By Noah Genson

NORTON SHORES – Until this year, West Michigan Conference teams have not been kind to the Western Michigan Christian volleyball team at tournament time.

Chloe Mitchell sets the ball for WMC. Photo/Randy Riksen

After last winning a district title back in 2013, the Warriors fell four consecutive years in districts to Ravenna, and dropped a semifinal match to North Muskegon last season.

But now, with eight seniors leading an excellent squad, WMC has finally broken the curse. The Warriors did it by waltzing past North Muskegon in three straight sets on Friday in a Division 3 district championship match on their own court.

The set scores were 25-13, 25-20 and 25-22.

Warriors head coach Trent Smillie said the district championship is one that everyone in the program will cherish.

“This class of 2020 is a real reason why my wife and I took the head coaching job here at WMC,” Smillie said. “We had worked with them when they were in middle school, and just to see how far they’ve come and how all of this has worked out is just great for the program.”

Smillie said winning the title was a real team effort, because the Warriors have a lot of depth, and a lot of players have contributed in matches and practice.

“When you’re at practice and you have two of the best teams in the county going up against each other, and it’s your A and B team, that gives you some really good practice sessions,” he said. “Playing a tougher schedule this year has helped as well, but that extra work in practice really does us well.”

The Warriors who came out looking determined in the first set and cruised to the win, behind solid service runs by Chloe Mitchell and Meghan Heiss and three kills apiece from Kyla Wiersema and Taylor Folkema.

Molly Stewart serves the ball for North Muskegon. Photo/Randy Riksen

The Norse didn’t lay down after that defeat, jumping out to an early 10-6 lead in the second set.

But WMC knotted the score at 12-12, then Anna Negen went on a seven-point service run to give WMC a 16-13  lead. Another long run from Claudia Kingma gave the Warriors the last push they needed to come away with a 25-20 win.

The third set was closer. The score was tied 11-11 at one point, but the Warriors, with strong play up front, particularly from Alisha Leffring who had two late kills, gutted out a 25-22 win and were crowned district champions.

The Warriors were led by Wiersema and Leffring with eight kills apiece while Folkema added seven.

Kingma was solid in the service game with four aces for the Warriors.

The Norse were led by Syann Fairfield with 15 kills while Chandler Falkowski with nine.

WMC will meet Hesperia on Tuesday in the regional semifinals at Hesperia High School. Coach Smillie said his team is familiar with the Panthers and will have to play well.

“We played Hesperia on the second day of the year where we won in three sets, and then in a scrimmage about six weeks ago,” the coach said. “The scrimmage was much closer than our first matchup, so we just know we’re gonna have to be ready to play. We’ll focus on their good hitters, but for the most part I just want us to focus on playing our own game.”