Little Leland Boasts Big Numbers, Success

By Dennis Chase
Special for

October 6, 2015

LELAND – Small school, big aspirations.

Welcome to Leland, where the volleyball and soccer programs are once again celebrating success.

Both teams are ranked No. 3 in state coaches polls in their respective sports and divisions.

And both are hoping to make deep runs in the MHSAA tournament.

That's been the norm in volleyball. The Comets – Class D champs in 1978 and 1980 (Lower Peninsula), 2002 and 2006 – reached the Class D Final last November before dropping a four-setter to perennial power Battle Creek St. Philip.

The soccer program is making noise, too, with three consecutive district titles, including an MHSAA Semifinal appearance in 2012.

"Obviously, the volleyball program has tradition," soccer coach Joe Burda said. "We've been around lately. We're trying to start our own (tradition)."

His Comets are 15-2, heading into Friday night's showdown at Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, the school that beat Leland in the regional final a year ago.

The volleyball team is 20-5-4. One of the losses was to St. Philip in a season-opening tournament. Another was to Class A Caledonia in the final of the Morley-Stanwood Invitational.

Some 60 students – almost half of Leland's 122 total – play soccer or volleyball.

"There's definitely momentum behind both programs," athletic director Ryan Knudsen said. "The kids are having fun, learning a lot about their sport, learning life lessons, and being successful, and that really draws kids to want to participate. It carries on from year to year and you can see it all the way down to our middle school and elementary programs. There's an excitement."

Leland is the smallest school in the Northwest Conference. Size, though, does not deter the spirit, and the Comets thrive on the challenge.

"Our coaches do an outstanding job," Knudsen said. "But we also have tremendous support from our school board, administration and community. They all understand that being the smallest school in the conference, and the fact we schedule as many challenging non-conference games as possible in all our sports, helps us prepare our student-athletes and teams to be able to have longstanding success. We're excited about the present and we're excited about the future."

That sentiment is readily apparent in volleyball. Coach Laurie Glass, who has won MHSAA titles as a player and coach at Leland, has an interesting blend in her starting lineup, ranging from two returning all-state seniors to two promising freshmen.

The team has grown considerably since that early-season loss to St. Philip.

"We have a very strong team," senior Maddie Trumbull, the team's floor captain, said. "We started off a little slow, but our freshmen are really stepping up and are a big part of our team. They have made such a difference. We are so much better than we were four weeks ago."

Glass said playing St. Philip so early in the season was an advantage.

"You have to bring your best in order to compete with St. Phil," she said. "It sets the tone for what you've got to work on in order to get back there (Battle Creek is host site of the MHSAA Finals)."

Trumbull, an outside hitter, and Eva Grobbel, a middle hitter, are the returning all-state players. They lead the team in kills. Trumbull also tops the charts in hitting efficiency and Grobbel in blocks, according to Glass.

"Maddie's even better now than she was last year (when she led the team with 572 kills), and she's really developed her leadership skills," Glass said. "Eva played club in the spring, and she's varied her offense."

Glass said opponents often focus their gameplans on trying to stop Trumbull at the net – and that's a mistake.

"We have too many other weapons and we have the ability to move (Trumbull) around so they just can't camp out on her on the outside," Glass said.

Other key contributors are senior ViAnna Hennig, who battled shin splints last season, but is now physically tougher and stronger; freshman outside hitter Allie Martin; freshman setter Ella Siddall, junior libero Julie Bardenhagen; and junior Rachel Bechtel, a strong server, and sophomore Rowan Wilson, who split time. Martin leads the team in aces, Siddall in assists. Martin and Siddall were team managers last season.

Siddall has replaced graduated Jessica Fleis as the setter.

"That's the toughest position to replace," Glass said. "We run a pretty complicated offense, so to be able to call audibles on the fly, that's a lot for a freshman. That speaks to her talent."

Bardenhagen, who's replaced another spring graduate in Whitney Schaub, has helped solidify the defense and passing game at libero.

"In our first tournament we didn't have a libero," Glass said. "We didn't have anyone to replace Whitney. We really struggled passing and didn't have a good anchor on the back row."

Now it seems to be clicking.

"It's been going so much better because I didn't know what to expect," Grobbel admitted. "We lost our libero, our setter, and they were a huge part of our team. But we all want to win a state championship. We've worked so hard together to try to make that happen."

Trumbull agreed.

"Right after the state finals (last November) we were already looking forward to this season, making plans for what we can do better," she said. "We're always thinking about how we can get better, how we can win a state championship."

"I think this team wants to go deep again," Glass added. "They have certainly set their sights on that from the beginning. If it has anything to do with work ethic and team chemistry, they have all the pieces they need to make a run."

Leland's reached at least the quarterfinals in five of the last six years. Glass attributes the program's success to player development at the middle school level, where a higher priority is placed on learning the game and proper techniques as opposed to winning.

"It's about doing the right things for the right reasons at the right time," Glass said.

Burda, meanwhile, is in his sixth season leading the soccer program. And he has it rolling with 39 players out, which allows for a junior varsity team.

The Comets are tough up front with senior Mike Osorio and junior Noah Fetterolf. Clarke Morgan, a four-year varsity veteran, anchors the defense. Rick Roman is an experienced keeper.

"They've all been different," Burda said of his teams. "I think I see more potential in this team, though. I think we're more balanced offensively and defensively. We've always been strong down the middle, but we're strong at all of our other positions, too."

Osorio and Fetterolf are the scoring leaders who keep opposing defenses honest. They are particularly dangerous when Leland counter attacks. Morgan, meanwhile, commands respect from his sweeper position.

"He chases down everybody and everything," Burda said.

Leland's only two losses came on the same day – setbacks to Harbor Springs and Elk Rapids in a tournament at Elk Rapids. The Comets were shorthanded that day, minus, among others, Fetterolf.

The Comets went through September without a loss, including a 4-1 victory over the Elks.

"We're just preparing every day for the next game because that's the only one that matters," Morgan said. "If we focus on one game at a time, focus on each opportunity, we can really do something in the post-season."

Morgan said the Comets are "super competitive" and that drives them in their quest to be the best.

"We're always trying to push each other to reach our full potential," the 17-year-old said.

Morgan, who also plays club soccer for the Midwest United FC travel team out of Grand Rapids, said the Comets have all "the key components," including chemistry.

"It's really cool," he said. "Our school is so small you see everyone in class, you see everyone around school and then you go to soccer practice and it's the same people. We have a good bond, a good connection."

Burda is hoping to parlay that into something special.

"We want to make another run," he said. "We want to get back to the Final Four."

Dennis Chase worked 32 years as a sportswriter at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, including as sports editor from 2000-14. He can be reached at with story ideas for Manistee, Wexford, Missaukee, Roscommon, Ogemaw, Iosco, Alcona, Oscoda, Crawford, Kalkaska, Grand Traverse, Benzie, Leelanau, Antrim, Otsego, Montmorency, Alpena, Presque Isle, Cheboygan, Charlevoix and Emmet counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Leland soccer senior Clarke Morgan, left, and volleyball senior Maddie Trumbull are among standouts for the school's standout teams this fall. (Middle) Senior Eva Grobbel unloads a serve during a match this week. (Below) Senior Mike Osorio lines up a kick during a game this season. (Soccer photos courtesy of Katia Skarupinski; volleyball photos by Gwen Martin.) 

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

March 2, 2023

Hailing from one of Michigan’s smallest communities, Laurie Glass has made an impact that continues to connect all over Michigan.

But her impact on women’s athletics began long before a career that has seen the longtime Leland volleyball coach become one of the winningest in her sport in state history.

As a high school junior in 1976, she recruited seven classmates and a coach to form Leland’s first girls sports team – for basketball – and the same group then played volleyball that winter. She was a senior and major contributor when, during their second season, the Comets won the 1978 Class D volleyball championship.

More than four decades later, Glass is a Michigan legend in that sport – a winner of 1,218 matches with Leland and Traverse City Central and three Finals championships with the Comets. She’s also a nationally-recognized voice in volleyball and women’s athletics as a whole – and this year’s MHSAA Women in Sports Leadership honoree for those many and continuing contributions.

“Because I’m a teacher and coach, that’s my desire to help the youth be the best they could be. And if I can impact a coach or impact another district or program, that means I’m affecting more youth in a positive way,” Glass said. “So for me, it’s just the ripple effect; it gets a lot bigger when I’m starting little drops in other places. So I can affect the hundreds of kids that I’ve seen go through Leland, or I can impact the larger audience by impacting coaches or impacting kids in other places that can then impact other people. It allows me a wider audience for wanting to help young women to be their best young woman self in however way I can make that happen.”

Each year, the Representative Council considers the achievements of women coaches, officials and athletic administrators affiliated with the MHSAA who show exemplary leadership capabilities and positive contributions to athletics.

Leland finished 49-13 this past season and reached the Division 4 Quarterfinals. Glass has a record of 1,218-393-122 over more than three decades as a varsity volleyball coach, having led the Comets for a combined 29 seasons over three tenures, the first beginning with the 1989-90 winter season and later picking up with her most recent return for Fall 2010. She also coached Traverse City Central for four seasons beginning in 1991-92.

Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.Glass led Leland to Class D Finals championships in 2002, 2006 and 2015, and runner-up finishes in Class D in 2014 and Division 4 in 2018 and 2019. She was named to the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association (MIVCA) Hall of Fame in 2006, and selected as national Coach of the Year in volleyball in 2014 by the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association. She’s a three-time MIVCA Coach of the Year and was named Michigan High School Coaches Association (MHSCA) Coach of the Year for volleyball in 2015. She also was a finalist for National High School Athletic Coaches Association (NHSACA) national Coach of the Year in 2014. 

Glass has spoken multiple times at the MHSAA Women In Sports Leadership Conference and several times at the MIVCA Coaches Clinic, and among various other engagements was the featured speaker at the Nebraska Athletic Association Coaches Clinic. She will receive the Women In Sports Leadership Award during the MHSAA Division 1 Girls Basketball Final on March 18 at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.

“Laurie Glass is recognized most on the statewide level for leading one of the most successful volleyball programs in state history. But she is known among her peers most for the way she teaches not only volleyball but life skills to her athletes,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Her leadership creates more leaders, be they the athletes who have the opportunity to play for her or the coaches who learn from her and receive her mentorship.”   

Glass’ roots are in one of the most accomplished athletic families in Michigan high school history.

Her father Larry Glass coached Northwestern University’s men’s basketball program from 1963-69, and later took over the Leland girls basketball program and led the Comets to a 388-110 record and three straight Class D Finals championships (1980-82) over two tenures from 1977-91 and 2000-05. Laurie’s sister Rebecca McKee played basketball at Leland and Michigan State University, and her brother Michael Glass played basketball at Lansing Community College before also becoming a high school and college coach.

Laurie also coached and parented arguably the most accomplished volleyball player – and perhaps top female athlete across all sports – in Michigan high school history. Her daughter Alisha Glass-Childress graduated from Leland in 2006 with national records for career kills, aces and blocks, and the first two still top those respective lists. Alisha, also an all-state basketball player, went on to star on the volleyball court at Penn State and as the U.S. Olympic team setter in 2016 in helping that team to the bronze medal.

Larry Glass’ lessons still ring true as Laurie passes them on to another generation. One of her favorite sayings from her father was “you can’t take money out of the bank until you put money in” – in essence, a coach can’t expect athletes to accept criticism or a hard ask if that coach first hasn’t invested in them. Another of her dad’s themes involved making sure players learned fundamentals at young ages and improved on them at all levels, whether they won games or not during those early years. As one of his middle school coaches, that stuck with her, and it remains a basic component of her coaching.

“I’ve always said that we compete with teams that are way more athletic, have all the things on paper that should beat us. And the fact that we know how to be a really good team is what allows us to beat people who on paper should be better than us,” Laurie Glass said. “I’ve always valued the time spent on culture and team because that’s the advantage we hold. We’re never going to be the tallest or most talented – Alisha being the anomaly, of course.”

Laurie Glass has served on the MIVCA Executive Board, including as president, and is a member of the MHSCA and American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA). Locally, her program annually hosts the Forever Dig Abby match in honor of former player Abby Gross, who died after a fight against cancer in 2015. Proceeds most years go to benefit another community member battling the disease, and this past season went to a fund for efforts related to ovarian cancer.  

Glass has served nearly 35 years in education and retired from her duties as a behavior intervention specialist and special education teacher in the Traverse Bay Area Intermediate School District in 2019. She has returned to the school setting, however, and is in her second year as a behavior intervention specialist at Leland.

Glass earned a bachelor’s degree in special education with an endorsement in emotional impairment from Western Michigan University in 1988, and has done master-level coursework in education administration and technology. She also is a certified instructor for the Crisis Prevention Institute. Glass first attended Grand Valley State University and played a season of volleyball before transferring. (NOTE: Glass also coached the Kalamazoo Central varsity for two seasons during the mid-1980s. Those records are unavailable currently but will be added to her overall record when research is complete.)

Past Women In Sports Leadership Award Winners

1990 – Carol Seavoy, L’Anse 
1991 – Diane Laffey, Harper Woods
1992 – Patricia Ashby, Scotts
1993 – Jo Lake, Grosse Pointe
1994 – Brenda Gatlin, Detroit
1995 – Jane Bennett, Ann Arbor
1996 – Cheryl Amos-Helmicki, Huntington Woods
1997 – Delores L. Elswick, Detroit
1998 – Karen S. Leinaar, Delton
1999 – Kathy McGee, Flint 
2000 – Pat Richardson, Grass Lake
2001 – Suzanne Martin, East Lansing
2002 – Susan Barthold, Kentwood
2003 – Nancy Clark, Flint
2004 – Kathy Vruggink Westdorp, Grand Rapids 
2005 – Barbara Redding, Capac
2006 – Melanie Miller, Lansing
2007 – Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2008 – Jane Bos, Grand Rapids
2009 – Gail Ganakas, Flint; Deb VanKuiken, Holly
2010 – Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2011 – Ellen Pugh, West Branch; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2012 – Janet Gillette, Comstock Park
2013 – Barbara Beckett, Traverse City
2014 – Teri Reyburn, DeWitt
2015 – Jean LaClair, Bronson
2016 – Betty Wroubel, Pontiac
2017 – Dottie Davis, Ann Arbor
2018 – Meg Seng, Ann Arbor
2019 – Kris Isom, Adrian
2020 – Nikki Norris, East Lansing
2021 – Dorene Ingalls, St. Ignace
2022 – Lori Hyman, Livonia

PHOTOS (Top) Leland coach Laurie Glass confers with one of her players during the 2019 Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Glass passes the championship trophy to her team after the Comets won the 2015 Class D title.