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Confident Kernels: MHS boys tennis team set for state tournament

Mitchell's Jared Suelflow returns a serve during No. 1 doubles action against Sioux Falls Lincoln on May 7 at Hitchcock Park. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Fresh off another Eastern South Dakota Conference title, coach Pat Moller likes the current state of the Mitchell High School boys tennis team.

The Kernels recently won their fifth straight ESD boys tennis title and enter today's state tournament in Rapid City with some momentum after another conference crown. The three-day tournament starts 9 a.m. Central time today and concludes on Saturday.

"I like the way our guys are playing," Moller said. "We are playing with a lot of confidence. It's really just maintaining where we are at, fine-tuning a few things and making sure we are staying aggressive."

The Kernels, who have six seniors, finished fifth at state last season and Moller hopes they can draw from that experience this weekend.

"We are a veteran group and hopefully we understand how to play with the pressure that the state tournament brings," Moller said.

The Kernels finished the dual season with a 17-4 record. Moller expects that Baley Miller (Flight No. 4), Kade Clark (Flight No. 5) and Ryan Bergeson (Flight No. 6) to have high seeds in singles, along with the No. 2 doubles team of Miller and Adam Loes.

"Hopefully we've set ourselves up for a good season with some favorable seeds and then it's just about surviving the first day," Moller said. "The first day of the tournament we just want to get into the swing of things and come out unscathed, hopefully where we can win all of our matches and get into Friday."

Moller said the quarterfinals matches will hold a lot of weight for the Kernels. Moller pointed to last season and said the quarterfinals played a factor in Mitchell's fifth-place finish.

"If we want to improve from last year's fifth-place finish, we are going to have to win those quarterfinal matches," Moller said.

Sioux Falls Lincoln is the defending state champs and Moller said the Patriots are once again the favorites. But said the other Sioux Falls schools, Rapid City Stevens and Aberdeen Roncalli will be in the mix.

"That's a pretty wide open field," Moller said. "Obviously, Sioux Falls Lincoln is still the favorite, but they are not as dominant as they have been in the past. I don't know if that's them getting worse or the rest of the state catching up. Whatever the case may be, it's going to be an interesting tournament."