A pair of longtime and significant contributors to school athletics in Michigan have been recognized nationally as the best in their respective fields by the National High School Athletic Coaches Association.
Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball coach Vicky Groat was named national Coach of the Year in her sport, while recently-retired administrator Fred Smith was named national Athletic Director of the Year by the NHSACA.
Both were nominated for the national recognition by the Michigan High School Coaches Association. They received their awards at last week’s NHSACA Annual Conference in Lincoln, Neb.
Groat last season led St. Philip to the Division 4 championship, the program’s 11th Finals title with her as head coach. She ranks sixth in MHSAA history with 1,177 coaching wins (1,177-275-93) over 22 seasons. She also serves as principal and athletic director at her school.
Smith served 38 years total as a teacher, coach and administrator with stops at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic, Comstock, Buchanan and Benton Harbor before retiring in 2017. He received a Citation from the National Federation of State High School Associations in 2019 for his various contributions not only in Michigan but nationally, especially in athletic director education and development.
Both Groat and Smith, coincidentally, are graduates of Battle Creek St. Philip. Both also have served on the MHSAA Representative Council, including Smith four years as vice president.
Additionally, Temperance Bedford volleyball coach Jodi Manore and longtime Warren De La Salle Collegiate lacrosse coach and athletic director Mike Jolly were inducted into the NHSACA Hall of Fame. Manore is the winningest coach in MHSAA volleyball history and all-time nationally as well with a record of 2,128-369-59 at Bedford from 1980-83 and again from 1990-2020. Jolly led the Pilots lacrosse program to a 215-105 record and also coached football, basketball and baseball.
MacKenzie Bisballe ♦ Lake City
Senior ♦ Volleyball
Bisballe led Lake City to a key Highland Conference sweep of Manton with 13 kills, 12 assists and 16 digs, and added 40 kills, 57 assists, 43 digs and 12 blocks as Lake City finished last week with a 5-0 run through the Kalkaska Invitational. Lake City is ranked No. 7 in Division 3 this week, and Manton had received an honorable mention in the state coaches poll at the time of their match.
The 6-foot-1 standout made the Division 3 all-state second team last season and has helped Lake City to a 26-5-2 start teaming up in part with senior cousin Alison Bisballe, as the duo share setting and middle responsibilities. Both are likely known even more for basketball; MacKenzie made the Division 3 all-state team in that sport last season as Lake City girls hoops finished 24-2. She’ll continue her basketball career next year at Grand Valley State, where she’ll play with older sister Rylie Bisballe, a redshirt junior for the Lakers, and cousin Macy Bisballe, a redshirt sophomore.
@mhsaasports 🏐POW: Kenzie Bisballe #tiktalk #questiontime #part2 #jordan #sprite #nerdgummyclusters #family #silkpillowcase #cryingemoji #performanceoftheweek #mistudentaid #fyp #MHSAA ♬ original sound - MHSAA
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Sept. 22: Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8: Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1: Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report
(Top photo courtesy of the Cadillac News.)