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Western Michigan Christian twins finish each other’s sentences, hope to complete state-title volleyball run

Maddie and Kyla Wiersema power Division 3 top-ranked Warriors, who move to regional finals after win over Morley Stanwood.

Video by Zach Zweigle | CatchMark

NORTON SHORES – As twins, Western Michigan Christian seniors Maddie and Kyla Wiersema often finish each other’s sentences.

It should be no surprise that they complement each other very well on the volleyball court for the Warriors, who are the top-ranked team in Division 3.

Together, the Wiersemas are a force on the floor, and they showed it again in Tuesday’s home-court regional semifinal victory. Western Michigan Christian defeated Morley Stanwood, 25-8, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19.

WMC (47-5) advances to the regional finals and will host Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian (21-7) at 7 p.m. Thursday. NorthPointe Christian edged Shelby in four sets on Tuesday.

Morley Stanwood closes the season with a 33-9-1 record.

“Oh, it’s been so much fun,” Kyla Wiersema said during a joint interview with her sister, referring to the joy she gets out of playing with her twin.

Maddie responded, “We love our team – our team is so awesome.”

Western Michigan Christian senior twins Maddie and Kyla Wiersema pose for a portrait after the Warriors’ four-set victory over Morley Stanwood in a Division 3 regional semifinal Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Norton Shores, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Kyla followed, “They can tell us apart, which is nice. They know us well. I just love playing with (Maddie) and then our whole team. We’re just so bonded together that it’s my favorite team in a long time.”

The Wiersemas also put their height and athleticism to good use on the basketball court for the strong Warriors program. At 6-feet and one-half inch with shoes on, Maddie is a little taller than Kyla – maybe by a “centimeter,” Kyla conceded.

Maddie is a lefty, while Kyla is a right-hander. Maddie is an outside hitter, while Kyla excels in the middle.

“I’ve heard a couple people say, ‘Wow, they’re really big. I’m scared,’” Kyla Wiersema said with a smile. “I’ve heard a girl say that across the net. ‘They’re too big – I can’t get past ’em.’”

On Tuesday, the Wiersemas made their presence felt. Kyla Wiersema finished with 29 kills and four blocks, while Maddie totaled 24 digs, 16 service points (two aces) and five blocks.

Junior Kendal Young totaled 52 assists, while senior Libby Mast contributed eight kills and four blocks. Senior Haley Breuker (13 service points) and freshman Hannah Heiss added 22 and 17 digs, respectively.

Photos by Scott DeCamp | CatchMark

“This is my 57th team between high school and club volleyball, and I think I’m having the most fun I’ve ever had now,” said WMC coach Trent Smillie, who noted that about two-thirds of the school’s volleyball records have been broken by this squad.

Western Michigan Christian’s height and depth of talent made things difficult on Morley Stanwood, which is no stranger to success in its own right.

“We knew coming into this that we were, I mean, huge underdogs,” said Morley Stanwood coach Robin Kozuch, who guided the Mohawks to Class C state titles in 2007 and 2011. “(Her team said), ‘Let’s let it be a David vs. Goliath story, you know. Let’s go in and see what we can do.’”

Undersized by comparison, Morley Stanwood had a rough first set but showed a lot of fight the rest of the night. The Mohawks hung in there despite the Warriors playing in front of their home fans.

Senior Braelyn Berry led Morley Stanwood with 23 kills and 19 digs. Senior Emilee Cornell totaled 29 assists, while senior Brooke Edgerly had 19 digs. Senior Madison Garbow added seven kills.

Both Western Michigan Christian and Morley Stanwood feature a good deal of senior leadership, but Kozuch pointed out the younger talent on the Warriors’ roster, too.

“They’re a very aggressive team and they have multiple kids that can hit, and they’ve got some young kids that,” she said. “Their younger kids are still great players – I coach two of them on my club (team). But they don’t make a ton of errors, either.”

Morley Stanwood volleyball coach Robin Kozuch watches the action on the floor during a Division 3 regional semifinal against Western Michigan Christian Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, in Norton Shores, Mich. (Scott DeCamp | CatchMark)

Western Michigan Christian has been playing great volleyball for a long stretch now. Tuesday’s victory was the Warriors’ 19th in a row dating back to Oct. 9.

The Warriors have been tested. They survived a scare from North Muskegon in last week’s five-set district final in the Norse gym. And they outlasted Division 2 regional qualifier Whitehall in a classic five-setter in the Greater Muskegon Athletic Association tournament finals earlier in the season.

“With our rankings this year, we’ve had a target on our back all season and everybody gives us their best game,” said Smillie, whose team has been No. 1 or No. 2 in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association rankings throughout the season. “If we don’t give them our best game, then we’re in trouble.”

Western Michigan Christian is setting its sights on capturing the school’s first state volleyball title.

Two years ago, the Warriors won their program’s first-ever regional championship. That team lost to Schoolcraft in the state quarterfinals.

This WMC team has grown accustomed to wearing a bull’s-eye. They welcome the pressure now, knowing that they must play to win rather than playing not to lose.

“When we were first No. 1, we didn’t like it. I mean, it’s a like a target on your back a lot,” Kyla Wiersema said. “I think it gives teams a lot more, like …”

Maddie Wiersema interjected, “(Opponents say), ‘Oh, my gosh, we beat the No. 1 team.’”

“Yeah,” Kyla Wiersema followed. “And it’s like, they want to beat us so bad … More (or) less, we’re at the top already (so) we know we have to push to beat these teams because they’re going to work so hard to beat us.”

Lead writer for CatchMark SportsNet and Web Services leader for CatchMark Technologies.

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