HESPERIA — With their sweep of Pewamo-Westphalia Thursday night, Western Michigan Christian punched their ticket to the Division 3 state quarterfinals.
“It feels really good. This program has never had a regional champion before,” WMC head coach Trent Smillie said. “We are trying to build a tradition. We have eight seniors and we also have a pretty nice team coming back next year. I’m hoping we are building a tradition where we go into the tournament a little ways every year.”
“It’s super awesome,” senior Chloe Mitchell said. “We have a great community at WMC and I feel like winning is contagious. Our boys [soccer] just won states and we are motivated to go just as far as them. Being able to win this first regional title feels great and we knew we could do it.”
The Warriors started the match strong and used that momentum to build an 11-5 lead when Pewamo-Westphalia called their first timeout. Alisha Leffring and Meghan Heiss led the Warriors attack early on in the match. WMC did not slow down after the timeout and held off their opponents in set number one 25-18. A Kyla Wiersema kill sealed the set victory.
Set two was more of a test for the Warriors who trailed for the majority before evening the score at 17-17. The teams remained even at 21-21 and then the Warriors took over to close out the set. Leffring finished with two of the final three points on kills and Claudia Kingma added one herself to reach the final score of 25-22.
In the third and final set, the Warriors were trailing 10-9 before going on a 9-0 run. During the run three different WMC players recorded kills. Taylor Folkema recorded three while Mitchell and Leffring added one each. Following their run, the Warriors led 18-11 and that lead would not be erased as WMC went on and won the final set 25-17.
“The most special thing about this team is the teams we play don’t know who to key in on,” Smillie said. “Most teams rely on one, two or three players to provide most of their scoring. We have seven players and we have several players that aren’t in the game who can go in the and score. It’s just the perfect storm right now.”
Leffring had a strong night offensively leading the team with seven kills, three blocks and added two aces behind the service line. Wiersema also tallied 7 kills and Meghan Heiss finished with four. Kingma finished with 2 aces and Grace VanBeek added one to the team's total.
Kingma and Folkema finished second and third in blocks with two and one. Defensively, Kingma had 12 digs, Folkema had 10 and VanBeek had nine.
WMC is now 39-10-3 and move on to play Schoolcraft in the state quarterfinals Tuesday at 6:30 p.m.
“We are keeping in mind that they have a player that they rely on a lot. We are going to watch out for her, anticipate what she’s going to do and make sure to remember the tendencies she has and shut her down,” Mitchell said of the Schoolcraft team the Warriors face Tuesday.
“We have had a very rigorous schedule this season that has prepared us for this moment. Our mental game going into this next match is right where it needs to be. We are not intimidated nor are we underestimating them, which should help us execute on the court.”