Oakland Standing Tall Among State's Elite

By Tom Markowski
Special for Second Half

October 11, 2018

Pontiac Notre Dame Prep capped the first fall volleyball season in MHSAA history in 2007 with a Class B championship – the first won in any class by an Oakland County high school. Bloomfield Hills Marian in Class A and Birmingham Roeper in Class D also reached Finals that fall.

Before that season, teams from the county had reached title matches just six times since 1975-76, when the MHSAA began sponsoring a postseason tournament for the sport. (Volleyball began as a winter sport and moved to fall for the 2007-08 school year.) But since Notre Dame won its 2007 title, Oakland County teams have won seven more MHSAA championships: Notre Dame Prep two more in Class B, Marian two in Class A, and Novi – led by 2017 Miss Volleyball Award winner Erin O’Leary – won the last three Class A titles.

Which leads us to this season. Of the 10 nominees for Miss Volleyball, an unprecedented five are from Oakland County: Lake Orion’s Paige Briggs, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Maddy Chinn and Natalie Risi, Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Madison Dowd and Troy’s Jessica Robinson. Of the top four vote-getters for last season’s award, three were from Oakland County.

Chinn and Risi’s coach, Betty Wroubel, who is third on the all-time list for coaching victories (1,422 before this season), said there are a number of reasons why teams in her county are competing at a higher level recently.

“For a long time the programs on the west side were way ahead of us,” Wroubel said. “Some of it is travel (teams). But much of it is competition. In July we do a camp to get the players in the area more involved. Marian led the way for so long, and others are catching up. Also, the kids are getting taller. They’re stronger. Schools in the area offer more conditioning for the players.”

Before this season, Notre Dame Prep had three past candidates for Miss Volleyball. In the fall of 2007, Molly (Coldren) Campbell finished second in the voting to Kyndra Abron of Livonia Churchill. Four years ago, Katherine Carlson became the first and only Notre Dame Prep player to win the award.

Wroubel said both Chinn and Risi stack up well when compared to the other fine players who have come through her program.

“(Maddy) has something going,” Wroubel said. “In those big moments, when your team needs it, she thrives. When the game is on the line, she’s there. She understands the game, like a coach does. What she’s improved on is hitting a variety of shots. She can put the ball down. Even as a freshman, she had that ability.”

At 6-foot-3, Chinn, an outside hitter, is a dominant player at the net. Risi’s versatility sets her apart from the competition. At 6 foot, she also is positioned as an outside hitter – and this season she’s also become one of the team’s top setters.

“Natalie is a calming force,” Wroubel said. “She could be a setter on any team. She’s quiet. You won’t notice her on the court sometimes. When you do take notice, you can’t take your eyes off of her. She’s so smooth.

“I feel bad that they’re in the same class. I don’t know who I’m going to vote for.”

Statistically, Chinn has impressed with 446 kills and 96 blocks. Risi has 140 aces with a .430 hitting percentage. Risi’s aces already make the MHSAA single-season record book list in that category, and Chinn is on pace to make the kills list.

Mayssa Cook is in her first season as head coach at Marian and her setter, Madison Dowd, is a nominee. Cook played volleyball at Dearborn High before graduating in 2003 and playing four years in college, the last two at Wayne State. Cook began coaching the freshmen team at Dearborn a year after graduating from high school. She built the program at Ann Arbor Gabriel Richard as she guided the Irish to a District title in 2013, her first season as head coach, and the school’s first Regional title the next season – before Gabriel Richard then won the Class B title in 2015 with a perfect 42-0 record. Cook (her maiden name is Bazzi) left Gabriel Richard after 2016 and took off from coaching as she gave birth to her first child.

Cook has seen the game change dramatically since the early 2000s. She was a three-sport athlete for the Pioneers, and even though she was a fine player, she said she’s not sure she would make varsity now with the skill set she possessed then.

“Look at the 10 nominees,” she said. “All 10 play travel. You don’t get to be a top-10 player by playing three months. I played three sports (in high school). I played travel soccer. I played travel volleyball but I didn’t play 11 months of volleyball.

“Ten years ago, many schools on this side of the state would go to the west side to get competition. It’s a lot more balanced now. There are still great teams over there, but we don’t have to travel three hours to play the good teams. We can go 10 minutes.”

Dowd, a four-year varsity player and a two-year captain, typifies a well-rounded student-athlete. She has a 4.2 grade-point average, and on the court not only is she a fine player but a valuable teammate. She has 808 assists and 217 digs, and her 1,531 assists as a junior rank ninth in MHSAA history.

“A lot of it has to do with her personality,” Cook said. “She’s not the loudest person on the court. She has a calming presence. She leads by example and is that player who makes her teammates better.”

Dowd has received a number of scholarship offers for volleyball but has yet to decide where she will go after this school year is done.

Over the years Marian has had a host of players nominated for Miss Volleyball, which was created in 2003. That season Erin Poglits was the first Marian player to make the list. Alexandra Cocklin was named Miss Volleyball in 2009 and her teammate, Rachel Charles, was second in the voting. The next season Marian’s Alexandra Lovell finished second and her teammate, Alessandra Dietz, was fourth. Before this season, somewhat surprisingly, the last Marian player to make the top 10 was Jessie Kopmeyer in 2013.

Jessica Robinson (6-2) from Troy and Paige Briggs (5-10) from Lake Orion also are accomplished outside hitters.

Robinson is the first player from Troy to be a nominee and entering this season she had 1,174 kills and 588 digs for her career. She had 740 kills as a junior to rank among the most successful single-season hitters in state volleyball history.

“In college (Robinson has committed to University of Michigan), she’ll be a middle hitter,” said Troy coach Tom Vigilant. “But for us, we have her on the outside. She plays all around. If I need an attacker on the back, I can go to her. But she does what she does best, and that’s at the net.”

Lake Orion’s only other nominee, Courtney Wightman, came in 2015. Lake Orion is one of those Oakland County programs that has made significant strides in the past decade. Its 2011 team reached the Class A Final before losing to Rockford.

Briggs suffered a back injury last season, which limited her effectiveness. Lake Orion coach Tony Scavarda said she has fully recovered and helped make the Dragons one of the top teams in the county.

“She’s made a huge impact for us,” he said. “She passes from the back row, plays good defense and she’s got good leaping ability. She does everything well. At 5-10, she jumps really well and is smart with the ball. We have other players her size who can’t do what she does.”

Briggs is close behind Chinn with 444 kills and is among the leaders in digs with 340. She’s also on pace to make the single-season kills record book list.

Lake Orion lost to Clarkston in the District last season, but with a healthy Briggs the Dragons are off to a 41-4 start and looking for their first District title since 2015.

Scavarda, in his fifth season as head coach, said it is a bit surprising to have five players from the same county in the running for Miss Volleyball, but adds that it is another indication of how strong the level of play has been in Oakland County over the last decade.

“Oakland County is always pretty strong,” he said. “Clarkston is always good, and they might be a little down this season but not by much. Marian and (Farmington Hills) Mercy are always good, too.”

Tom Markowski is a contributing writer for the State Champs! Sports Network. He previously covered primarily high school sports for the The Detroit News from 1984-2014, focusing on the Detroit area and contributing to statewide coverage of football and basketball. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Oakland County’s five Miss Volleyball candidates, from left: Lake Orion’s Paige Briggs, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s Maddy Chinn, Bloomfield Hills Marian’s Madison Dowd, Notre Dame Prep’s Natalie Risi and Troy’s Jessica Robinson. (Middle) Head shots: Chinn and Risi, Dowd, Robinson and Briggs. (Robinson action photo courtesy of C&G Newspapers; Briggs action photo courtesy of State Champs! Sports Network).

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.