Pat Moller prepares for last state tournament as Mitchell boys tennis coach

May 14—MITCHELL — Mitchell boys tennis head coach Pat Moller is preparing his team for the state tournament one last time.

Moller, who has been at the helm of the Kernel boys tennis program for 13 years, plans to step down from coaching the team at the conclusion of the Class AA state championships in Rapid City.

Also teaching high school mathematics and coaching girls tennis and boys basketball for Mitchell, he explained he's ready to slow down a bit from the hours put into coaching throughout the school year.

"I go to school and teach from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. every day," Moller said, "and then I go to the tennis courts coaching or the basketball courts during the winter and put in another three to six hours. And that's every day."

His commitment to coaching tennis, having begun without prior experience in the sport, translated into results. A three-time National High School Athletic Coaches Association Coach of the Year nominee, Moller has led the boys tennis team to five Eastern South Dakota Conference titles during his tenure, with a highest finish of second place at the state championships in 2014 and 2015.

Moller has also led the girls tennis team to three consecutive Class A state championships from 2019 through 2021. He holds the highest girls dual-record winning percentage in school history along with the all-time boys dual wins mark of 202 wins to 52 losses.

With all the accomplishments accumulated on the tennis courts, Moller feels it's the right time for someone else to come in and lead the boys program, who finished with a 17-6 dual record this season and took home fourth place in the ESD championships on May 7.

"Having somebody else here who can prioritize the beginning of the season in tennis is going to be a benefit to this team," Moller said. "I think that it's also an opportunity for somebody to take this program from where I've left it and improve on it."

Moller plans on being at the helm for girls tennis this fall as well as on the bench as an assistant for boys basketball, helping the Kernels defend their Class AA state title in the wintertime, but looks forward to being able to concentrate on spring fishing and spending time with his wife Michelle next year at this time.

Until then, the focus is on prepping the players for the upcoming state championships. Moller is also looking to the veteran players on the team to help encourage the younger players on the roster, as their only experience playing tournament tennis was the ESD championships. The Rapid City Invite, which follows the same format at the conference and state championship, was canceled this season due to weather.

"There's more accountability on each kid," Moller said. "They feel a little more pressure because they're trying to score team points. Hopefully, our veterans can give us some words of wisdom and help out these kids that have never experienced state tournament tennis before."

The Class AA state championships begin on Thursday, May 16, at 9 a.m. Central at Sioux Park and Parkview Tennis Complex in Rapid City.