Lowell Prepared for 1st Trip to Final Week

November 18, 2019

By Dean Holzwarth
Special for Second Half

LOWELL – The Lowell volleyball team has earned a trip to the season’s final week for the first time.

A beefed-up regular-season schedule helped pave the way toward school history – last week’s program-first Regional title and a spot in Tuesday’s Division 1 Quarterfinal at Jenison against No. 3 Mattawan.

Second-year Lowell coach Jordan Drake said strengthening the schedule was a focal point after bowing out in the District Final against eventual Division 1 runner-up Rockford last season.   

“That was something I looked at with my coaching staff after losing to Rockford last season,” Drake said. “What can we change in order to not be in this situation again next year? I talked with my athletic director, and I said to put us in the hardest tournaments that we could.”

The No. 2-ranked Red Arrows haven’t shied away from playing against, and beating, the top teams in the state en route to a stellar 53-3 record. Lowell has wins over seven more of the top 10 in the final Division 1 coaches poll, plus the top two ranked teams in Division 2 and No. 1 team in Division 3. The Red Arrows early this season handed Division 1 No. 1 Farmington Hills Mercy its only loss (although, it should be noted, Mercy was playing without senior hitter Jess Mruzik, who was in Egypt with the U.S. U-18 national team and was back when Mercy won a rematch with Lowell last month).

“I knew we had a good team last year, but we just weren’t battle-tested,” said Drake, whose team also won the first conference title in school history last season.

“Playing Mercy, Grand Rapids Christian, Lake Orion, Hudsonville, Lakewood and Schoolcraft that are championship-contending teams, those are the conversations that you want to be in and the matches you want to be in throughout the whole season so when you get to this point you feel like you’ve been there before. I think it’s been a huge difference-maker for our kids.”

Senior middle hitter Meghan Meyer, who’s recorded 438 kills and 74 blocks, said the improved quality of their schedule has paid dividends.

“Coach put us in tournaments where we could be exposed to those good teams more so we would be experienced and ready for when it came to moments like this,” she said. “That really showed us what we’re capable of doing.”

Lowell defeated No. 4 Hudsonville 3-1 in the Regional Final. It was a gratifying win that accomplished a season-long goal, while also avenging two of the Red Arrows' losses this fall.

“The girls were ecstatic, and winning Regionals was obviously one of the goals we had set out for ourselves this season,” Drake said. “It’s right where we want to be, and we’re taking this thing one game at a time and we’re looking forward to a great competition with Mattawan. It’s going to be another tough battle like the road we’ve had. It’s been just a grind.”  

Junior outside hitter Jenna Reitsma, who leads the team with 795 kills to go along with 379 digs and 82 aces, was thrilled to pull off another program first.

“We were all just really excited, and we worked really hard to get here,” Reitsma said. “We wanted to get past that milestone, especially since our school hadn’t done it before, so it was exciting to make history and work hard together to get that win.”

The Red Arrows returned eight players this fall from a year ago. However, experience alone wasn’t going to be enough to help the team meet heightened expectations.

The intangibles also needed to be developed.

“I definitely thought we could reach this level, but it was a matter of them wanting to put the work in,” Drake said. “There was a lot of things we still had to get better at from last year, and that included taking game by game and growing from our losses against tough teams.”

Still, the five-set loss to Rockford that ended their 2018 season provided perfect motivation.

“I know when we were playing different teams we kept that loss in the back of our minds,” Meyer said. “We used that as willpower to push through. It was hard losing to them, and we remembered that. We pushed ourselves harder.”

Other key contributors for the Red Arrows include junior setter Sophie Powell (1,446 assists) and junior libero Emma Hall (476 digs).

 “We have never been this far in Lowell history, but we’re just going to work our hardest,” Meyer said. “It’s going to be a good game, and I believe we’re ready.”

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. Contact him at dream100@comcast.net with story ideas for Allegan, Kent and Ottawa counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Lowell hitters await the serve during the St. Johns Invitational on Oct. 5, where the Red Arrows went 6-0. (Middle) Meghan Meyer (5) loads up for a kill attempt. (Click to see more from HighSchoolSportsScene.com.)

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.