The Kernels dropped one match in three duals, topping Pierre 8-1 and Rapid City Central 9-0 in a triangular at Pierre Thursday and then swept St. Thomas More 4-0 Friday at Hitchcock Park.
With a week off after being blanked by Class AA power Sioux Falls Lincoln on April 1, Mitchell head coach Pat Moller felt his players played with increased confidence this week and they were able to turn it into wins on the court.
“I thought our kids played better than they did in the first triangular (at Yankton) and I thought they played more loose,” Moller said. “I thought maybe they got over the nerves of the first match of many of their varsity careers. I could see a lot of improvement in the way we’re playing, particularly in doubles. We were still making mistakes, but we were making mistakes playing the right way.”
Macon Larson and Tyler Loecker both went 3-0 at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, and did so in straight sets. Larson topped Pierre’s Matthew Hanson 6-0, 6-1 and then beat Central’s Rhett Svarstad, 6-0, 6-3. He capped the week with a 6-0, 6-0 win over STM’s Baxter Meyer.
Loecker surrendered one point in three matches, beating Pierre’s Blake Judson, 6-0, 6-0 and Central’s Taite Sumption, 6-1, 6-0, along with a 6-0, 6-0 win over STM’s Michael Levine.
The duo also picked up a win in doubles against Hanson and Judson in a tiebreak, along with two straight-set wins over Central and STM.
“Pierre’s top-three players are all really good,” Moller said. “Macon Larson and Tyler Loecker beat two really good tennis players and they beat them bad. They were playing singles as good as I’ve seen them play in their careers. In doubles, we still played well, but we played two good tennis players and it showed. … But it was nice to see us win two close matches.”
Jack Vermeulen topped Pierre’s Josh Ryckman 6-0, 6-0 and Central’s Cole Jandreau, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 5 singles and Luke Jerke won a 6-1, 6-1 match against Pierre’s Jacob Mayer and a 6-0, 6-0 match against Central’s Thane Neiman at No. 6 singles. Both scored 6-0, 6-0 wins against STM as well as a pair of No. 3 doubles wins against the Governors and Cobblers.
Connor Thelen swept Pierre’s Spencer Kelly and Central’s Matthew Cuny at No. 4 singles, while Aidan Patrick blanked Central’s Charles Steinbeck at No. 3 singles.
The Kernels hope the momentum carries into a busy week, as they play six duals in five days, starting with a triangular in Brookings against the Bobcats and Aberdeen Roncalli Tuesday in Brookings.
“Early in the season, I’m not going to worry about who we play, I’m going to worry about the way we play,” Moller said. “We just need to continue to work on things that we need to do. We’ve got some very fixable things to improve the way we’re playing.”