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Mitchell's Kaspen Alm answers the call for bigger role on Kernel volleyball team

The 6-foot-3 Alm has already matched her number of kills from 2020 in first 11 matches this season

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Mitchell's Kaspen Alm hits over a pair of Watertown defenders during a match in the Huron Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Kaspen Alm was given a bigger role for the Mitchell High School volleyball team this season.

And so far, she’s answered the call.

The Kernels’ tallest player has been a tough presence at the net for opponents in Mitchell’s 7-4 start to the 2021 season. Alm, a 6-foot-3 outside hitter for the Kernels, has logged 143 kills in the first 11 matches of the season for Mitchell, at a rate of 4.3 per set played for the Kernels. She has already matched her production for the 2020 season, in which she had 143 kills in 20 matches in MHS’ 6-14 campaign a year ago.

Alm is in a different role this year, playing outside hitter after holding a right-side hitter role in 2020. But a lot of hard work and commitment to volleyball has had Alm ready for the job of leading the Kernels on the attack.

“We’ve started the season really strong and I’ve started strong, as well,” she said. “That’s been a good thing for myself and for the team to build that confidence early.”

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Alm, who played in the Kairos Elite volleyball club program between high school seasons, said the seven-month club season helped prepare her for playing Class AA volleyball as a senior, even as she mostly stayed in the right-side hitter role.

“It was really a chance to improve my confidence,” Alm said. “I really improved my confidence. I spent a lot of time as a right-side and working on my blocking, but I think I’ve been a better player this season because of it.”

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Mitchell's Kaspen Alm jumps to make a block against Watertown's Karli Hanten during a match in the Huron Invitational on Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Huron Arena. (Matt Gade / Republic)
Matt Gade

Alm had a .122 hitting percentage in 2020, which was third best on the team. This year, that percentage has doubled to .258, leading the team among regular hitters in the offense.

“She’s really cut down on her errors,” Mitchell coach Deb Thill said. “We felt that with her swing and how much she’s improved, we felt that we needed her to be a go-to player for her and get her a lot of swings in a match.”

Thill noted the impact Mitchell’s passers have made in the Kernels’ ability to position the ball off serve-receive and opponents’ attacks, allowing Mitchell to set up successful attacks.

“The passing from our team has been so much better this year,” Thill said. “Our serve-receive is tremendously better, our defense is tremendously better. We’re athletic on the floor and we’re making those plays that give us a chance to get the ball forward. Fundamentally, that’s where it starts and our team has done a great job of making those passes.”

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In the first 11 matches, Mitchell has made only 14 ball-handing errors in 1,039 chances, making errors at about half the rate as last year’s team. As a team, Mitchell is averaging 10.3 kills per set in 2021, up from 8.9 last season.

In addition to fellow outside hitter Lizzie Tyler, Thill said the rest of the team’s hitters — right-side hitters Taylor Giblin and Kaitlyn Christensen, and middle hitters Sawyer Stoebner and Taylor Haring — have all progressed early in the season to the point where Thill believes any of them can deliver to get a needed kill late in a match.

“We’ve seen that improvement early in the year, and that’s going to be important for us, to have some different threats alongside Kaspen and Lizzie,” Thill said.

Alm said she’s seen the difference in this year’s Kernel team, one that is more cohesive and works as a team that will give it a chance to be successful all season.

“I think we’re a lot more together as a group and playing as a team,” Alm said. “That’s something that hasn’t always happened over the last few years and this group has worked really hard to make sure we’re playing as one unit this season.”

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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