With a state tournament bid on the line, the Mitchell Kernels will play at a familiar place and against a familiar face.
The Mitchell High School volleyball team plays Eastern South Dakota Conference foe Pierre at 6 p.m. today in a SoDak 16 match at MHS gym. The winner advances to the state volleyball tournament on Nov. 15-17 in Sioux Falls.
The Kernels swept the Governors in both meetings this season, including way back on Aug. 28 in their home opener.
"We match up pretty well with Pierre and they've improved since the last time we played them," MHS coach Deb Thill said. "But so have we and so obviously I think we are playing our best volleyball and it's going to come down to serving and passing, which we've really improved at. So hopefully those odds will be in our favor."
And the No. 6 seeded Kernels (15-8) will have the home-court advantage against the No. 11 Governors (8-12). Mitchell won its first four home matches and is 8-3 this season at the cozy venue.
With a whopping 11 seniors, the Kernels also have the experience factor. Pierre has just two seniors.
"I think that's definitely going to be to our advantage," Thill said. "We've got a lot more experience on the team. Pierre is pretty young and so obviously playing at home-Kernel Crazies-and we are looking it as step one of the state tournament."
Mitchell also has the height advantage over the Governors. The Kernels feature 6-foot-2 senior middle hitter Carly Haring, who has 257 kills and 81 total blocks. Mitchell outside hitters Chelsea Brewster (281 kills/272 digs/39 aces/30 total blocks) and Mackenzie Miller (179 kills/96 digs/35 total blocks) are also dynamic outside hitters.
"We are bigger," Thill said. "They are not very tall. They are very good athletes and they can jump, but I feel like we could utilize our height a little bit and our quickness a little bit more against them."
Senior setter Mandy Schmidt has registered 773 assists and 228 digs. Bridget Thill and Brooke Flemmer have recorded 209 digs and 199 digs, respectively.
"We are just going to keep working on ball control," coach Thill said. "Ball control always wins in the end and our kids know that. So we keep working on that every day."
Unlike the Class A and B tournaments, Class AA does not reseed after this round. The Mitchell-Pierre winner will play the Sioux Falls O'Gorman-Sioux Falls Lincoln winner at 6 p.m. on Nov. 15 in the opening round of the state tournament.