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Kernel volleyball set for final stretch

Mitchell's Lesley VanDrongelen digs out a serve in front of teammate Brooke Flemmer against Aberdeen Central on Sept. 27 in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

The Mitchell High School volleyball team recently took a breather before its final stretch of the regular season.

The Kernels (11-5) last played on Oct. 4 in a three-set defeat at No. 1 Sioux Falls O'Gorman. When they play again on Friday against Rapid City Central, it will be eight days in between matches.

It's the longest break in between matches this season for the Kernels and they used it to fine tune things.

"It's given us some time to work on some different things and maybe some things we want to add to our defense and our offense," Mitchell coach Deb Thill said.

Mitchell, which has gone 3-4 in its last seven matches, have seven contests left in the season, and each one is just as important as playoff position looms large. The Kernels are currently No. 6 in the latest Class AA seed point standings and the top-eight teams in the final standings will host the Round of 16 qualifying match.

"Our schedule was a little bit tough and it's still going to be tough," Thill said. "We have some tough opponents coming up and we want to be good at the end. So we have to go through some learning opportunities for us to keep getting better."

Those opportunities start Friday and Saturday. The Kernels will play Rapid City Central and Rapid City Stevens this Friday and Saturday, respectively. Friday's match is at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday's match is at 1:30 p.m. Rapid City Stevens is No. 2 in this week's South Dakota Prep Media volleyball poll.

"We have to just take it one match at a time," Thill said about the upcoming schedule. "Everybody is different. Rapid City Central is going to bring a different kind of game to us and then Rapid City Stevens is going to bring a power game. So we have to be able to adjust. That's why we are going over different things."

The Kernels also have a date with No. 3 Sioux Falls Washington on Oct. 19 in Mitchell and a rematch against conference foe Huron on Oct. 23 in Huron. The Tigers defeated the Kernels in a five-set match earlier in the season.

Mitchell also plays Harrisburg twice and at Aberdeen Central, which pushed the Kernels to five sets earlier in the season.

"The girls are just really positive and they do bring it every day in practice," Thill added. "Now we have to transfer that to when we play in matches, but they're always positive and they always work hard and really you can't ask for much more than that."