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It was a nail-biter, but the Mitchell Kernels won a five-set match for the first time in three seasons Tuesday, toppling Watertown in a thrilling contest at Mitchell High School. Mitchell won 25-23, 25-19, 19-25, 23-25 and 15-13 in the Eastern South Dakota Conference match.
With the season drawing closer, Mitchell Christian's volleyball team was already facing its share of challenges. The team, which finished 15-12 and lost in the District 8B championship game to Hanson a year ago, has just three returning letterwinners in Kaitlyn Asmus, Grace Garrels and Abbie Reynen. Reynen won't be able to help the Golden Eagles this season after she tore her ACL in her knee over the summer.
The Mitchell High School cross country teams are growing and that's a good start to improving the quality of the Kernel running squad in 2016. Heading into today's season debut at the Mitchell Invitational, which begins at 10 a.m. at the Mitchell Middle School, the Kernels had 42 runners out for the team, which excited coach Keith Christensen. His passion has been passed on to the rest of the team, feeling energetic about this season.
For those curious about the Mitchell High School volleyball team in 2016, the Kernels' season opener Thursday night showed glimpses of both what Mitchell's team has become and what they can be. The Kernels battled No. 2-ranked Harrisburg for much of the night and took the third set from the Tigers before falling in four sets in front of a noisy and energetic crowd at the MHS gym. Set scores were 25-21, 25-14, 23-25 and 25-19 in the Eastern South Dakota Conference match, in which one couldn't tell that Mitchell had just three wins in all of 2015.
Regardless of the score of the games on Saturday, the inaugural Kernel Bowl is already looking like a great success. Organizers have already raised about $40,000 for the Mitchell Athletic Booster Club for Saturday's event, which will include a multitude of events throughout the day, capped by the Kernels' home football opener at 7 p.m. against Harrisburg. Kernel Bowl Co-Chairwoman Kim Mohr said the support for the first event has been "overwhelming" and has the entire booster club both pleased and excited for Saturday.
Generally, defense and pitching can take a softball team a long way. The Mitchell High School softball team is hoping that can happen for them, bringing the offense along as soon as possible in a season that is roughly six weeks long. "I think we will have the pitching and the defense," said Mitchell coach Jim Misiaszek "The key factor is when we're going to be able to hit our stride offensively. Hitting is a fickle thing so we're really going to focus on the offense during the early part of the season, because defensively, we have a lot of our questions answered."
The high school sports season doesn't start with a whistle, a starter's gun or the toss of a ball. Instead, under the auspice of a doctor, where blood pressure is monitored, heartbeats are screened and the body is checked for a range of issues from orthopedics to concussions. For the thousands of South Dakota boys and girls who will play high school sports this season, there's forms to be filled out assuring that they're healthy enough to participate. Those forms include athletic physicals, waivers to play and concussion information.
After just three wins a year ago and starting underclassmen throughout the year, it was a rough go for the Mitchell Kernels volleyball team in 2015. But another offseason of work and more experience should allow the Kernels to compete a bit more in the rough world of Class AA volleyball in South Dakota, leaning on athleticism and depth to build themselves into a better team.
There were both highs and lows in the Mitchell High School girls tennis season a year ago. In 2016, another year of experience and an improved focus should help the Kernels find more success. Mitchell's season opens today with an 11:30 a.m. dual at Vermillion. The home opener for the Kernels is Tuesday, with the Kernels hosting the Tanagers and Rapid City Central at Hitchcock Park. The team has just one senior—Kaihlen Smith—and five of the six starters in singles are returners to the team.
Going down as the first undefeated team in the modern history of South Dakota amateur baseball, Alexandria did a lot of things right. That success started and ended with the team's pitching. The team had an earned run average of 1.02 in completing the 28-0 season, capped with a nearly flawless start from Tyson Gau Sunday in the Class B championship game, a 7-1 win over Garretson at Cadwell Park in Mitchell.