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Kernels beat No. 5 Aberdeen for first time in 15 years

The Mitchell Kernels volleyball team is getting good at winning five-set matches. Two days removed from going the distance and defeating Watertown, the Kernels did it again Thursday, defeating the defending Class AA champions No. 5-ranked Aberdee...

Mitchell libero Lauren Larson sets the ball during the Kernels' 3-2 prep volleyball win over Aberdeen Central Thursday at Mitchell High School. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)
Mitchell libero Lauren Larson sets the ball during the Kernels' 3-2 prep volleyball win over Aberdeen Central Thursday at Mitchell High School. (Marcus Traxler/Republic)

The Mitchell Kernels volleyball team is getting good at winning five-set matches.

Two days removed from going the distance and defeating Watertown, the Kernels did it again Thursday, defeating the defending Class AA champions No. 5-ranked Aberdeen Central 3-2 in Eastern South Dakota Conference play at the Mitchell High School gym.

The victory - by a 21-25, 25-21, 25-22, 22-25, 15-7 score - is the first win for Mitchell over Aberdeen Central in 15 years. In four games, Mitchell (3-1, 2-1 ESD) has already matched the win total of the 2015 Kernels.

"It feels incredible, considering Aberdeen Central is a rival of ours and we haven't beaten them in a long time," said Mitchell sophomore hitter Mackenzie Miller. "We just fed off the energy from our crowd.

After the Golden Eagles controlled the final points of the fourth set, Mitchell took an early hold on the fifth set, scoring the first four points and jumping out to a 10-4 lead on a Chelsea Brewster kill. Aberdeen Central (2-2, 0-2 ESD) had a pair of notable service errors to help Mitchell jump ahead, on a night when the Golden Eagles had 14 service errors and 18 hitting errors.

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"We just made a lot of mistakes," Aberdeen Central coach Dennis Northrup said. "We're young and we'll get better. We're playing a few sophomores that just don't exactly know where they're at yet and they don't have the experience. The team that makes the most mistakes loses the match and that was us tonight."

Mitchell, on the other hand, wasn't caught out of position much on Thursday, staying defensively sound and avoiding scramble situations. The Kernels put together a late run in the second set to win 25-21 and then had an 11-2 run in the third set to put them in a position to win that game 25-22. Kernel coach Deb Thill said the team spent time on Wednesday working on positioning after being caught flat-footed too many times against the Arrows.

"Defensively, we were playing a lot of balls up and making plays," Thill said. "I know we serve-received very well. We know if you can do those two things, everything else is easier and when we got the ball to (setter) Mandy (Schmidt) tonight, she was stellar."

Mitchell was paced by Haley Burdick's 15 kills, while Miller added 13 and Carly Haring had 10 kills and six blocks. Schmidt had 39 set assists and Lauren Larson and Bridget Thill each had 15 digs.

For the Golden Eagles, Paiton Burckhard had a game-high 20 kills, while Karli Gardner added nine kills. Haylee Mork had three aces and 23 digs.

Mitchell will continue to be tested, heading to No. 2 Brandon Valley on Tuesday. Central hosts Sturgis on Saturday.

Miller said the Kernels are only building confidence with each win and it's showing for Mitchell's coach.

"They're inspired to keep working, to keep coming to practice," Thill said. "This was our fourth game in eight days and I was a little concerned with how we'd handle the heat but I was excited to see us play well and feed off the energy in a loud gym with our crowd behind us."

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Subvarsity:

JV: Mitchell won 25-19, 25-9. Payton Morgan had five kills and six digs for Mitchell, while Carly Haring added five kills. Bridget Thill had 10 digs.

Sophomore: Mitchell won 25-11, 23-25 and 15-7

Freshman A: Mitchell won 27-25, 25-15

Freshman B: Aberdeen Central won 21-25, 25-18, 16-14.

Related Topics: KERNELSVOLLEYBALL
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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