By Ron Rop
Local Sports Journal

RAVENNA – Huge momentum swings were the norm on Thursday night in the Class C regional final volleyball tournament.

Sixth-ranked Pewamo-Westphalia outlasted No. 7-ranked Western Michigan Christian in an emotionally-draining five-game match. In the end, the Pirates advanced with a 25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 16-25, 15-8 victory over the Warriors.

Pewamo-Westphalia moves into next week’s quarterfinal round at Ithaca High School.

And the Warriors ended their season at 37-12-3 under first-year coach Ed Bailey.

“We you get this far, it is all about momentum and that was very evident in set five tonight,” Bailey said.

Indeed, all the momentum was on the side of the Warriors after losing the first two sets and winning the next two. That set up a final set with the first team to 15 moving on to the quarterfinals.

In that decisive set, the Warriors grabbed a 6-3 lead, powered by kills from Rachel Bruinsma, Vanessa Eekhoff and two from Maria Ma.

The Pirates pulled back to 8-all and Bailey called a timeout.

“We had the momentum until point 8,” Bailey said. “I call a time out and I said, ‘pass the ball” and what did No. 2 (Kasey Schmitt) do? She served the board on us, seven straight points.

“So, it’s a game of momentum,” Bailey said. “You either have it or you don’t and if you get it, you’d better keep it.”

In the first two sets, Pewamo-Westphalia grabbed early leads and hardly trailed to grab a 2-0 lead. The Pirates led 5-1 early before the Warriors came back to take a 13-12 lead. However, four quick hitting errors pushed the Pirates to an 18-14 lead and ultimately a 25-21 victory.

The same held true in the second set when P-W led 6-1 right out of the gate. WMC was able to pull within 22-21 on the strength of three straight aces by Bruinsma. However, P-W scored the final four points for a 25-20 victory.

“We did not come out and play one of our more stellar matches tonight,” Bailey said. “We were very slow behind the ball and our passing in the first set was atrocious.”

In the third set, WMC was led by Bruinsma with some kills, Vanessa Eekhoff with five straight service points and that led to a 25-23 victory.

The Warriors maintained that momentum, and even built on it, with an impressive showing in the fourth set.

WMC led just 13-12 before Bruinsma and Maria Ma used their height to push the lead to up to eight points. Ma has seven of her team-high 20 kills in that fourth set, in which WMC won 25-16.

The Warriors raced to a 6-3 lead in the final set and that’s when trouble set in. Hitting errors, service errors and several kills by Pirate senior Madison Smith  propelled the Pirates to the regional title.

“Let’s be honest, our team is based on serving and attacking and if lack in either one of those skills it will be a tight match and that’s what happened tonight,” Bailey said.

Besides Ma’s 20 kills, Bruinsma added 19 and Eekhoff had 10. It was the first time all season Bruinsma did not lead the team in kills. Bruinsma had 10 aces and Eekhoff had five.

Senior Julie Merz had 44 assists, Anna Sweetman had 13 digs and Bruinsma had three blocks.