Irish Cap Dominating Run to Class B Win

November 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Pontiac Notre Dame Prep volleyball coach Betty Wroubel has won 772 matches over the last 20 seasons. She had brought one other team to an MHSAA championship game, the eventual Class B champion in Fall 2007.

But it’s a fair argument none of her best dominated quite like her Fighting Irish did this fall in finishing off their second MHSAA title – although they had to win one of their toughest matches to finish the run.

Notre Dame, the top-ranked team at the start of the tournament, beat No. 3 North Branch in Tuesday’s Quarterfinal, then No. 2 Wayland in the semi before surviving a late surge by No. 5 Grand Rapids South Christian to win the championship match Saturday in four sets, 25-15, 25-19, 19-25, 25-23.

After falling behind two sets to none, the Sailors (46-12-1) simply wouldn’t go away – and nearly drew even in the fourth after trailing by as many as five points. 

But the Irish’s dominant front line was just a little too much to overcome as it finished with 60 kills – good to tie for eighth-most in MHSAA Finals history during the rally-scoring era.  

“We’ve been through so many challenges and all of these teams that we’ve been playing, and our team chemistry is just so amazing; we can just trust each other and be confident with ourselves,” Notre Dame junior hitter Katherine Carlson said. “We finished because we can really just trust each other on the court. We were getting our passes, getting our sets (and) we could just go up, be confident, be aggressive and swing.”

Notre Dame’s only losses this fall were to Class A Semifinalist Temperance Bedford and honorable mention Lake Orion. But it wasn’t until the North Branch win Tuesday that Wroubel became convinced her Irish were prepared to finish the week with the program’s second title.

Carlson had with 25 kills Saturday, tying for ninth-most in an MHSAA Final, followed by senior Dani McCormick with 17 and junior Jenna Sassack with 12. The Irish (62-2-1) also had the sixth-most assists in a Finals, 58, and piled up 85 digs with four in double figures led by sophomore Emma Kowalkowski with 20 – tied for 10th most in Finals history.

In the last set alone, Carlson responded to five South Christian points with kills, while McCormick ended two rallies.

“What Katherine Carlson does just amazes me sometimes on the court. I don’t know how she has that court sense, how she knows sometimes where to put the ball. There’s some rallies, and the other team is getting some confidence, and she comes up and puts the ball on the floor and brings it back to us,” Wroubel said. “And Dani McCormick the last four to six weeks has been outstanding.

“In volleyball, if you have one good player out there, you’re tough to beat. You have a couple of them, and you’re going to have to play some darn good defense to knock them off.”

But as the match went on, South Christian’s strengthened. The record book will list a few Sailors performances as well – their 10 blocks make the list, with junior Ashley VanderHorst’s seven ranking among the top individual totals.

South Christian coach Allison Sagraves called Notre Dame the toughest team hers played in the tournament, but the Sailors hung tough after the disappointing start.

That was characteristic of the team’s season. It lost a key middle blocker for the rest of the fall on Oct. 24, which could’ve sunk the Sailors – but instead became a turning point. South Christian was in a bit of a lull at that point, but emerged and didn’t give up a set in the postseason until the championship match.

“I thought we kept fighting no matter what, and the end of Game 4 just showed what these girls have. Just because they had 24, that didn’t mean we were going to roll over and end it,” Sagraves said. “We fought right back, and we really believed we were going to come back and win.

“We talked about that in our timeouts: We’re fighters, and we’re not going to quit, and we’re going to force them to beat us.”

Five seniors started for South Christian, and hitter Taylor Wierenga finished her final high school match with 17 kills, while Cassidy Vredevoogd had 13 and middle Danielle Oeverman had 10. Senior setter Emily Blankespoor had 41 assists, and five Sailors had double-digit digs: Blankespoor and sophomore Abbie Porter with 14 apiece, Vredevoogd with 12 (along with five blocks) and senior Morgan Torres and junior Clarissa VanderHoning with 10 apiece.

Junior Ashley Knutson had 36 assists and 12 digs for Notre Dame, while Carlson added 13 digs and junior Bella Bucchi had 17. Junior Hannah Antosz added 20 assists.

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Middle) Pontiac Notre Dame Prep hitter Katherine Carlson follows through as her teammates anticipate a kill during Saturday’s championship match. (Middle) The Irish celebrate their first MHSAA championship since 2007. (Below) South Christian’s Danielle Oeverman sends the ball toward the net as two Notre Dame blockers prepare to deflect it.

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.