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The Mitchell tennis culture is the key for future success

Mitchell tennis celebrates its third state title with a season-ending banquet on Tuesday

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The Mitchell girls tennis team hoists the Class A state championship trophy on Oct. 5, 2021, at McKennan Park in Sioux Falls. (Branden Hull / Republic)

For the third year running, the Mitchell girls tennis team celebrated another year of winning the Class A state tennis championship.

And to commemorate, the Kernels hosted a team banquet at the Lake House Restaurant and Lounge Tuesday evening, not only to celebrate the accomplishment of winning the state title but to also reflect on the culture that has been created over the years.

“It’s a lot of fun to take a step back and just look at everything these girls have accomplished,” head coach Pat Moller said. “There’s not very many people in the world that can say they were a part of three state championship teams, in a row. These girls can say that and they can say that for the rest of their lives.”

The Mitchell roster consists of six varsity players who combined for a record of 141-31, including Julia Platt and Megan Mastel, who each only suffered one loss the entire year. The team ended the season with a dual record of 18-3, dominating opponents with an overall dual score of 160-29. The 2021 roster broke a couple records outside of the three-peat. They won the Rapid City Invitational for the first time in school history and they won the Eastern South Dakota Conference tennis tournament back-to-back for the first time in school history.

While this team achieved heights the program hadn’t reached before, it’s fitting that everyone in the group attributes its success to hard work and the foundation laid by coach Moller. Since Moller took over, the team has had a winning record since 2015. On top of that, a majority of the players on this roster have been working with Moller since as early as sixth grade, which created a bond not only with the coach, but with other dedicated players.

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“The three seniors that have been here since sixth grade, Atlanta Stahle, Olivia Huber and Julia Platt, have grown up with my daughter (Amber Moller) and I’ve taken them to summer tournaments and I’ve spent a lot of time watching them play tennis and grow,” Moller said. “Those girls are always going to have a special place in my heart.”

Platt said it was the tightness of the group that allowed them to achieve their goals and that’s something she’ll never forget about this bunch.

“I’ll remember the closeness the most,” Platt said. “We definitely focus on team bonding, we’re there for each other and if we notice someone’s sad or going through anything, we’re going to cheer one another up. My team was really good at being there for me this season. I sprained my ankle and everyone was encouraging me positively. I’m just thankful for all the opportunities given this season.”

Mitchell not only overcame injuries, but also being put in the spotlight as the hunted. The Kernels hadn’t lost more than five matches as a team in four of its last five seasons. Combined with winning three straight state titles in a row and three ESD crowns, Mitchell was the team everyone was chasing in Class A. Sophomore Delaney Degen said the team understood that the last couple years, but it only made this team more resilient and a closer unit.

“With all the seniors, we’re all so tight and we all get along so well, I think that’s part of how we were such a good team,” Degen said. “We all have each other’s back and it’s just really awesome to win our third state title. We’ve overcome injuries and got everyone through it. There were so many teams cheering against us because they knew we’re good so we had to really have everyone’s back and be good teammates.”

As Mitchell transitions into next season and prepares for the loss of four seniors, Moller believes teams from the past originally helped create this culture, but he said it will be a tough task to fill the void of those four seniors ending their Kernel careers.

“It’s been a progression over the last 7-8 years and there’s girls like Sammy Pooley, Avery Larson, Kelsey Dahme and others that all helped because when those girls were around, these girls were sixth graders,” Moller said. “They helped develop that passion and that success and these girls got a taste of that success and they all wanted it, together. The ability for them to rally around one another is something that’s overlooked with this team. I’m sure next year, we’re going to have to fill that void. There’s going to be a big chunk missing, but we have a lot of young players eager to fill that void too.”

Related Topics: TENNISPREP SPORTS
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