Kernels eye first playoff win in program history
The Mitchell High School girls soccer team has a different mindset heading into the 2020 Class AA state tournament.
It was excited to host its first home playoff game in program history last season, but it ended with a 3-1 defeat to Sioux Falls Roosevelt. This year, the Kernels’ excitement of hosting a second straight home playoff game is tempered by the fact they want to keep hitting new milestones.
Mitchell (8-3-2) wants to win at 6 p.m. today at Joe Quintal Field against No. 9 seed Sioux Falls O’Gorman.
“I know last year we were excited to have a home game. I think we’re beyond that,” MHS coach Bob Lemon said. “We want to not only have this home game, but we want to win the home game and move on in the playoffs. That becomes our rally cry. Let’s move on and use the experience we had in the past for our benefit.”
Mitchell finished the season 2-2-2, dropping it down the Class AA standings and barely holding onto home-field advantage against the Knights (7-4-1).
It was an up-and-down end to the regular season, as evidenced by its final two games. The Kernels allowed a season-high four goals to Brookings in a 4-4 draw, but then played a more defensive alignment against eventual top seed Aberdeen Central to a 1-1 halftime tie. Aberdeen pulled away for a 4-1 win, but the first half showed Mitchell’s potential compared to a couple of nights prior.
“We used that as our benchmark for the potential we have as a team,” Lemon said. “Can we carry that out for an 80-minute game becomes the question and the challenge.”
The Kernels score 2.8 goals per game and, helped by senior goalie Caroline Titze, allow 1.2 goals per game. They have eight clean sheets and gave up multiple goals four times, though it happened twice to end the season.
Mitchell and O’Gorman didn’t meet in the regular season, but the Knights pose a unique challenge. They don’t attack with speed in transition like other teams, rather have a more methodical approach paired with players who can strike from distance. It’s led to 3.5 goals per game, including seven games of at least three goals scored. O’Gorman has only been held scoreless twice. It gives up 1.3 goals per game and has four clean sheets.
“They move the ball really well. We expect they’re to move the ball back and forth across the field,” Lemon said. “...They transition more methodically and they progress down the field that way rather than attacking at speed. Defensively, we have to make those adjustments and be ready for the switches, but we do anticipate a little more time to adjust to those changes.”
O’Gorman won its first-round match last season before bowing out to eventual champion Yankton in the second round. The Knights have played in the Class A state championship game in four of six years, including a championship in 2015. They haven’t made it to the title game in the last two years, though.
Meanwhile, Mitchell is making its third postseason appearance, but is still looking for its first-ever playoff win.
“We got the girls that have gone through it a couple of times,” Lemon said. “The nerves might still be there, but at least we’ve been through this once before.”