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Mitchell battles back after slow start at state tennis tournament

Mitchell's Avery Larson returns a volley during the South Dakota girls tennis tournament last weekend in Rapid City. (South Dakota Public Broadcasting Photo)

RAPID CITY—The South Dakota girls tennis tournament didn't start according to plan for Mitchell High School.

A deep field pushed several Kernels to seeds in the middle of the pack, which meant more difficult early-round matches. Mitchell failed to advance to the semifinals in any flight, but bounced back to finish strong later in the tournament.

The Kernels would go on to place in four flights, while finishing ninth as a team at the state meet.

"I was pleased with the way we finished," MHS head coach Pat Moller said. "This team has been a lot of fun to coach and it's always sad to say goodbye to our two seniors, but I talked to our other girls and they understand what they need to do to get into a better position for next year."

Freshman Olivia Huber entered the tournament seeded fourth in Flight 6 singles, but after a loss in the quarterfinals to drop into the fifth-place bracket, she bounced back to win back-to-back matches.

She began the season with little experience, but will now enter next season as weathered veteran with success at the state meet on her resume.

"She had the best record on our team and really played well all through the season," Moller said. "I was really happy with the way she grew. She was pretty inexperienced coming into the season and she just took the opportunity that she had and ran with it."

Mitchell graduates just two seniors—Avery Larson and Madison Bohlen—but both were important members of the lineup. Larson, the team's top player all season, was knocked out of the No. 1 singles consolation finals. Her No. 1 doubles partner, Kelsey Dahme, lost in the first match before rebounding to win four consecutive matches to take ninth place.

Freshman Atlanta Stahle also lost her first match in No. 5 singles before rattling off four consecutive wins to place ninth. Freshmen Stahle and Huber, along with Dahme, Kiersten Bathke and eighth-grader Amber Moller should keep the Kernels competitive once again next fall.

"I think the girls were disappointed with their finish this year, but they got a little taste of what the state tournament is going to be like and hopefully that motivates them in the offseason to better prepare themselves for more success next year," Moller said.

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