By Noah Genson

KENT CITY – After its first 30 matches this season, the North Muskegon volleyball team had a so-so 15-14-1 record, as was not sure where the season would go.

Since then, the Norse have rattled off 25 wins in 26 matches and have shown no signs of slowing down.

That 25th win came on Tuesday night in exciting fashion, when they knocked out the Pewamo-Westphalia Pirates in a Division 3 regional semifinal at Kent City High School, 25-10, 23-25, 25-15, 25-21.

The Norse improved their record to 40-15-1, and will match up with Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian on Thursday in the regional finals.

Kasey Firestone goes for the kill at the net for North Muskegon. Photo/Jason Goorman

The winner will advance to the state quarterfinals.

“At that midway point (of the season), it just sort of clicked for our girls that this could be their last time ever playing,” said North Muskegon coach Heather Claussen. “Ever since then, I haven’t seen a more complete group.”

“Everybody was fired up for today. Our middles were great and really controlled the whole game.”

The match started out strong for North Muskegon, which had a 13-point service run from Kasey Firestone to jump out to a 13-2 lead and cruise to a first-set victory.

In the second set, the Pirates came out fighting and tied the match at one set apiece.

The Norse found their groove in the third set, leaning on Ellie Hayhurst’s seven kills to take a 2-1 lead.

Pewamo-Westphalia didn’t lay down in the fourth set, jumping out to a 14-10 lead. Then Syann Fairfield took over for the Norse, accounting for eight of the team’s last 15 points to give the Norsemen the set and match victory.

“Ellie really got it going for us today,” Claussen said. “She started us off strong, and when we needed someone else to step up, Syann came up big to close it out for us.”

North Muskegon was led on offense by Hayhurst and Fairfield with 13 and 9 kills, respectively, while Firestone served three aces. Kendal Hoppa was strong on defense with 22 digs.

Claussen talked about what her girls will need to do on Thursday against NorthPointe Christian to come away with a regional championship.

“They have a couple of dynamic hitters, so being able to clean up our defense and really tighten up our passing before Thursday will be big,” the coach said.