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Five-set thriller finally goes Mitchell's way

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 High School's Haley Burdick goes for the kill between Watertown's Madison Smith (16) and Ray Peterson (13) during a match on Tuesday night at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade/Republic)
Mitchell High School's Haley Burdick goes for the kill between Watertown's Madison Smith (16) and Ray Peterson (13) during a match on Tuesday night at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade/Republic)

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.

It was the first five-set victory for Kernel volleyball since Oct. 8, 2013, when Mitchell won 3-2 at Harrisburg. Prior to Tuesday, Mitchell had lost seven straight five-set matches, including a 3-2 loss to Pierre in the District 3AA playoffs to end the 2015 season. And after finishing 1-15 in the ESD a year ago, Mitchell (2-1, 1-1 ESD) has already matched its conference win total after just two conference games.

"It feels really good to win a match like this considering we didn't play to five many times last year and when we did, we didn't finish it off," said Mitchell senior Haley Burdick. "We fought and came through in the end."

In winning the first two sets, the Kernels required big rallies to win the games. Mitchell came back from down eight in the first set at 12-4 and closed the second set with a 10-1 run to finish off the Arrows, capped with two aces from Megan Sebert.

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"We overcame our errors mentally," Mitchell coach Deb Thill said. "We had a lot of mental errors, serving errors and you know, we have to give Watertown credit. They were scrappy on their side and it was exciting for us to see all of the ebbs and flows and the good things and still come out with a victory."

After a 25-19 win in set three, Watertown held a big lead in set four at 19-12, before Mitchell pulled to within 1 at 21-20 with a Burdick block. Watertown then surged back in front and held on 25-23, capped with an Abby Johnson kill.

In set five, Mitchell never trailed and was helped by three kills from Mackenzie Miller and two blocks and a kill from Burdick. Up 14-13, Mitchell was the beneficiary of an attack into the net from the Arrows to clinch the win.

"Winning how we did, in the sets that we won and losing the sets that we did, you're only going to learn from that," Thill said.

For Mitchell, Miller had 15 kills, while Burdick and Chelsea Brewster each had eight kills. Megan Sebert and Mandy Schmidt each had four aces, while Miller and Bridget Thill each had two aces. Lauren Larson had a team-high 13 digs. Jenna Weich, Carly Haring and Burdick each had their hand in five blocks. Schmidt had 32 set assists for Mitchell in the win.

Arrows coach Kim Rohde said she expected Mitchell to give them a challenge but said her team just made too many errors to win the match.

"Last year, they gave us a run for our money and we sort of expected that this time around," Rohde said. "We had to take care of ourselves on our side of the net and we just didn't do that."

Watertown was led by Madi Smith, who had 12 kills, while Izzi Stroup had 22 assists. Lexi Gloe had a game-high 24 digs and Calyn Weiss had four aces for the Arrows.

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Mitchell hosts Aberdeen Central on Thursday, while Watertown (1-2, 1-2 ESD) hosts Pierre on Sept. 3.

"We were really fired up the whole time and we didn't get down on ourselves," Burdick said. "Even if we had a mistake, we just stayed after them."

Subvarsity:

JV: Watertown won 25-22, 16-25, 15-9. For Mitchell, Olivia Thompson had four aces and five digs. Brooke Flemmer had 14 assists and seven digs and Chelsea Brewster added six kills.

Sophomores: Mitchell won 25-13, 25-27, 15-5. Tess Limberg had 10 kills, while Flemmer had 21 assists and two aces. Lesley VanDrongelen had 13 digs.

Freshman A: Watertown won 25-23, 25-14

Freshman B: Watertown won 25-11, 25-17

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Related Topics: VOLLEYBALLKERNELS
Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at mtraxler@mitchellrepublic.com.
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