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Sudden sweep: No. 1 Tigers stop No. 2 Mitchell in three sets

Early on, the Mitchell High School volleyball team had the Harrisburg Tigers by the tail Tuesday night. But the defending state champions and the state's No. 1-ranked team evaded a pair of set point chances for No. 2 Mitchell in the opening set a...

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Mitchell's Lesley VanDrongelen digs out a serve during an Eastern South Dakota Conference volleyball match against Harrisburg on Tuesday night at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Early on, the Mitchell High School volleyball team had the Harrisburg Tigers by the tail Tuesday night.

But the defending state champions and the state's No. 1-ranked team evaded a pair of set point chances for No. 2 Mitchell in the opening set and Harrisburg rolled from there, stunning the hometown Kernels with a three-set sweep at MHS.

Set scores were 28-26, 25-19, 25-19 in favor of Harrisburg (16-1, 14-0 ESD), which guaranteed a share of the Eastern South Dakota Conference championship with the win.

In front of a packed and raucous gym, Mitchell started well. The Kernels (17-2, 10-2 ESD) seemed poised to make it 19-for-19 in opening sets this season, breaking away for a 21-17 lead late in the first frame and held a 24-22 lead after a Mackenzie Miller kill. But Harrisburg then answered with the next three points for a chance to claim the set at 25-24. Mitchell staved off a pair of set-point chances from the Tigers before Madison Wassink and Ashlee Cain both put down kills to clinch the set 28-26.

That moment took the fire out of the Mitchell crowd and the wind out of the Kernels’ sails, coach Deb Thill said.

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“I thought we didn’t quite recover from set one,” Thill said. “We had our chances and we didn’t quite get the job done. It just kind of disappointed the kids and that’s just not us.”

A combination of hitting errors, defensive miscues and passing mistakes piled up in the second and third sets. In the second set, Mitchell trailed 18-17 before Harrisburg scored seven of the next nine points and in the third, the Kernels were down 19-17 before a 6-2 Tiger run sealed the match.

“I thought our kids battled but you just can’t make those types of errors against a really, really good team like Harrisburg,” Thill said.

Harrisburg coach Ronette Costain said she felt her team had an advantage and could exploit mismatches against the Kernels.

“I think our experience showed,” she said. “We played very well as a team and we know that’s when we’re at our best.”

Wassink finished with 16 kills, with Cain adding nine kills. Avery Thorson had 28 set assists and three blocks, while Carlie Fikse had four blocks.

For Mitchell, Miller had 21 kills, with Chelsea Brewster adding six kills. Miller and Carly Haring each had three blocks. Mandy Schmidt ahd 30 set assists and Brooke Flemmer had three aces. Miller and Bridget Thill each had 10 digs.   

On the Class AA seed-point scene, it means Mitchell’s time at the top of the class is short-lived. As of late Tuesday, Rapid City Stevens (24-4, 44.93 seed points) returned to the top spot, with Mitchell second (44.74) and Harrisburg in third (44.59).

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The Tigers only have three matches remaining, hosting Huron on Friday. Mitchell gets another chance to get back on track Friday, hosting Pierre in the penultimate home match for the regular season.

“Losing is OK, provided you learn from it and get better,” coach Thill said. “We might have our chances to see them again but we have some good teams left to play and that we have to be prepared for.”

Subvarsity: JV: Mitchell won 25-18, 20-25 and 15-4. Mitchell’s Maggie Kattner had five aces and 13 assists, while Payton Morgan tacked on six kills and an ace. Sophomores: Harrisburg won 18-25, 25-17, 15-9. Freshman A: Harrisburg won 25-17, 25-15. Freshman B: Mitchell won 28-30, 25-22 and 16-14.

Related Topics: KERNELS
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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