Kernels close season with sweep over O'Gorman
RAPID CITY -- After two days of struggles at the state tournament, the Mitchell High School volleyball team got back to what they’ve done so much of this season: winning.
The Kernels took out their frustrations on Sioux Falls O’Gorman, sweeping the Knights in three sets 27-25, 25-19 and 25-15, claiming seventh place at the Class AA state volleyball tournament at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City. The Mitchell campaign ends at 21-6 on the season in the Kernels’ first state appearance since 2012.
Playing at 9 a.m. local time wasn’t in Mitchell’s plans at the start of the tournament but the Kernels made the most of the chance to play one last time this season.
“I think the major thing for us was ending on a win,” said Alexis Elfstrand, Mitchell’s lone senior. “It shows our team’s bond and reassures us that we are a good team and we wanted to show that at the state tournament.”
The match included history for a pair of Mitchell juniors. Setter Mandy Schmidt, surpassed Gina Baldwin as the school’s career set assist leader, finishing the match with 33 assists, moving to 2,105 in her career. Baldwin, who played from 2002 to 2004 for the Kernels, had 2,077 assists.
Kernels’ outside hitter Mackenzie Miller capped her season with a match-high 16 kills and set the MHS single-season kills record in the process. Miller ends the season at 459 kills after racking up 53 kills in three matches at the state tournament, according to the Mitchell team statistics. Former Kernel standout and current University of Iowa hitter Taylin Alm previously held the record with 457 kills in 2013.
For a stretch in the first set, it looked like it might not be the Kernels’ time for a third straight day, as Mitchell let an 18-12 lead slip away and the Kernels were tied 25-all before a Knight error and a block from Brooke Flemmer and Carly Haring gave Mitchell the necessary two-point edge.
“More than anything, it was fun (today),” Mitchell coach Deb Thill said. “It was exactly what we wanted to do.”
Mitchell took control in the second set with a five-point burst, capped with a Chelsea Brewster ace and a kill and a block from Haring on back-to-back plays.
O’Gorman and Mitchell were tied at 10 in the third set when Mitchell put the pedal down again. Maggie Kattner posted an ace to get the Kernels going, as the Kernels scored eight of the next 10 points for Mitchell to put the win on ice.
“I think we just really wanted to end on a good note, knowing this would be our last match of the season,” Mitchell’s Sage Jorgensen said. “We wanted to give it everything we had and make the most out of the situation.”
Brewster continued her excellent defensive tournament with 15 digs and eight kills and was named to the Class AA all-tournament team. Carly Haring had 11 kills and five total blocks for Mitchell, while Emma Ronsiek had 13 kills for O’Gorman (17-18).
Thill said she didn’t doubt that Mitchell would play with confidence in the game and said her team learned a lot in the state trip.
“We weren’t here last year,” Thill said. “We were upset before state and that state tournament experience sometimes means so much. I thought our kids played great today. It was a team effort and everyone was into the match, on the court and on the bench.
“We’ve had a very special season and our kids came out here and did what we needed to do,” she added.Mitchell (21-6) 27 25 25O’Gorman (17-18) 25 19 15Mitchell (kills-aces-blocks): Bridget Thill 0-0-0 Mandy Schmidt 0-0-2 Lesley VanDrongelen 0-0-0 Brooke Flemmer 1-1-1 Mackenzie Miller 16-1-2 Alexis Elfstrand 0-0-0 Chelsea Brewster 8-1-0 Carly Haring 11-0-5 Maggie Kattner 0-3-0 Payton Morgan 1-0-1 Sage Jorgensen 1-1-0 Totals: 38-7-9 O’Gorman: Meghan Bornhoft 0-2-0 Maggie Jarding 0-0-0 Morgan Roman 2-0-3 Ellee Ohnoutka 0-2-0 Jaime Renshaw 1-3-0 McKenzie Hermanson 0-0-0 Raegen Reilly 4-0-0 Grace Bengford 1-0-3 Emma Ronsiek 13-0-1 Maddie Christensen 1-0-2 Courtney Baruth 4-0-1 Totals 26-7-6 Set assists: Mitchell 35 (Schmidt 33), O’Gorman 22 (Hermanson 14). Digs: Mitchell 60 (Brewster 15, Flemmer 12), O’Gorman 33 (Jarding 10)