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Mitchell claims state tourney berth

Mitchell's Mandy Schmidt (5) sets the ball for Carly Haring on Thursday at the MHS gym. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

Experience lifted the Mitchell Kernels back into the state volleyball tournament.

The No. 6 seeded Kernels held off No. 11 Pierre in a SoDak 16 volleyball match on Thursday at MHS gym. The set scores were 27-25, 25-11 and 25-23.

Mitchell will play Sioux Falls O'Gorman on Thursday in the opening round of the state tournament in Sioux Falls. The match is at 6 p.m. at the Denny Sanford Premier Center.

On Thursday, Mitchell swept the Governors for the third time this season. However, it wasn't easy as the Kernels had to rally in the first and third sets.

"Sometimes this match is the hardest one to win and the hardest one to prepare for, especially against a team like Pierre, who you have beaten twice throughout the season," MHS coach Deb Thill said. "I thought our kids handled that really well. We had our ups and our downs, but our kids played with a lot of confidence thinking they were going to win and even coming from behind in sets one and three, I thought that we played really well."

The senior-laden Kernels fell behind 22-16 in the first set, but they used a 9-3 surge to stun the Governors and take the set.

"I think our experience and our ability to just control our end of the spectrum is what helped us pull through and win," Mitchell senior Carly Haring said.

Mitchell (16-8) used the momentum from the first set and controlled the second set.

"We just got all of our errors out and kind of jitters," Mitchell senior Mackenzie Miller said. "We just stepped up and played."

Mitchell's experience shined through again in the third and final set. The Kernels again fell behind early, but the match was later tied at four points. After the final tie at 19-19, Mitchell pulled away again for the sweep.

"I think it was our experience and our kids played to win," Thill said. "We played to win and there was never any panic or anything. It was just playing with some confidence."

Miller finished with 11 kills and eight digs, while Chelsea Brewster put down 10 kills and recorded 18 digs. Haring added nine kills. Mandy Schmidt dished out 28 assists and added eight digs. Bridget Thill finished with nine digs.

Up next, the Kernels will shift their attention to the state tournament. Mitchell finished seventh last season, but they've got all that experience back. The Kernels are led by 11 seniors this season.

"I think the experience of having a state tournament under our belts will help us to know how everything is going to go and just get the jitters out again," Miller said.

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