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Mitchell High School boys soccer builds team culture in second year under coach Sean McQuillan

Returning two key starters that missed majority of last season due to injuries and gaining some comradery with their head coach, the Kernels have a much better grasp on what to expect this season.

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Mitchell's Brenen Rose looks to win the ball back from a Huron player on Sept. 11, 2021.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL – In its second year under head coach Sean McQuillan, the Mitchell boys soccer team is still working on establishing that competitive culture to be the cornerstone for the team’s long-term success.

As a program that’s won six games over the previous four seasons, the Kernels are a better position than recent history would show, McQuillan said. Last year the team was filled with players who were mostly new to playing the sport of soccer, while dealing with a first-time head coaching and injuries to players in key positions on the field.

Coming into this season, McQuillan and the team have a better understanding of what goals are obtainable for them as a group, with a couple of starting players returning to their positions, allowing others to play in their natural roles.

“We’re going to be a different team this season, but we will be much more like the team that ended the season last year,” McQuillan said. “We’ll be more competitive, we’ll have more drive and we’ll be more organized.”

In the process of becoming more competitive and organized, it starts with leadership and having everyone in their necessary positions on the field. Two key players, Sam Mullenmeister and Logan Oehlerking, will be returning for the Kernels after missing the majority of the season last year. Mullenmeister, a midfielder/forward, fractured his foot and only played in one game last year, while Oehlerking, a starting goalkeeper, missed the back half of the season due to a concussion.

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These two players returning will be vital to how the Kernels structure their defense. Brenen Rose, senior midfielder/defender, and Kaileb Hubbard, senior forward/defender, will be the two captains for Mitchell, helping everyone stay in constant communication off the field and doing what’s necessary to get the most out of the players on the field.

“We’ll be looking at Brenen Rose and Kaileb Hubbard for a lot of things on and off the field this season,” McQuillan said. “Brenen is going to be the captain that leads more by example and gets the boys going, while Hubbard is going to be the hardworking and vocal guy who’s able to get others to follow his lead.”

The team has 10 sophomores and three freshmen on the roster, meaning youth will be a key part of the Kernel roster. Mitchell will run a 3-5-2 and 5-3-2 formation that they are much more familiar with and that gameplan will help them on the defensive end initially, in hopes to lead to easier offensive possessions.

“Coming into the season, we just want to focus on the small details and formation that the boys are used to,” McQuillan said. “Last year, we had to make so many changes mid-game and the team wasn’t used to that. We also weren’t used to the competition coming our way either, but as the season went on, we started to figure it out. It’s going to be much better starting off the year healthy with everyone knowing their role.”

After only winning one game last season, Mitchell still wants to establish that competitive toughness that can carry over throughout the season regardless of the score on the scoreboard, seeking to earn the respect of its opponents.

“We’re still building that never-quit mentality and regardless of the score or flow of the game, we have to keep pushing,” McQuillan said. “In one year, we changed that somewhat, but we have to keep going. Our seniors want a productive year, our younger players want to change the trajectory of this program and we’ll do that by giving our all every single day.”

Mitchell’s first game of the season is Friday, Aug. 12 against Harrisburg, beginning at 6 p.m. at Joe Quintal Field.

Branden is a sports reporter that graduated from Purdue University Northwest with a bachelor's degree in communications and a focus in journalism. He joined the Mitchell Republic in June 2021 and covers prep and collegiate athletics. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Full-Court Press, providing a weekly web-exclusive look at high school basketball throughout all of South Dakota. Branden can be reached at bhull@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @bhullreports.
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