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Mitchell closes regular season with sweep

Mitchell's Mandy Schmidt digs up the ball as teammate Payton Morgan (18) looks on against Harrisburg on Thursday at MHS gym. (Ryan Deal / Republic)

Eleven Mitchell High School seniors—most of them playing in their 100th varsity match—ended their regular season on a high note.

The No. 5 Kernel volleyball team swept defending state champion Harrisburg, 25-22, 25-23 and 25-18, in their regular season finale on Thursday at the MHS gym.

The 11 seniors are the most in a single class in coach Deb Thill's 29-year tenure. The group has helped the Kernels go 56-44 in the past four seasons, including 53 wins the past three years.

"It's very special, especially when my own daughter (Bridget) is in that group," Thill said about the class. "Not only are they very tight, but I have been involved with them in their personal lives and in their volleyball lives since they have been in fifth grade. So they are very special to me and they always will be."

The special group defeated Harrisburg for the second time this season and now enter the postseason with a 15-8 mark.

"It's always so special to be able to play at home and in front of our home crowd," Mitchell senior setter Mandy Schmidt said. "So it meant a lot for us to end our season on a high note."

After the Senior Night ceremonies, the Kernels got off to a slow start and trailed 4-0 against the Tigers (8-16). However, once they got rolling, it was hard to stop the Kernels' momentum.

"We did really well after point 20 and closing it out," Thill said. "We were down in sets one and two—big time in set two and Mandy went on a big serving run for us there and I was very proud of that."

After closing out the first set, Mitchell fell behind 12-6 and then senior outside hitter Chelsea Brewster went to work. She knocked down five kills during a 6-0 surge to get back within striking distance. She finished with 22 kills and 10 digs.

"I was really happy with how Chelsea played tonight because she really mixed up her shots," Thill said. "She wasn't hitting the same shot all the time and when a hitter hits the same shot all the time, the defense can adjust on the other side."

The second set was tied at points 20, 22 and 23, but the Kernels scored the final two to stake a 2-0 match advantage. In the third set, Mitchell continued to pour it on and withstood a mini-Harrisburg rally for the sweep.

"We got the momentum in the second set and we just kept rolling from there," Schmidt said. "It definitely helped to have the crowd with us, too."

Schmidt dished out 26 assists and 11 digs. Mackenzie Miller had 12 digs and seven kills, while Carly Haring added six kills and two blocks. Payton Morgan finished with six digs, one kill and one ace. Brooke Flemmer finished with 11 digs, while Maggie Kattner had seven digs. Sage Jorgensen finished with four digs and one ace.

Up next, the Kernels will host a SoDak 16 match on Nov. 8 at the MHS gym. The opponent is to be determined, while the winner of the match advances to the state tournament on Nov. 15-17 in Sioux Falls.

"We are on the right track," Thill said. "We are playing better. We are getting a lot more things done and so hopefully we can keep it going."

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