A new shakeup to high school tennis in South Dakota starts this season.
During the offseason, a proposal to shift from one class to two classes of tennis was approved and girls tennis teams will play under the new two-class setup this season. Mitchell is in Class A, along with Aberdeen Roncalli, Huron, Lennox, Madison, Milbank, Pierre, Rapid City Christian, Spearfish, Vermillion and Yankton.
“It’s an exciting time in tennis, having an opportunity to split into classes and equal the playing field a little bit is going to be certainly different this year,” Mitchell coach Pat Moller said. “I think everybody is in a wait and see type of approach to see how things are going to work out. I am certainly excited for the opportunity that’s before us and I can’t wait to get started.”
The Kernels get started today at the Huron triangular against the Tigers and Aberdeen Roncalli. Mitchell is coming off a ninth-place finish at state and a third-place finish at the Eastern South Dakota Conference tourney.
Mitchell has a blend of upperclassmen and underclassmen on its varsity roster. Kelsey Dahme and Ashley Jones are the two seniors, while Kiersten Bathke and Allison Mastel make up the junior class. Olivia Huber, Julia Platt and Atlanta Stahle are sophomores, while Amber Moller is a freshman.
“The girls put in a lot of time over the summer and we are just ready to play,” coach Moller said. “We will see where we are at, but there’s a lot of talent out there and a lot of passion and love for the game.”
Dahme has the most experience on the team. She’s moved up from Flight No. 2 singles and will be the No. 1 singles player this season. She will team up with Stahle to form the No. 1 doubles team.
“She brings back a lot of experience,” Moller said about Dahme said. “She’s had a lot of success and we are really hoping for big things from her this year.”
Stahle, who was Flight No. 5 last year, will hold down the No. 2 singles spot. Huber is moving up from Flight No. 6 singles to No. 3 this year. Huber and Moller will be the No. 2 singles team. Bathke is No. 4 in the singles lineup and she’s going to play No. 3 doubles with Jones. Moller will be the No. 5 singles player, while Jones will be the No. 6 singles player.
Coach Moller said Brandon Valley is the favorite in the ESD and one of the top teams in the state. After that, the Kernels are among a logjam of teams in the conference that will be fighting for spots behind the Lynx. He also mentioned Watertown, Yankton and Harrisburg as other top teams in the conference.
“This is one of the strongest ESD fields since I have been coaching,” Moller said. “I feel like we have a pretty darn good team and there’s probably four or five other teams that are going to contend along with us.”