'Better' Plymouth Christian Becomes Best

November 19, 2016

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

BATTLE CREEK – “Better the ball” as a volleyball phrase means adding something to improve a volley with every touch.

But it also was appropriate as Plymouth Christian’s adopted rallying cry this fall.

The Eagles came to their second straight Class D Semifinals at Kellogg Arena this weekend ranked No. 1 for the second year in a row. Last year, they didn’t make it to Saturday. But this time Plymouth Christian did advance – and then “bettered” itself one more time on the final day of this season.

Facing a familiar foe in friendly league rival Auburn Hills Oakland Christian, the Eagles clinched an unexpected deciding match in their season series – and with it, their first MHSAA championship by a score of 3-1.

“Last year, it was kinda new and it was more stressful because we’d never been in this situation before. So this year, we knew coming into it how our attitudes should be – that we should just treat it like any other game and give our all on everything,” Plymouth Christian junior hitter Grace Kellogg said. “We just needed to side out on the key points and not fall down or get down in tough situations or (over) things that we mess up. Just stay strong and tough the whole time.”

Plymouth Christian (35-11-3) had played in a championship match once before, falling to Battle Creek St. Philip in the 2010 Class D Final. In fact, the Eagles on Saturday became the first other than St. Philip or Leland to win Class D since 2004.

Last season they fell in a four-set Semifinal to St. Philip, with three of those sets decided by two points each.

“Last year, that’s what we ran into: experience,” said Plymouth Christian coach D.J. Kellogg, who’s also the father of Grace and freshman middle Gabriella Kellogg. “Had we gotten three points to go a different way last year, the match was ours.

“It came down to serving, and tipping and playing not to lose. This year the focus was, knowing that, let’s not come back with the deer in the headlights (look). Let’s go out and be aggressive.”

That started with aggressive scheduling. Ten of the 11 losses came to Class A or B schools, including Class A No. 1 Novi and No. 2 Clarkston and Class B No. 3 North Branch (and the Eagles beat Class B No. 2 Pontiac Notre Dame Prep). All of that helped prepare them for a Class D tournament run that included wins over No. 2 Mendon, No. 4 Lansing Christian and No. 10 North Adams-Jerome.

“We knew technically we had what it took,” Kellogg added. “It’s going to be more having the slight edge and a mental edge; that was going to be the thing that would push us over.”

Oakland Christian (43-5-5), of course, was the only non-A or B opponent to deal the Eagles a loss. After falling to Plymouth Christian 3-1 in their first meeting, the Lancers took the second 3-2 to force a shared title in the Michigan Independent Athletic Conference Blue.

After Plymouth Christian won the first set 25-18 on Saturday, Oakland Christian tied it up by claiming the second 25-22. But the Eagles found their "edge" after that, winning the third and fourth sets by identical 25-19 scores.

“It’s a little bit intimidating, having the past with them. … I think we both came in a little nervous, but pretty confident overall,” Oakland Christian senior Alexandra Gudobba said. “We respect each other as a team, and if anyone had to win, I guess I’m happy it’s them.”

Part of that “edge” Kellogg spoke of was anticipating better the variety of shots Oakland Christian has used – Kellogg called the Lancers one of the smartest teams his has faced because of its ability to find corners and tips. Senior libero Divna Roi played the biggest part in foiling those well-placed shots, finishing the match with 24 digs, tied for sixth-most in MHSAA Finals history.

The Kelloggs – who got their training “breaking stuff for years around our house playing volleyball,” according to Dad – led the offensive attack. Grace had 21 kills and Gabriella 13 taking passes from senior Jessica Paulson (18 assists) and junior Abigail Pray (26).

Gudobba led the Lancers with 14 kills and 16 digs, and senior Samantha Morse had 28 assists.

Although not in victory, the match provided a successful end for longtime Oakland Christian coach Priscilla Larned, who will retire with a record of 989-459-81 over 32 seasons. She also coached basketball, softball and soccer at the school, with Saturday’s the first championship match ever for her volleyball team. Oakland Christian entered this tournament ranked No. 6 in Class D.

“I was thinking about all the Saturdays I’m going to sleep in,” Larned joked after. “I’m sorry. I’ve got to make a laugh here somehow.

"It’ll be different. I’m a coach who never got to play in high school, and it’s been a great time coaching. It’s been a great era to coach. But I see the need for me to go on, and somebody else come in and bring more enthusiasm and get it going again.”

After last season’s near-miss, Plymouth Christian tried hard to not make a return to Battle Creek the goal for this fall. Coach Kellogg reasoned that if the Class D title were the goal, his players could feel like it was slipping away if they hit a lull during the four-month season.

Instead they focused on the process – bettering the ball daily to be the best at the end.

“Every interaction we have with our team, every touch of the ball on the court or off the court, every contact that we have we should be adding value to each other and adding value to the game and to the team,” Kellogg said. “And this team’s done that.

“This is the by-product. … They’ve had each others' backs the entire time, and that’s the kind of team that wins.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Plymouth Christian hoists its first MHSAA volleyball championship trophy Saturday. (Middle) Grace Kellogg goes for a kill for the Eagles with Genna Castillo (13) and Samantha Morse (16) defending the net for Oakland Christian.

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

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.