By Andrew Johnson

MUSKEGON – The West Michigan Christian athletic program has a rich history, but most of the glory is tilted toward boys teams.

That history was enriched on Saturday when the WMC boys soccer team won a state championship.

Now a group of eight seniors wants to strike a blow on behalf of WMC girls sports, starting with the state volleyball tournament, which begins this week.

The Warriors will open postseason play against Saugatuck on Tuesday at 6 p.m. on their own court in a district quarterfinal match. The winner will advance to Wednesday’s semifinal round, against Fennville.

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Chloe Mitchel talks with her teammate between points during a game against Orchard View earlier this season. Photo/Leo Valdez

“We talk about that quite often,” said WMC volleyball coach Trent Smillie. “We have a big tradition for boys sports, with multiple state championship banners. The boys banners are in green and the girls are in white. We’re lacking any state titles in the white color.”

WMC senior setter Chloe Mitchell and her classmates want to address the lack of banners in their final opportunity. They believe they have a real chance in the Division 3 tournament, after posting a great regular season.

The Warriors reeled off an impressive 34-10-3 record this year, including a Lakes 8 Conference championship. WMC enters districts ranked fourth in the state in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

“We have been dreaming of winning state for years,” Mitchell said. “To go out with a state title wouldn’t only make us excited, but it would prove to us that we really can do anything that we set our minds to.”

Two aspects that help the Warriors on the court are their team chemistry and overall skill, according to Mitchell.

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Mitchell (No. 7) sets u[ a play for WMC. Photo/Leo Valdez

“It’s been a blast,” said Mitchell, who is committed to play volleyball at Aquinas College next year. “To see how we’ve worked together to get where we are today, it’s exciting.”

Mitchell, who has a pretty amazing 1,137 assists this season, has been a key component to the Warriors’ success.

She holds the school record for assists in a single match, as well as the career assists record and the career blocks record. She has accomplished all of that in three and a half years of varsity volleyball, since half a season last year was lost to mononucleosis.

Mitchell has definitely gained the respect and admiration of her coach.

“She is the best player on our team and probably the best player in Muskegon County, in my opinion,” Smillie said. “She currently averages more than 10 assists per set and leads the fastest offense in the area. She is also the number one attacker on our team.”

Mitchell is surrounded by skilled teammates on the court, including senior Meghan Heiss, who holds the school career record for digs, and junior Alisha Leffring, who holds the single-season blocks record.

“It’s been a process to get to this point,” Smillie said about his team. “We’ve gotten much deeper. We’ve also been able to stay away from injuries and sickness, and it’s awesome this year with eight seniors.”

While the Warriors’ goals are lofty, they’ll be mindful to not overlook anyone when district play begins. They learned that lesson last season, when they were also very good, but lost to North Muskegon in the district semifinals.

“Something coach said that really sticks with me is ‘next 10 seconds,’” Mitchell said. “No matter what happens in the previous 10 seconds, you’re focusing on the next 10, whether you made an amazing play or not. Having the game simplified to 10 second increments really makes it possible to have the head space you need in volleyball.”