By Andrew Johnson
The Warriors have won every set in their five victories in districts and regionals. That’s 15 straight sets, if anyone’s counting.
WMC’s latest conquest was a 3-0 victory over Pewamo-Westphalia on Thursday in a Division 3 regional championship game at Hesperia High School. The set scores were 25-18, 25-22 and 25-17.
The win was a lot more than just another step in WMC’s bid to win a state championship. It clinched the first regional championship in the history of the program, which means the 2019 Warriors will go down as the top volleyball squad in school history, regardless of what happens from here.
Now WMC, 39-10-3 on the season, will face Schoolcraft, the top-ranked Division 3 team in Michigan, in the state quarterfinals on Tuesday at Hudsonville Unity Christian at 6:30 p.m. The winner advances to the state Final Four in Battle Creek.
“It’s been a joy to keep going,” said WMC head coach Trent Smillie after his team accepted the regional trophy. “We have eight seniors and underclassmen who are experienced. We weren’t nervous and we played 17 ranked teams this year, so we’ve been there and done that when it comes to big moments.”
The Warriors won the title match with professional efficiency. In the first set they jumped out to a 9-5 lead, then took control with a 7-0 run and went on to win 25-18.
WMC fell behind 6-2 in the second set, rallied to tie the score at 20-20, then won five of the next seven points to steal a 25-22 victory.
The two teams started out trading blows in the third set, with Western Michigan Christian trailing 11-9. But the Warriors won the next nine points and cruised to a 25-17 victory, sealing up the match and the regional championship.
Alisha Leffring and Kyla Wiersema led the Warrior attack with six kills apiece. Chloe Mitchell totaled 27 assists. Defensively Claudia Kingma turned in 12 digs.
“It’s such a blessing,” said Mitchell about extending her senior season. “We’re as tight as you could imagine. We have inside jokes, and the friendships we have, with not only the seniors but the younger girls, is super special.”
Pewamo-Westphalia, which finished the season with a 33-6-3 record, and was led by Harlee Pohl, Annabelle Schafer and Katie Lehman with five kills apiece.
With the regional trophy in hand, the Warriors now turn their attention to Schoolcraft, a team they lost to on the second day of the season.
“We lost to them in the semifinals of our home tournament,” Smillie said. “We had much less of an experienced team than we do now. We can look at all the things we did wrong, and we did a lot of silly things that we don’t do now.”