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Kernels suffer five-set loss to Washington in first round


The Daily Republic

RAPID CITY -- Five-set matches have been the Kernels' specialty this season, but it was their undoing in the first round of the Class AA state tournament.

No. 5 seed Mitchell came back from two sets down in the first round of the Class AA high school volleyball tournament against No. 4 seed Sioux Falls Washington to force a deciding set.

In the fifth set, the Warriors won the first five points until Mitchell's Sidney Neugebauer broke the run with a kill. The Kernels came within four points of Washington (20-5) but the early deficit was too much to overcome.

"Right away, we made some errors offensively and you can't afford to get down 5-0 in set five and really have a chance to win," Mitchell head coach Deb Thill said. "Our kids battled hard, but they stepped up and made more plays at the end."

The Kernels, who drop to the consolation side of the tournament, lost 25-22, 25-19, 19-25, 23-25, 15-9.

Mitchell (15-9) held off one match point, but Emma Hanson sealed Washington's ticket to the semifinal round with a kill, winning 15-9 in the fifth set.

"We did a better job at keeping the ball away from (Megan) Farnham in the fifth set," Warriors head coach LaDawn Nesje said. "She's very skilled, so we tried to serve more to the corners and catch them off guard. We needed to keep them off their game, and I think our girls did a good job at doing that."

Farnham led all players with 33 digs in the match, while Mitchell middle hitter Taylin Alm led all players with 22 kills and six blocks. Washington's Hanson recorded 21 kills.

The first set was back-and-forth but got away from Mitchell when it had a 22-21 lead. The Warriors won four consecutive points to gain the early momentum and take set one.

The second set was all Washington as it went ahead 14-6. The Warriors ran away with the set and capitalized on a 2-0 set lead with a kill from Hanson.

Mitchell had control of set three from the beginning with a 10-5 lead.

Washington fought back to within two points at 21-19, but the Kernels won four straight points on two Warrior service errors, a kill by Mitchell's Kerri Young and a Warrior kill error to win the set 25-19.

The Kernels took the momentum from the previous set and went ahead 12-6 in set four. At one point, Mitchell had an eight-point lead in the set.

But Washington went on a run of its own to tie the set at 19.

The end of the set was neck-and-neck, with Mitchell trying to force a fifth set and Washington wanting to close out the match. After a timeout at 23-all, the Kernels earned at set point and pushed the match to a fifth set with a successful block.

"We did a better job at making the plays," Thill said. "We were being more aggressive and did a better job at defending what they were doing."

Mitchell's Kendra Morgan had 35 set assists, Neugebauer had 14 digs and five kills, Emma Schmidt recorded 17 digs and three kills.

The Kernels play No. 1 seed Sioux Falls O'Gorman, which was upset by the No. 8 seed Watertown in four sets, in a consolation match at 1 p.m. Central time at Rapid City Central High School.

Neugebauer said the team will have to move forward because there is still a lot of volleyball left to play.

"We're going to have to forget about this game and learn from it," she said. "We still have two games left, and we can win them."

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