By Jason Goorman

Being mentally prepared in the postseason is sometimes the No. 1 factor to making deep tournament runs. It isn’t always athleticism.

The Western Michigan Christian volleyball team showed a resilient attitude along with its entertaining net play to run away with a 3-1 win over Morley Stanwood on Tuesday.

The Warriors’ win places them in Thursday’s Division 3 regional final at WMC when they will face Grand Rapids NorthPointe Christian. The Mustangs advanced after beating Shelby 3-1 in the regional semifinal opener.  

WMC came out firing on all cylinders in the opening game, hitting its way through with a surprisingly easy, 25-8 Game-1 win over Morley.

“I think we were much bigger than them and they just got a little intimidated,” said WMC Coach Trent Smillie after WMC secured its berth into the regional finals. “After that first set, I told the girls they (Morley) aren’t going to play like that any more.”
Despite the early victory for WMC, Morley was prepared for the Warriors’ strong net presence and offense that was funneled through a trio of 6-0 senior hitters.

Maddie Wiersema, Kyla Wiersema, plus Libby Mast did all they could at the net in Game 2 but Morley’s defense was ready, with WMC losing 25-23.

The Warriors knew Morley was a lot better team than the opening game showed and were prepared to fight off a strong opponent.

“We were keeping our focus because we knew that was not the team we’d be playing the rest of the match,” said Kyla Wiersema after the Warriors won the opener so convincingly. “We were prepared for them to come out with so much more and we just pushed through knowing we are going to get that great set up, because our setter (Kendal Young) is amazing.”

WMC did not lose its focus in Game 3 against Morley as the Warriors won 25-19. 

“Once a mistake happens, there’s no reason to dwell on it,” said Smillie whose team looked well oiled but showed small signs of Morley getting into its head in Game 2.

“We kind of have a mindset of what I call tiny trophies,” said Smillie. “Every single point, you either win that little trophy or you lose that trophy.”

WMC was led again by a constantly moving and hitting Kyla Wiersema. The Senior hitter posted 29 kills from her lethal net attack. Sister Maddie Wiersema led with 24 digs, 16 service points, five blocks and two aces. Mast finished with eight kills and four blocks.

Senior Haley Breuker continued her solid play for WMC’s back court, making 22 digs on the night to break the single-season digs record at WMC. Breuker also had 13 service points.

Underclassman have also played an integral roll within the Warriors’ squad.

Junior Kendall Young, led WMC with 52 assists.  

Also stepping into a major role for WMC was freshman Hannah Heiss. The athletic Heiss played key in rally points for the Warriors, often coming through with back-side attacks that Morley wasn’t prepared for.

“She adds a lot, she’s an amazing passer,” said Kyla Wiersema about Heiss. “She can jump like a frog and gets up out of the gym.”

Freshman Abby Leffring also stepped up for WMC with four kills. 

WMC’s net presence was definitely an intimidating factor. But Smillie said sometimes with the kind of size his team has, it’s hard to make a play after the two Wiersema sisters and Mast jump up to block.

“Sometimes it’s hard to dig around a block that big because there’s not a lot of space left to hit,” said Smillie whose senior trio combined for 13 blocks on the night. “You don’t know what to expect (when the ball is deflected).”

WMC continues on its season roll, improving to 47-5. It will next face GR NorthPointe Christian for the regional championship on Thursday at 7 p.m..