, and I think they could do some good things,” Moller said. He said Buckley (14-12) was also a player to look out for in Flight 5 singles.

“Allison has been playing very well, and she could surprise some people at state,” said Moller, whose team has a 8-15 team record heading into the tournament.

There are no seniors on the squad, so Moller relies on his juniors to lead the way.

Along with Flight 3 Smith (8-18) and Buckley, Flight 1 Grace Grabenstein (5-20) and Flight 2 Tatum Dean (1-11) are also juniors. Grabenstein and Dean make up Mitchell’s Flight 1 doubles team.

“Going into the season, it was no secret that we didn’t have any seniors,” Moller said. “Our junior girls needed to step up and they did. They have done a good job of being good role models for our younger girls.”

Moller said the favorite to take home the team title is Sioux Falls O’Gorman.