By Andrew Johnson
HUDSONVILLE – The Western Michigan Christian volleyball team had its first state quarterfinal experience in school history on Tuesday night, and its inexperience showed in a three-set loss to Schoolcraft.
The Warriors lost to the top-ranked Division 3 team in the state by scores of 25-16, 25-18 and 25-15, ending an otherwise great season that included a Lakes 8 Conference title, and district and regional championships.
“They were obviously the favorite,” said WMC Coach Trent Smillie. “We were the underdog. We were hoping to be competitive, and we were in at least the first half of every set. They have more experience than we do by making it to the regional finals (the last two years) and losing to the state champion Bronson both years.”
The Warriors, who came into the match with a 15-game winning streak, finished the season with a record of 39-11-3.
“This group really talked about setting a tradition,” said Smillie about the successful season. “In years past, they were ready for basketball to start because we’d get done in first or second round of districts.”
In the first set, Western Michigan Christian jumped out to a 10-8 lead before Schoolcraft responded with five straight points after a timeout and took control. WMC Sophomore Kyla Wiersema had four kills in the first-set loss.
Western Michigan Christian took a 7-4 lead in the second set, then Schoolcraft responded with a 14-8 run after a timeout to take an 18-12 lead. Schoolcraft ultimately won the set 25-18 despite two kills from WMC junior Taylor Folkema.
In the third set, Schoolcraft senor Andelyn Simkins took the match over, totaling 10 kills in the 25-15 victory that clinched the match and sent her team to the state semifinals.
“She was obviously their number one threat,” said Smillie about Simkins. “After that their setter was their next best threat. I was really impressed with her and what she was able to do.”
The Warriors will graduate eight seniors from their squad, but Smillie is hopeful this is just the beginning of things to come for the program.
“We’re graduating eight seniors, but we got some big athletic volleyball players coming back, and I think we might be in this match next year if we play our cards right.”