Mendon Makes Good on Great Expectation

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

November 17, 2018

BATTLE CREEK – It took the Mendon volleyball team only one tournament to realize how good it was this season, and the Hornets certainly weren’t shy about making big proclamations. 

“We started really early,” senior outside hitter Hayley Kramer said. “Our first tournament we were like, ‘We’re going to be state champions.’” 

Mendon made good on that claim Saturday, sweeping Leland 25-16, 25-21, 25-14 to claim the Division 4 title at Kellogg Arena. It was the program’s fourth MHSAA Finals championship, and first since 2001.  

“It’s been our goal the whole entire season,” senior middle blocker Mackenzie Urick said. “We have a goal sheet, and that’s the top. Our mindset, that’s where it was, to win state. One game at a time, just to get here.” 

The drive to get to Battle Creek and walk out victorious began more than a year ago, as the Hornets (49-6-3) were stung by a District Final loss to eventual Class C champion Bronson. While nobody could fault Mendon for suffering from a tough draw, the players were having none of it and set out to make sure they didn’t have that feeling again. 

“After losing in the District Finals … it hurt,” senior middle blocker Cierra Nightengale said. “So we practiced, practiced, practiced. (First-year coach Heather Bowers) wasn’t even officially hired yet and we were in the gym practicing because we just wanted to get the season started. We knew our potential, and we just did it.” 

Mendon dominated throughout the postseason, dropping just one set during its seven-match run to the championship. It swept both of matches at Kellogg Arena, as it had defeated No. 4 Southfield Christian 25-18, 25-15, 25-13 in a Semifinal on Friday. 

It was top-ranked Leland (47-11-1), however, that was able to create the first bit of space between the two teams Saturday, going up 7-4 in the first set. But a Mendon timeout changed everything. The Hornets – ranked No. 2 heading into the postseason – went on a 5-0 run after the timeout, and controlled play through the rest of the set before taking it 25-16.  

Leland led for much of the second set, but Mendon kept within striking distance and struck late to pull away for a 25-21 win to put itself one set away from the title. 

“I think we just go hard every single point,” Nightengale said. “We go little games of five, which I think is what a lot of coaches teach, little games of five until you get to 25. The second game, they were up 19-16 or whatever, and we were like, ‘OK, time to push more.’ And we came out with the win.” 

The third set was controlled by Mendon from early on, and as it went on, the Hornets’ confidence seemed to grow. Fittingly, it ended with an ace from sophomore outside hitter Anna Smith, who dominated throughout the match. Smith finished with 18 kills on 32 attacks. She was in on five of the last six points of the match, combining with Nightengale on a pair of blocks, adding two kills and the final ace. 

“Back in the day when we played against (Battle Creek St. Philip), they had Allyson Doyle (who later played at Western Michigan), I feel the same way about this kid,” Leland coach Laurie Glass said of Smith. “She jumps really well, she’s up there long enough to see what she wants to see, and she’s got a whip for an arm. She’s going to be a great player – she's going to continue to be; she already is a great player.” 

Kramer added 11 kills and five aces, while senior Aubrey Crotser had 22 assists. Senior Amaijha Bailey led the Hornets with 12 digs.  

Leland was led by senior Allie Martin, who finished with 13 kills and five digs. Senior Ella Siddall had 30 assists and nine digs, while senior Hanna Elwell added seven kills. 

For those Leland seniors, it ended a career that started with a Division 4 championship won during their freshman year in 2015.  

“I think it says a lot about what we did this season,” Siddall said. “I think we just did our jobs all throughout, and every game it was steady. I think maybe today was a little different, but I’d say this season overall we did really good.”

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mendon hoists its first MHSAA championship trophy won in volleyball since 2001 on Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) Leland’s Hanna Elwell winds up as Anna Smith (8) and Cierra Nightingale (5) get ready to block. 

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.