Mendon Extends Reign with D4 Repeat

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 23, 2019

BATTLE CREEK – All Heather Bowers does is win MHSAA titles. 

The second-year Mendon volleyball coach is now 2-for-2 at Kellogg Arena, as her Hornets defeated Leland for the second straight year – this time 25-17, 25-19, 27-29, 25-14 – on Saturday in the Division 4 Final. 

“The hard work these girls have put in, I just can’t say how proud I am of them,” Bowers said. “It was a completely different group with a completely different dynamic, but the same work ethic and the same drive and will to win.” 

Last year’s title was the first since 2001 for the Hornets (40-9-6). But even after losing six seniors, this year’s group came in with experience winning on the Kellogg floor led by junior Anna Smith. She was dominant for the second straight year, with 22 kills, 13 digs and four aces.   

“The fact of the matter is she can score at will against our team – against any team. I haven’t seen anybody shut her down,” Leland coach Laurie Glass said. “She has all the shots. She gets up there and she sees tips, she sees the corner, she sees the line, she sees the cross. At this level, not a lot of D4 schools have kids that can do all of that at will. She’s super talented, and it’s unfortunate for us that she’s a junior and will be returning next year.” 

Smith was the main target for Hornets setter Gracie Russell, who finished with 41 assists. But Russell spread the ball around, keeping the Leland defense guessing. Senior Taylor Heitkamp was second on the team with 12 kills. 

“We knew (the Comets) were such a balanced team that we had to be one, too,” Bowers said. “We all showed up, we all got involved. It was amazing. It was a great group effort.” 

Leland’s attack was three-pronged, led by junior Tatum Kareck with 15 kills, senior Gillian Grobbel with 13 and Olivia Lowe with 11. Jana Molby had 37 assists for the Comets (44-15-3). 

But a strong Hornets defense held Leland to an overall .128 attacking percentage. Mendon finished with eight total blocks, led by five assists and one solo from junior Andrea Hoffman. 

“Leland’s always had really strong hitters, so we know that we have to defend our back row so they can have our backs, too,” Hoffman said. “You have to put up a big block to run your offense, and we did.” 

Leland won the first four points of the match, but the momentum was short-lived, as Mendon won 13 of the next 16 to take control. The Mendon lead got as high as 13-7 after a pair of aces from Smith, which forced Leland to call a timeout.   

While the timeout stopped play, it didn’t swing the momentum, as the Hornets kept Leland at arm’s length on its way to a first-set victory. 

The Hornets never trailed during the second set, leading by as many as eight (24-16). 

Leland built an 18-12 lead in the third set, gaining momentum from an unlikely play. With her team trailing 6-4, Lowe dug a powerful Smith spike with her face, and the Comets wound up getting the better of what turned into a long rally.  

The Comets had set point at 24-19, but Mendon senior defensive specialist Juliana Hagenbuch served her team back into the match and gave the Hornets a match point opportunity at 25-24. But Leland bounced back to close out the set and force a fourth. 

Mendon took control of the fourth set early, leading 12-6 and forcing a Leland timeout. Thanks to incredible back-line play from sophomore Isabella Smith and Hagenbuch, the timeout wasn’t able to stop the Mendon roll, as the Hornets continued to stretch their lead. Hagenbuch finished with 19 digs, while Smith had 12.  

“I think they put up a strong block today, so it was really easy to stay off their shoulder and pick up balls that they touch or they block,” Hagenbuch said. “They made my job easy today. I didn’t have to dig as many balls. I was proud of them.” 

Both teams should return plenty of talent in 2020, especially Leland which loses just one senior. While Grobbel is a significant loss, the thought of a third straight trip to the Finals, and another possible chance at redemption against Mendon, was already on the mind of at least one Comets player. 

“It makes me want to win even more,” said junior libero Mia Osorio, who had 10 digs. “Last year, we came into this year thinking we really want to win, but this time it’s like the cherry on top. We just want to make it down here again and hopefully see them again – and win.” 

Click for full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mendon celebrates its second-straight Division 4 championship Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Mendon’s Ryley Mullin (11) and Leland’s Olivia Lowe battle at the net.

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.