Cadillac Hopes to Add #1 to Incredible Run

November 17, 2015

By Dennis Chase
Special for Second Half

CADILLAC – The numbers tell the story – 10 consecutive District titles, nine of 10 Regional crowns, three MHSAA Semifinal appearances.

It's been quite a run for coach Michelle Brines and her Cadillac Vikings volleyball program.

Cadillac is in the Elite Eight once again, this time with one of its most well-rounded teams in Brines' 16 years as head coach.

Optimism is high as the Vikings begin this week with their ultimate tournament goal still in play – to reach Saturday’s MHSAA Class B Final, which would be a program first.

The Vikings know it will not be easy. Cadillac faces defending champion North Branch in a Quarterfinal rematch tonight. The Broncos ousted Cadillac 3-0 a year ago.

The Vikings enter the match ranked No. 5 in the latest coaches poll, North Branch No. 8. The Broncos upset No. 2 Mount Morris in the District.

“They’re a good team, but they graduated seven seniors last year,” Brines said of North Branch. “I told the girls, ‘Forget about what it says on their jerseys. This is not the same team that beat us in three last year.’ Yes, they’re good, they have a history, but I like our chances. We just have to go out and perform, play the way we’re capable of playing.”

Brines, who has close to 650 career wins, has an experienced squad  with senior outside hitter Morgan Briggs, junior setter Ali Finch, junior middle hitter Kylie Christensen and sophomore outside hitter Gabby Kapuscinski among the key returnees from last year.

Brines is hoping that experience will pay dividends in helping her players deal with the pressure.

Briggs thinks it will.

 “We hold ourselves to a high standard so pressure is a good thing, in my point of view,” she said.

Briggs, who will play at Lake Erie College next season, leads the team in kills and also plays the middle on serve-receive. It’s her passing in that role that often starts the offense.

Finch, meanwhile, is the main distributor, although she can put it down, too.

“She jumps sets,” Brines said. “She’s 6-foot and really attacks the ball. The defenders are never sure if she's going up to hit or set – and where she’s setting to.”

Christensen is second to Briggs in kills.

Seniors Gabby Hoaglund (middle hitter), Hanna Liptak (libero), Nicole Kleinsorge (defensive specialist) and Megan Alworden (defensive specialist) and junior Liz Pyles (right side hitter) round out the rotation.

The Vikings, who are 45-4, shared the Big North Conference title with Traverse City West, which competes in the Class A Quarterfinals tonight. The two teams split matches during the season. Cadillac’s only other losses are to Grand Rapids Christian, another Class A quarterfinalist, Temperance-Bedford and Mount Morris.

“We played more tournaments downstate, played some harder teams, and I think we made a name (statewide) for ourselves,” Briggs said.

Cadillac already had that name recognition in the north. It's been fostered by years of success with the tradition carried on by this year's team.

In its last three matches, Cadillac beat Kingsley in the District Final and swept Big Rapids and Houghton in the Regional.

"They play really good defense,” Kingsley coach Dave Hall said. “And they don't make mistakes, they don’t beat themselves. They put a ton of pressure on you by just keeping the ball in play. They keep coming at you and don't give you points.

“I don't think anyone scored more than 13 on them in the Regional,” he added. “I felt pretty good we got to 22 and 15 in two of the games.”

Brines credits several factors for Cadillac’s continued success – introducing girls to volleyball as early as second grade, continuity in the coaching staff, and dedicated players who put the work in during the offseason.

“I’m fortunate that my players are willing to put extra time in during the summer because they play other sports, too,” she said. “I try to be realistic because I don't want to dominate their time. We have a lot of two- and three-sport athletes.”

Playing multiple sports keeps some of the girls out of club volleyball during the offseason, but Brines is fine with it.

“Our school needs our kids (to play multiple sports),” she said. “I’m a firm believer in that. I feel that every sport they play makes them better on my team, and playing on my team makes them better in other sports.”

Repeated success in volleyball helps generate enthusiasm for the program throughout the school – even at the elementary level, where high school players coach and mentor girls in a winter program for grades 2-6.

“We used to start (girls) in fourth grade,” Brines said. “But they play basketball that young (second and third grade) so why not volleyball? We like to get them introduced to it because it's not (a sport) that most kids play outside at home like basketball.”

Briggs is one of those players who became hooked on the sport early. Then again, there were family ties. Her older sister, Taylor, played. Taylor went on to become a floor captain and all-state player, graduating in 2012. Now Morgan is following in her footsteps.

There’s one thing Morgan Briggs is hoping to change, though. Taylor’s last game was a Quarterfinal loss to eventual Class B champion Fruitport in 2011. Morgan would like to extend her senior season a little longer than that.

“We always focus on one game at a time – we don't look (past) anybody – but our goal is to be in the Final Four and make it to Saturday,” she said.

If it doesn’t happen, however, Briggs said she feels fortunate to be part of this team.

“No matter if we win or lose, I have the best girls I could ask for (as teammates),” she said. “They have the same mentality to win as I do. I'm really lucky that I can go through this playing next to my best friends.”

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 [email protected] 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) Kylie Christensen (10) and Morgan Briggs put up a block during a match this season. (Middle) Ali Finch (5) sets as Christensen prepares to hit. (Photos by Susan Baker.) 

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.