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Surging Harrisburg squad ends season for Kernel volleyball

The Kernels’ season ends at 7-17, while third-seeded Harrisburg moves on at 25-3 to the state tournament, where it will face Sioux Falls Lincoln in the first round.

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Mitchell's Taylor Giblin hits an attack during a Class AA SoDak 16 state-qualifying volleyball match on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Harrisburg.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic
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HARRISBURG, S.D. — It’s not a stretch to say that the Harrisburg High School volleyball team is a state championship contender in Class AA volleyball this season.

And on Thursday night, in the SoDak 16, the Tigers were on their game, ending the Mitchell Kernels’ season in three sets in the state-qualifying round. Set scores were 25-20, 25-15 and 25-15. The Kernels’ season ends at 7-17, while third-seeded Harrisburg moves on at 25-3 to the state tournament, where it will face Sioux Falls Lincoln in the first round.

“I thought our kids played hard,” Mitchell coach Deb Thill said. “I thought we played hard and we had some good rallies. They’ve come a long way this year and they need to keep their heads up because that team we played is really, really good and they haven’t lost a set in a month.”

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Mitchell's Jurzee Gregg passes the ball during a Class AA SoDak 16 state-qualifying volleyball match on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Harrisburg.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Mitchell had short stretches where their play was cohesive and benefitted from Harrisburg hitting errors but ultimately couldn’t string along enough top-tier play to keep the Tigers at bay and to reverse the regular-season outcome between the two teams, which was a Sept. 8 sweep for Harrisburg at the Corn Palace. Harrisburg now enters the state tournament as winners of its last 13 matches.

It was the second consecutive SoDak 16 meeting between the two teams, with Harrisburg sweeping the 2021 contest when Mitchell was an 11-seed.

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“When you look out at the matches, we’re very much at a height disadvantage and it was there again tonight and we have to work that much harder to try to overcome that,” Thill said.

The match opened with Mitchell building a 9-6 lead in set one but Harrisburg bounced back to the lead and Mitchell stayed close until 15-14, when the Tigers scored six in a row to give themselves some breathing room. The second set played out similarly, with the teams tied at 8-all, only to see the Tigers score 11 of the next 14 points to pull away.

Throughout the night, Mitchell was hurt at the service line with 10 service errors. The Kernels were averaging six per match entering the contest.

“We missed uncharacteristically. We just missed too many,” Thill said. “We’ve been priding ourselves on serving aggressively and still putting them in play. There’s adrenaline and pressure but I think we could have done a better job there.”

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Mitchell's Halle Haring hits the ball over the net during a Class AA SoDak 16 state-qualifying volleyball match on Thursday, Nov. 10, 2022 in Harrisburg.
Marcus Traxler / Mitchell Republic

Mitchell’s Lizzie Tyler had a team-best eight kills and 15 digs, with six kills from Sawyer Stoebner, who had three blocks. Addie Siemsen had three aces and two blocks. Jurzee Gregg had 16 set assists, and Paige Guthmiller had 17 digs.

For Harrisburg, freshman Gabi Zacharisen and sophomore Kaelyn Snoozy each had 10 kills, with seven from Morrissen Samuels. Kayleigh Hybertson had a match-high 30 assists and posted 15 digs, with 10 from Snoozy. Samuels and Maggie Meister each had a pair of aces.

The final match for the Kernels brings the end of the line for four Kernel seniors, including Tyler, Gregg, Taylor Giblin and Claire Hegg.

“I just give them a lot of credit and thank them for their hard work, for sticking with the program and believing in what we are doing as a program,” Thill said. “They’re great kids.”

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Harrisburg will play Lincoln in the Class AA quarterfinals at 6:45 p.m. on Nov. 17. The Patriots won 3-1 over Watertown on Thursday to set up the matchup.

Because of the poor weather in the western and central parts of the state, only four Class AA state tournament positions have been determined as of Thursday night, with Harrisburg, Huron, Sioux Falls Jefferson and Lincoln all securing spots. Four additional matches will be played on Friday and Saturday to determine the final eight.

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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