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Kernel volleyball team rides roller coaster season, finishes 9-13

The Kernel volleyball team had a roller coaster of a season, ending in the District 3AA elimination game Nov. 9.

This season marks the first time since 2009 the Kernels didn’t qualify for the Class AA state tournament, which is Thursday at the Corn Palace in Mitchell. The Kernels’ season was highlighted by a four-set road win over then-No. 3 Huron.

“These girls have improved their volleyball skills tremendously and yes, we had ups and downs,” Mitchell head coach Deb Thill said. “Sometimes people forget they’re 16, 17 and 18 years old and feel a lot of pressure. They handled pressure, winning and losing extremely well.”

The Kernels finished their season 9-13 overall and 7-9 in the Eastern South Dakota Conference. Mitchell won one of its eight matches against district opponents Aberdeen Central, Huron and Pierre.

Yet, Mitchell’s set wins and losses were close despite having a losing record. The Kernels won 41 sets and lost 45.

“That just tells you how many close matches we were so close at winning,” said Thill, who has been head coach of the Kernels for 23 years. “There’s a lot of aspects of the game that are intangibles because it’s the ultimate team sport. Sometimes the game comes down to a game of inches. We had some unlucky breaks this year.”

Mitchell played seven five-set matches, finishing 2-5.

The Kernel roster was highlighted by eight seniors, which included Pepperdine University signee Taylin Alm, who was recently named an all-conference first-team selection. Alm broke two of her own school records this season. She set the single season kills record with 457 and the all-time kill record with 1,160. Alm is the first Kernel volleyball player to record more than 1,000 kills in her career.

Senior setter Emma Schmidt and senior outside hitter Sidney Neugebauer were also given all-ESD honors. Schmidt, who made the first team, was a strong player for the Kernels and led the team in assists with 685. Neugebauer was an honorable mention selection.

The Kernel varsity squad, which had 15 members, recorded a team GPA of 3.635 during the season, said Thill. “They are amazing students and individuals and I’m proud of what they did this year,” she said. “They represented MHS really well.”

Individual season stats

KILLS: Taylin Alm 457; Shelly Iburg 106; Alison Murphy 94; Emma Schmidt 88; Rachel Bucholz 81; Sidney Neugebauer 76; Kennedy Ischen 26; Ally Goldammer 6; Trisha Flemmer 2.

ACES: Alm 60; Schmidt 33; Iburg 28; Ischen 28; Neugebauer 21; Taylor Sebert 18; Flemmer 15; Kristi Anderson 5; Bucholz 1; Murphy 1.

BLOCKS: Iburg 51; Bucholz 31; Alm 30; Murphy 28; Schmidt 20; Neugebauer 5; Ischen 5; Goldammer 3.

DIGS: Neugeubaer 329; Sebert 277; Schmidt 224; Alm 203; Flemmer 141; Murphy 62; Iburg 57; Ischen 40; Anderson 32; Bucholz 29; Goldammer 3.

ASSISTS: Schmidt 685; Alm 25; Murphy 16; Neugebauer 13; Ischen 11; Flemmer 10; Bucholz 8; Iburg 8; Sebert 7.

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