Photos by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark
NORTON SHORES — A team’s success in the postseason is often defined not by how it starts, but by how it finishes.
Western Michigan Christian’s volleyball team has repeated this concept while fighting for the ultimate goal of a Division 3 state championship.
The Warriors have strung together a masterful 20-match winning steak, including a big one Thursday night at home against Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian to secure a second regional title in three years. After a bit of a slow start, the Warriors picked up their game for a 3-1 victory over the Mustangs with set scores of 19-25, 25-18, 25-10, 25-14.
The regional title lands top-ranked WMC (48-5) in a Division 3 state quarterfinal matchup next week against Watervliet at Hamilton high school on Tuesday, Nov. 16, at 7 p.m.
NorthPointe Christian closes the season with a 21-8 record.
Since WMC’s loss in an event at Traverse City Central Oct. 9, the Warriors have been on a roll.
“We’ve won seven to 10 matches that have gone the distance and we’ve won 20 matches in a row,” WMC coach Trent Smillie said. “These girls just don’t get rattled, they just play.”
After trailing 19-10 to NorthPointe Christian in the first set, WMC worked hard to close the gap and decreased the deficit to a six-point spread. While the Warriors lost the set, they seized some momentum that was needed for the second set and beyond. They settled in and evened up the match at one game apiece after some standout service from senior Maddie Wiersema.
In the third set, senior libero Haley Breuker flawlessly served the first 11 points, giving WMC that spread advantage throughout the remainder of the set.
“Honestly, my mindset was to just get them in at that point,” Breuker said about her service streak. “I even told my team before, ‘We have to get a run from the beginning and we can’t get in a hole in the beginning.'”
The fourth set consisted of some defensive tact and included significant contribution from two standout freshmen for WMC. Abby Leffring and Hannah Heiss both hit over .300 on the night, making their mark on the regional victory.
WMC’s offense was led by senior Kyla Wiersema with 23 kills and Heiss with eight. Senior Libby Mast and Leffring added six and five, respectively.
Junior Kendal Young had 46 assists on 127 opportunities for the Warriors.
Breuker had two aces and led the way defensively with 25 digs. Heiss added 16 digs, and Maddie Wiersema had 12. Both Wiersema twins displayed their dominance at the net, as Maddie had eight blocks and Kyla five.
“It doesn’t really matter where you are in the game, we are always ready to come back and fight for every single point,” Young said. “Even if we are at the point where there is no coming back, we are at least going to make that other team bust their butts if they are going to beat us.”
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