MITCHELL – The Mitchell Kernels used the 6-foot, 6-inch presence of senior Kaspen Alm, some timely rallies and a hometown crowd to hold off a determined comeback by the Huron Tigers for a 3-1 win in Eastern South Dakota Conference volleyball action Saturday afternoon, at the Mitchell High School gym.
“We had some hitters that played well today,” said Huron coach Josh Lien after the match, “Brynn (Gose) and Heavan (Gainey) did well. But our defense just felt like it was a half-step slow today and we had no answer for Alm.”
Mitchell, which improved to 5-4 with the win, took the first two sets, 25-22 and 25-21, as Huron trailed nearly the entirety of the sets. Gainey got Huron started on top early in the first set, but the Kernels took a lead at 6-4 on a pair of Tiger hitting errors, and although a late surge, led by Gose and Emily Dale, got Huron within a point, at 21-20, Alm collected a pair of kills to close out the win.
The second set followed a similar script, with the difference in that Huron played from behind throughout. After a Dale kill knotted the score at 3-3, Mitchell went on a 7-1 spurt to put some space on the scoreboard. The Tigers remained resilient, however, as Gainey and Gose spurred another comeback, capped by a combined Dale and Peyton Schuchhardt block/kill that cut the margin to a single point, at 17-16. But as happened in the first set, Mitchell was able to regroup and closed out the win, on an Alm kill.
“We had a ton of missed serves early,” said Lien, pointing out the seven misfires in the first two sets.
A re-shuffled Huron lineup premiered in the third set, and the Tigers responded. Karsyn Kopfmann got a kill early that ignited a Tiger surge, aided by three kills from Gose and another from Dale as Huron jumped out early, 6-3. Mitchell crept back into the game, tying the score a 9-9 on an Alm kill, and took a 14-12 lead on back-to-back hitting errors by the Tigers.
A Gose kill, coupled with a kill by Dale, one from Hamtyn Heinz and another by Gose put Huron up 17-15 and that group built the lead to five points, 22-17 as Gainey and Dale combined to snuff a Kaitelyn Christensen kill attempt for the Kernels.
Gainey struck again, the Olivia Rink made the save of the set. With the score 23-18, Alm had a big swing that Rink just managed to slide her fingertips beneath on the floor, to keep the point alive. Huron regrouped and took the point on a Mitchell error, because of the save.
A pair of Huron hitting errors, sandwiched around two kills by Alm, however, brought the Kernels within a point, at 24-23, and forcing a Huron timeout. Kopfmann quickly put the set away with a kill, closing the set as she began it, for the 25-23 Huron win.
Set four started well for Mitchell, as the raucous crowd and the heavy heat in the gym helped stake the Kernels to a quick 5-1 lead. Gose got kills on back-to-back attempts, Dale collected a block/kill and Gose converted again, as Huron fought back.
But although Gose and Gainey continuing to find open spots in the Kernel defense, Mitchell maintained a two-to-three-point advantage throughout most of the match.
Three straight Gose kills for Huron turned a 17-14 deficit into a tie, and a Dale kill put Huron ahead for the first time in the set, forcing a Mitchell timeout. Neither team would hold more than a two-point advantage for the remainder of the set.
Gainey went back-to-back to push Huron’s lead to 23-21 and the Tigers looked poised to even the match. But Sawyer Toebner and Alm tied the score and Mitchell took a lead after a Huron hitting error, prompting Lien to call a timeout.
Gainey evened the score and a Mitchell hitting error put Huron on the brink. The teams traded hitting errors, and kills, to bring the score to 27-27. Then, for the first time in the game, Alm stepped to the service line. The senior hitter was substituted out by coach Deb Thill throughout the match, but the Mitchell mentor rolled the dice late.
Alm only served twice in the match, both were aces and Mitchell escaped the fourth set with a 29-27 win.
The match had highs and lows for both squads. Alm ended with 21 kills and added those two timely aces. Gose also had 21 kills and a pair of ace serves, as she converted when she had the opportunity.
Dale ended the match with 13 kills, four of them block/kills, and had a share of two other block/kills for Huron. Gainey added 12 kills as she continually found the gaps in the Mitchell back row defense. Kopfmann had four kills and Jazz McGirr contributed three kills and a pair of aces for the Tigers.
Huron, now 4-3, returns to action Tuesday, when the Tigers travel to Yankton to take on the 3-7 Gazelles, before returning to Huron Arena Thursday, for the homecoming volleyball match against Harrisburg.