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Kernels sweep Brandon Valley on road

Mitchell senior Sidney Neugebauer hits the ball over the net during an Eastern South Dakota Conference volleyball match against Brandon Valley Monday in Brandon. The Kernels won 3-0. (Nick McCutcheon/Republic)

BRANDON VALLEY — In the Kernels’ third match in four days, Mitchell picked a much-needed win over Brandon Valley in three sets Monday.

The 25-15, 27-25, 25-21 win came on the heels of two five-set losses in Rapid City and Kernel coach Deb Thill knows the victory was important for her team with the regular season winding down and the playoffs looming.

“This was huge because we played two five-set matches within 24 hours, got home at midnight, then had to get back on the bus,” Thill said. “The players are a little tired. The coaches are tired, so I was very happy with the effort the kids gave out tonight.”

The Kernels (8-9) showed a well-rounded offense against the Bobcats (7-9) and stepped up when breaks went the other way. Four Kernels recorded at least five kills and Thill was pleased with how the team stayed in system so setter Emma Schmidt could be in position to distribute the ball all night.

“We passed the ball really well to Emma tonight and when we can keep our setter in system and not running around all over the place, we are pretty good,” Thill said. “We had a strong offensive performance and didn’t have to rely on Taylin (Alm) all night long.”

Alm, who crossed the 1,000-kill mark against Rapid City Central Friday, finished with 15 kills and six digs.

The Kernels and Lynx played tight early in the first set, but Mitchell pulled away to take the opening set.

The second set was a different story as the Kernels failed to convert on consecutive set points. The set was tied at 24 after a Lynx serve trickled over the net, ending up in a long rally, eventually won by the home team. On the next point, the Lynx earned their own set point after Taylor Murtha made a sprawling dig to extend the rally.

The ensuing Lynx serve went into the net and Mitchell put the set away two points later after consecutive errors by Brandon Valley.

“They had set point on us and we fought back and that was really important,” Thill said.

Mitchell jumped out to a lead early in the third set and after the Lynx tightened things up, Schmidt put away match point on a tip at the net.

Schmidt finished with 33 assists, five kills and two blocks, in what Thill called an all-around great match for her senior setter. Sidney Neugebauer also had a strong night for Mitchell, contributing seven kills and 11 digs in the win.

“It’s always good to get a win in the ESD,” Neugebauer said. “We really focused on passing and keeping Emma in system, so we could get the ball down.”

Shelly Iburg added five kills and two blocks for the Kernels, while Rachel Bucholz finished with four kills and two blocks. Defensively, Taylor Sebert had a team-high 16 digs and added two aces for the Kernels.

Kristi Anderson stepped in to play significant minutes for the Kernels and finished with six digs and two aces.

Brandon Valley was led by Briana Grage with eight kills and 28 digs, and Hannah Stensrud added eight kills.

With the playoffs on the horizon, Mitchell’s next match against Pierre will be important for regional seeding. The Governors are just behind the Kernels in the region standings as the schools are eyeing a third-place finish.

Mitchell plays Pierre Friday in Mitchell.

Subvarsity scores

JV: Mitchell won 8-25, 25-20, 25-21.

Sophomores: Mitchell won 25-23, 26-24.

Freshmen A: Brandon Valley won 25-16, 25-16.

Freshmen B: Brandon Valley won 25-20, 25-12.