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The best of the blockers: Mitchell's Sawyer Stoebner breaks Kernel match record

The MHS sophomore leads Class AA in total blocks

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Mitchell's Sawyer Stoebner (14) jumps to block an attack against Sioux Falls Jefferson on Tuesday, Oct. 12 at Mitchell High School. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Sawyer Stoebner made Kernel volleyball history last weekend.

And she didn’t even have a hunch that she’d done it.

Stoebner had logged nine total blocks — two solo blocks and seven assisted blocks — in a three-set home win over Rapid City Central on Oct. 23. On the way to the locker room, her teammate Taylor Haring asked Stoebner if she thought she broke the school record of eight blocks in a match.

“I said no, I thought I had six,” Stoebner said. “I was surprised. I just thought our timing was really good (in the match) because we got touches on every ball.”

The record-breaking effort tipped over what had been a difficult MHS volleyball record to surpass in recent years. Five other players had tied for eight blocks in Kernel single-match history, including Melinda Oster (1996), Kayla Haines (2005), Dana Misiaszek (2010), Taylin Alm (2012) and Carly Haring (2017 and 2018). At Monday's practice, the sophomore Stoebner's face lit up this week when Thill told her the names of the players she had surpassed.

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Mitchell coach Deb Thill said it was a particularly strong team effort at the net, including Stoebner and junior Lizzie Tyler frequently working in sync at the net. Tyler had a career-high five blocks in the match. Mitchell tied its season-best 11 total blocks for the match, including a season-best 17 block assists.

“We work on it a lot in practice, so I feel like when we execute at that level in a game, it’s a great feeling,” Stoebner said. “We try to double-block every ball, we’ve come a long ways. ”

For the season, Stoebner has 66 blocks — 55 assisted and 11 solo blocks — which ranks as the most of any player in Class AA volleyball entering matches on Tuesday, Oct. 26.

“She’s just really quick at moving from side to side and getting into position,” Thill said. “She has a great ability to read hitters and make those plays and she has a great energy for our team.”

Stoebner has been close to the record this season on a few occasions, including a pair of six-block matches in the last month against Brookings and Aberdeen Central.

Most of those other top blockers in the state are in the vicinity of 6-feet tall. Stoebner is listed at 5-foot-9, but she makes up for any perceived size disadvantage with a level of athleticism difficult to match on the court. She said she’s worked at lifting and strength-training to improve her abilities at the net.

“Blocking is an attitude and you have to have that mean-girl mentality of saying ‘Not today, it’s not coming over on our side today.’ (Sawyer) has that attitude that she’s not going to let anyone get an easy kill,” Thill said. “And the defense behind them is the same type of thing. That’s what it takes to be a good defensive player.

If Mitchell can make a run to the Class AA state tournament, the single-season block record for MHS is not out of reach for Stoebner, held by Michelle Doerr’s 94-block season in 2002. Stoebner also has 68 kills for Mitchell on the season.

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The Kernels have two more matches remaining in the regular season, including a Nov. 2 road match at No. 3-ranked Brandon Valley and a Nov. 4 home finale with No. 2-ranked Sioux Falls O’Gorman. The Class AA SoDak 16 state-qualifying round will be held Thursday, Nov. 11.

Related Topics: VOLLEYBALLPREP SPORTS
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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