Despite Sad End, Christian Savors Run

November 16, 2017

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

GRAND RAPIDS – The Grand Rapids Christian volleyball team entered Tuesday night on the heels of an emotional high after upsetting top-ranked Rockford four days earlier in the Regional Final.

But the Eagles were unable to sustain it and saw their season come to a disappointing close with a 3-0 (25-22, 25-22, 26-24) loss to No. 4 DeWitt in a MHSAA Class A Quarterfinal.

“We talked about how coming off such a big win on Thursday can sometimes be difficult and to stay up for the next match,” Grand Rapids Christian coach Tiffannie Gates said. “We addressed it, we talked about it, but I still feel that’s what happened. I don’t think that was the whole thing, but I think it was part of it.”

The defeat ended the Eagles’ hopes of a second trip to the MHSAA Semifinals in the last three years, while also ending the on-court mother-daughter career of Gates and her oldest daughter, Maddy.

Maddy Gates played four years on the varsity with her mother at the helm.

“We got along this season like we’ve never gotten along before, and it was definitely a bonding experience for both of us,” said Maddy Gates, who’s headed to Division I Purdue University-Fort Wayne to play volleyball next fall.

“Knowing that I will never play on a high school team again with her made it pretty hard (Tuesday) night as well, but it was good. We have a lot of memories from this season, and I really appreciate everything she did for me this year.”

Tiffannie Gates has coached her daughter off and on since Maddy was 10. That made the last match an emotional one.

“It was really hard because she really thought we were going to go all the way this year, and to see her kind of devastated was pretty heart-breaking,” Tiffannie Gates said. “But it was neat that we got as far as we did and had that extra time together in the gym – and also to experience that fun win on Thursday.

“Coaching your own daughter is hard, but it’s worth it – to have those moments together and to be able to spend so much time with her her senior year before she goes away to college soon.”

Tiffanie Gates actually had the opportunity to coach both her daughters for the first time. Jordyn Gates was a sophomore setter for an Eagles’ squad that went 43-7 and won the Ottawa-Kent Conference Gold crown with a perfect 12-0 mark.

“It was awesome to be able to coach both of them,” Tiffannie Gates said. “I was a little nervous having them both fighting, but there was minimal fighting and it was really fun to enjoy the success of the team together and to see them interact with their teammates. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience.”

The trio were a part of an instant classic that helped the Eagles reach the Quarterfinals.

Grand Rapids Christian pulled out a thrilling five-set victory over top-ranked Rockford, a team the Eagles lost to twice during the regular season.

“We just came out with nothing to lose and with the mindset of playing our best volleyball,” Tiffannie Gates said. “They did that, and it was a phenomenal match. It went five (games) and it was 19-17 in the fifth.

“It was super intense and I had literally 10 people tell me that it was the best, not only volleyball match, but high school sporting event they’ve ever been to. It was so fun, and you felt bad that anybody had to lose because the girls on both sides just fought to so hard.”

Maddy Gates said the victory was the highlight of her season.

“We had a lot of good wins this season, but that was probably the best because going into it, technically, we were not supposed to win considering the rankings but we played with so much heart and passion,” she said. “We would’ve done anything to win that game, so pulling it out and winning that was huge for us.”

Maddy Gates, and fellow seniors Anna May, Elizabeth Schierbeek and Emily Seven, helped lead a relatively young team that also featured junior Maria Bos and freshman Addie VanderWeide.

The Eagles lost their District opener to East Grand Rapids in 2016, but vowed not to look past anyone this time around.

“I think our seniors were diligent in making sure our team focused on each match and one point at a time,” Tiffannie Gates said. “They learned from last year.”

The success of the season made the Eagles’ last loss that much harder to swallow.

“It was pretty difficult for me, and not just because I’m a senior, but because the team chemistry was so amazing,” Maddy Gates said. “Having to say good-bye to all the girls and knowing it was our last time playing together was really tough. I think they caught us on a bad night, and I’m still wrapping my head around what happened, but it was definitely a learning experience.”

Dean Holzwarth covered primarily high school sports for the Grand Rapids Press and MLive for 16 years and more recently served as sports editor of the Ionia Sentinel and as a sports photojournalist for WZZM and WOODTV. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) From left: Anna May, Olivia Nedd, Jordyn Gates, Maddy Gates and Maria Bos ready for the start of play as Addie VanderWeide serves against Rockford in the Regional Final. (Middle) Gates serves during Saturday’s match. (Photos courtesy of the Grand Rapids Christian volleyball program.)

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.