SIOUX FALLS-Win or lose, Saturday's Class AA state volleyball tournament consolation final was going to be the last game for Mitchell High School's 11 seniors.
While any dreams of state championship were dashed in Thursday's loss, the No. 6 Kernels wanted to treat the fifth place match against No. 8 Brookings as their state championship and one last hurrah for the senior class.
Early on, it appeared Mitchell was going to make quick work of the Bobcats, picking up a win in the first set. Yet, Brookings came right back to take the next to sets and put the Kernels on the brink of elimination. Mitchell rallied to win the final two sets and close out the season at the Premier Center with a win, 25-20, 17-25, 20-25, 25-19 and 15-13.
"You can either lay down and die, or you can get back up and start swinging," MHS head coach Deb Thill said. "That's what our kids decided to do today."
Brookings took firm control of the match after the third set, putting Mitchell on the ropes for a potentially disappointing end to the 2018 campaign.
One of the key plays in the match-tying fourth set win was a play in which Cassie Hohrman chased down a ball that nearly went off the court and Mitchell was able to eventually win the point after a back-and-forth rally.
"We came into the huddle and said that we need to play fearless and go after everything," said MHS senior Mandy Schmidt, who surpassed 3,000 career assists in the match.
Mitchell's seniors made a significant impact on the match, particularly during the comeback and the eventual match-winning set. The Kernel seniors recorded 60 of the team's 63 kills and 59 out of 63 digs.
Chelsea Brewster picked up 17 kills and 12 digs, while Carly Haring added 16 kills and Schmidt dished out 50 assists and 13 digs. Sage Jorgensen also came up with nine digs in the match.
"Every single one of those seniors did something to contribute to the win," Thill said. "I know a lot of the credit goes to the big hitters and Mandy, but every single one of those kids did their job."
The mark of a great player is often measured by performances during big games. Mackenzie Miller had spent much of the season recovering from a knee injury, but against Brookings, Kernel fans were treated to a glimpse of her old form.
In the final match of her career, the Mitchell all-time kills leader tied a season-high with 22 kills, including putting down a thunderous kill to end the match.
"It was really cool to get that last kill, but it was great to be with the team and end on a high note with a great win," Miller said.
Brookings (16-15) got 15 kills apiece from Regan Weisbeck and Kailee Bartels.
Mitchell finishes the season 18-9.