Monroe St Mary Rising to Repeat Mode

November 13, 2020

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

MONROE – Flip the Switch. 

Every year, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central head coach Karen O’Brien comes up with a catchphrase that she can use in conversations with her team for motivation. 

This year, O’Brien picked the phrase “Flip the Switch,” which signals that MHSAA Tournament time is the time the Kestrels need to turn their game up a notch if they want to repeat as Division 3 champions.  

“We know we have a goal we want to accomplish, and we are working hard to get there,” said SMCC senior Anna Dean. “There’s always another level that we can reach, every game.” 

To this point, the Kestrels have answered the call. On Thursday, SMCC beat Manchester in straight sets to improve to 36-2 on the season and advance to Tuesday’s Quarterfinal against Bronson. O’Brien, in her sixth year coaching the Kestrels, said her team is making steady progress, but they still have potential to get better.

“We know we have another level we can raise our game to,” she said. “We haven’t played at that level yet in the playoffs. We know we need to flip the switch, mentally and physically, if we want to be at the next level.” 

SMCC is a veteran team with seven seniors who have been playing together for years. Miss Volleyball finalist Mikayla Haut is joined by classmates Grace Lipford, Abbie Costlow, Jaydin Nowak, Kylie Barron, Anna Dean and Olivia Anderson. There are also five juniors and two sophomores on the postseason roster. 

Haut is the second member of her family to be a Miss Volleyball finalist. Cassie Haut, now an assistant coach with the program, was a finalist in 2014 before becoming an all-Mid-American Conference player at Eastern Michigan University.  

“I think Mikayla learned last year that she doesn’t have to carry us, she has to lead us,” O’Brien said.  

Haut showed off her talent in the Regional held at Adrian Madison this week, at times dominating Tuesday’s match against Hudson and playing steady against Manchester. 

“I think our biggest thing is just being consistent,” Haut said. “That’s what is going to get us to where we want to be.” 

The Kestrels have put together an impressive resume to take with them into Tuesday’s Quarterfinal. In late October, O’Brien found an opening at a quad in Marshall where the Kestrels went and beat Marshall, ranked No. 10 in Division 2 at the time, Lake Odessa Lakewood, ranked No. 1 in Division 2, and Harper Creek, to go 3-0 on the day. SMCC also won its 10th consecutive Huron League title earlier this season. Haut and Barron have gone 55-1 in league play over their four-year careers.  

SMCC’s only losses this fall were to Division 1 opponents Saline and Ann Arbor Skyline. Skyline, which beat Saline in this year’s District, will be playing in Tuesday’s Quarterfinals as well. 

Costlow said the team believes in the Flip the Switch mentality.  

“As we get to harder teams, we really need to flip that switch,” she said. “We have before. As we progress in the postseason, we need to get our game up. 

“It’s a mental thing. It’s energy. When we bring that energy, we all move together and play as a unit, it's really fun.” 

Costlow has worked on a jump float serve this year and is consistently one of the team’s best servers. 

“The coaches have really been working with me with my hand contact and staying strong with it and not moving my wrist around,” she said. “I like contacting the ball higher. It floats and is hard to pass when it gets up into the air like that.” 

Serving at a high level is important for the SMCC attack.  

“Our goal is to serve tough so that their setters have a tough time getting anybody the ball,” O’Brien said. 

When they are playing offense, the SMCC hitters seem to never stop coming at teams. 

“I will be shocked if they don’t (win Division 3 again),” said Whiteford coach Buffy Ruddy after watching the Bobcats fall to SMCC in the District Final. “They have a great team. They have very good ball control, make very few errors and just have a really good balanced attack. They keep coming at you.” 

O’Brien said the SMCC setters do a great job of distributing the ball. 

“We have six hitters that can attack the ball,” she said. “We have certain plays called, but the setters do a good job of spreading the ball around. It can come from our middle or the right side. I think it’s a great thing. The opponents have to focus on three attackers every time.” 

Costlow agreed. 

“That’s one of the reasons we do so well,” Costlow said. “We have so many hitters that can put the ball down. The other team never knows where the ball is going to be set or who’s going to hit. It really messes up the other team.” 

After seeing her team get past Manchester, Lipford said the Kestrels want more. 

“We didn’t play to our full potential,” she said. “We would have liked it to be more decisive of a win. We need to start quicker, finish and play our game. 

“From the very start we have to have that mentality.” 

O’Brien is in her sixth year as head coach at SMCC. In 2018 her squad lost to Bronson in the Semifinals. Last year the Kestrels swept through the regular season and tournament, winning the school’s sixth Finals championship, and first under O’Brien, in a five-set thriller over Schoolcraft. 

The win over Manchester was another start. 

“I think individually we made steps, but as a team we are not there yet,” O’Brien said. “But we’ll be there on Tuesday.”  

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) SMCC’s Mikayla Haut (8) hits against Hudson’s Callie Bauer in their Regional Semifinal. Both Haut and Bauer are Miss Volleyball Award finalists. (Middle) Abbie Costlow (4) swings against Hudson. Costlow is one of seven seniors on the SMCC squad. (Below) The “Flip The Switch” T-shirt. (Action photos by Deloris Clark-Osborne.)

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.