BROOKINGS-The Mitchell High School boys tennis team lost to two teams in Eastern South Dakota Conference play during the regular season.
At Friday's ESD meet, the Kernels once again finished behind champion Brandon Valley and second-place Yankton to end a run of five consecutive conference titles. But they also put forth a strong effort to place in all six singles flights and each of the three doubles flights.
Mitchell surrendered one loss a piece in each of its singles flights, while the doubles teams all advanced to the semifinals, highlighted by Ben Helleloid and Macon Larson finishing second at No. 3 doubles.
"Ultimately, we're the third-best team in the ESD," MHS head coach Pat Moller said. "That was kind of shown in the regular season. We hoped we could improve, but Yankton and Brandon Valley proved they were better than us."
The first match of the day proved to be the biggest hindrance for the Kernels, as they dropped the opening singles match on five out of six occasions.
Mitchell also managed to rebound from that loss each time, as Kade Clark (Flight 1), Ryan Bergeson (Flight 2), Max Tupper (Flight 3), Helleloid (Flight 5) and Tyler Loecker (Flight 6) went on to win the remainder of their matches to finish as consolation champions.
"I thought we were ready to go, but tennis is a funny game," Moller said. "Being the five-time defending champs, your opponents they get a little extra motivation. We saw some really good tennis and didn't rise to the occasion."
Larson, meanwhile, dropped his lone match in the No. 4 singles semifinals, only to beat Huron's Eh Kalu in the third-place match.
All three doubles teams managed to win their first match, while Kaden Jerke and Tupper took Brandon Valley's eventual champions Evan Talcott and Jacob Frantzen to the limit, only to fall in the semifinals in a tiebreak. Helleloid and Larson also had their chances to come away with the Flight 3 doubles title, but fell 10-6.
"No. 3 doubles has been the most consistent of our doubles teams all year long and they showed that again to have a real strong day," Moller said.
Mitchell competes in the state tennis tournament, beginning on Thursday at Brandon Valley Middle School and McKennan Park in Sioux Falls.