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Kernels gear up for state tennis

Mitchell's Kade Clark returns a shot during No. 1 doubles action with teammate Ryan Bergeson during a dual against Madison on April 23 at Hitchcock Park. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell High School boys tennis team is getting ready to gain more valuable experience.

The Kernels, who have one senior on the roster, will play in the state tournament today through Saturday in Sioux Falls and Brandon. The first-round matches start at 8 a.m. today.

Mitchell is coming off a third-place finish at the Eastern South Dakota Conference tournament. It snapped a five-year run of ESD titles for the Kernels, but also served as a motivator heading into state.

"It's going to be a benefit for us," Mitchell coach Pat Moller said. "That makes the ESD tournament such an important part of our conference and what we do. It does prepare you for the state tournament and hopefully we can take the lessons we learned there and apply them to the state tournament and perform a little bit stronger."

Juniors Kade Clark and Ryan Bergeson were the only Kernels to experience the state tournament last season, helping them finish fourth at state. The rest of the lineup has served as a youth movement for the Kernels, but they've also helped the team piece together another respectable season.

"I am just proud of the kids for the way they've accepted the roles they've been given on this team or earned on this team and I am just excited to see what they can do at the state tournament," Moller said.

The doubles team of Macon Larson and Ben Helleloid is the No. 4 seed in Flight 3 doubles. Moller anticipated they would be in the No. 4 or No. 5 seed range and hopes they can use early matches as a springboard to a strong finish.

"It should set them up for some nice early-round matches, maybe some matches that will allow them to get that nervous energy out of the way before they play some of the better teams," Moller said. "They have been strong all year long."

Moller hopes the team can gain momentum as the tournament progresses and knows how tough the field will be after the first round.

"After Thursday, everything is going to be tough and we have some tough ones that Thursday as well," Moller said. "If we didn't learn anything else from ESD, it's that we have to come ready to play every single match and we can't look by anybody. We will just take it one game at a time and whatever opponent we have out there, we are going to play our best against them and hopefully we can come out on top."