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Alm approaching 1,000 career kills

Mitchell’s Taylin Alm kills the ball as two Huron players jump to block the ball during an Eastern South Dakota Conference match earlier this year at Mitchell High School. Also pictured is Kernel coach Deb Thill, back. (Aaron Saunders/Republic)

Taylin Alm’s number is 10.

Ten kills is all senior outside hitter Taylin Alm needs to reach the 1,000 career kill mark, which no Mitchell High School volleyball player has accomplished.

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Alm, who has verbally committed to play at NCAA’s Division I Pepperdine University next year, is likely to become Mitchell’s first-ever volleyball player to have 1,000 career kills this week as she has racked up 990 over the past four years.

The Kernels open up play this week tonight in a match against No. 4 Aberdeen Central. The Eastern South Dakota Conference contest begins at 7 p.m. at the high school. The Kernels also travel to face Rapid City Central Friday and Rapid City Stevens Saturday.

With only 10 kills standing between Alm and the elite mark, Mitchell (7-6) will have to put up its best effort against the Golden Eagles tonight. In the last meeting, Aberdeen Central topped Mitchell 25-9, 25-22, 25-15 and limited Alm, who averages 22 kills per match, to a season-low 13 kills.

Although the feat is unknown to any Kernel player, it’s not unheard of. In a nonformal survey conducted by The Daily Republic, a handful of Class AA volleyball players have reached 1,000 kills in their careers. Some of those players include Yankton’s Mikala Hora, Sioux Falls Lincoln’s Tara Houlihan and Sioux Falls Roosevelt’s Maggie DeJong. DeJong, a senior for the Rough Riders, reached the mark on Oct. 8 against Watertown.

“I remember her skill level in seventh grade and how much she’s improved every year,” Mitchell coach Deb Thill said. “Some of our middle school girls look up to her as someone they strive to be,” she said. “She’s brought a lot of excitement to our program and a lot of people ask about her.

“She’s very humble, and gives credit to passers and setters.”

Coming into the season, Alm pounded 703 kills to the floor and the number has increased quickly this year. The 6-foot-4 standout, who moved from middle hitter to outside hitter this year, has tallied 287 kills this season and became Mitchell’s all-time career kill leader, surpassing Dana Misiaszek’s 949 kills against Harrisburg Oct. 8.

“It’s been exciting for her,” said senior teammate Sidney Neugebauer, who has also played with Alm on the club Kairos Elite volleyball program. “We’ve had long talks about setting goals and it’s great to see her reach them.”

Along with leading the team in kills, Alm also leads the team in aces (48) and serve receive.

“She’s playing a different position but she’s stronger and you can tell she was serious about being physically in shape, and obviously, that shows in how she’s been able to play,” Thill said, adding Alm also plays in the back row for the first time this year. “She plays all the way around and hasn’t done that before. That’s a big accomplishment for her because not a lot of 6-foot-4 girls will play in the back row. She does a very nice job.”

Although Alm is the player producing the attack numbers, the team knows she wouldn’t be there without her teammates.

“Serve receive is something we’ve worked on all year and Emma is an amazing setter, so she gets a lot of credit for Taylin’s kills also,” Neugebauer said.

Schmidt has tallied 436 assists this season, and last year’s setter Kendra Morgan has also played a big role in Alm’s kill success.

Thill said Alm is one of few players to earn time in varsity matches, which is a big part of why she’s in the position to reach 1,000 career kills.

“If there’s some good talent and I feel that somebody can play, they come up to the varsity level,” she said. “Taylin was one of them.”

Alm had 73 kills as a freshman, 201 as a sophomore and as a junior she recorded 429 kills, which is Mitchell’s single-season kill record.

There’s no saying what career number Alm can reach as the Kernels have seven regular-season matches left and two guaranteed District 3AA matches. Mitchell could potentially have 13 matches remaining in the season with region play and the Class AA state tournament, which is Nov. 21-23 at the Corn Palace.

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