Nine Just Fine for Record-Setting St. Phil

November 22, 2014

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor 

BATTLE CREEK – Emily Schaub has grown up in Battle Creek St. Philip’s volleyball tradition, her mother a member of the Tigers’ 1989 Class D championship team.

The last two seasons, Amy (Nelson) Schaub’s daughter also set St. Philip squads that weren’t supposed to continue the program’s near-decade of MHSAA Finals dominance.

But No. 1 in the regular-season rankings doesn’t mean much compared to number nine in the record book.

St. Philip, ranked No. 3 in Class D at the start of the postseason, defeated No. 2 Mendon in a Quarterfinal and then top-ranked Leland in Saturday’s Final 25-18, 25-18, 23-25, 25-17 to claim a record ninth consecutive MHSAA championship. The Tigers had entered this fall tied with the Marysville teams of 1997-2004 for the longest title streak in MHSAA volleyball history.

“Growing up and watching them, it was always great to say ‘I want to be out there one day.’ And just having that experience, being around that all my life, has pushed me harder to want to be like that,” Schaub said. “Going out there and doing that, … it feels good to prove we’re just as good as the other teams. Just to show we’re a great program, even when considered in a rebuilding year, just to show we’re still a fighting team and we’re here to stay.”

In 40 seasons of MHSAA volleyball, St. Philip has made the Semifinals 32 times, played in 28 championship games and won 20.

The eighth-straight title last season meant something personally to St. Philip coach Vicky Groat, who took over the program from her late mother Sheila Guerra and tied her mom’s career total of nine championships won. 

But Saturday’s crowning victory will serve as one of the brightest points of pride for a community that turned out again to celebrate success.

“Ask every single one of these girls if they were in the stands for championship runs or Final Fours. They were in the stands watching, and they want to be part of that team,” Groat said. “That’s what it is. These kids, they have that. They want to play for St. Phil. They want that experience. As a coach, I want to make sure to give every single one of my kids who play for me the chance at a Final Four or to play for a championship.” 

And, as Groat added, there was something to be said of claiming number nine “with this group of girls.”

St. Philip graduated all-state hitter and Miss Volleyball winner Amanda McKinzie after the 2012 win, and another all-state hitter and Miss Volleyball candidate Sierra Hubbard-Neil after last fall.

The Tigers this season had only two hitters who saw time in the 2013 Final, when Hubbard-Neil had 19 of the team’s 31 kills. 

But on Saturday, junior Abby McKinzie had 13 kills and senior Megan Parker added 12 as seven St. Philip players scored. Schaub had 32 assists and was one of five with at least 14 digs – sophomore libero Kameron Haley led with 21, tied for 11th most in an MHSAA Final during the rally scoring era that began in 2004-05.

St. Philip claimed the first two sets before Leland stormed back in the third. The Comets played the Tigers to 15-15 in the fourth set before St. Philip ended on a 10-2 run.

“She is one of the best coaches I’ve ever had in my life, and to be able top get this record for her is unexplainable,” McKinzie said of Groat. “I’m so happy to have won it for her.” 

It came against a program that could be considered a distant part of the St. Phil family. Leland coach Laurie Glass coached against Guerra, and Glass’ players stay with Groat each year when they play in the Tigers’ tournament. Groat’s players stay with Glass each summer during the Comets’ camp.

Leland certainly had the Tigers wary of a comeback. Leland had fallen in its first Semifinal set to Onaway before winning the next two, losing the fourth and then shutting out Onaway 15-0 in the decider. 

When Groat and Glass crossed paths after Leland claimed the third set, Groat did mutter a little something about a possible repeat of Thursday.

“We were certainly hoping to give her another run at that time, at least make it go to a fifth,” Glass said. “I thought they really started serving really well at that time (in the fourth), we started making passing errors and got a little tighter. We made a couple hitting errors, unforced errors on our part that gave them the momentum for that 3-4 point swing that put them ahead.” 

Junior Maddie Trumbull led the Comets with 16 kills, and senior Jessica Fleis had 37 assists. Senior Miranda Harrison’s 24 digs ranked sixth for an MHSAA Final. The Comets' runner-up finish was their best since 2006, and they finished 43-13-4.

St. Philip finished 53-12-4, with a few more losses than the last couple of seasons. The Tigers finished 1-3 at the Rockford Invitational on Oct. 25, but that day Groat saw a championship-level surge beginning to build.

“At the start of the season, we were doubtful. Ask every single (player), we were doubtful,” Groat said. “(We thought) we’re going to have to do our best as coaches, but it’s not only coaching. It’s players, and they bought into it.

"They believed they could do it, and the power of believing is awesome.”

Click for full statistics.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek St. Philip players celebrate claiming their ninth straight MHSAA title trophy. (Middle) St. Phil’s Abby McKinzie drive a kill while Leland’s Vianna Hennig (13) and Erica Ongaro prepare to block. (Click for action photos and team photos from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.) 


COMETS ACE FOR SET THREE VICTORY - Down 2-0, Leland took the third set against Battle Creek St. Philip on this service ace by Eva Grobbel.
WINNER TIMES NINE IS FINE - Battle Creek St. Philip clinched its ninth straight Class D Girls Volleyball title on this kill from Abby McKinzie, which gave the Tigers a 3-1 decision over Leland.
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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.