Reigning D4 Champ Finding Title Mix Again

By Wes Morgan
Special for

October 8, 2019

Losing half its roster following a Division 4 championship season presented plenty of challenges to the Mendon varsity volleyball program this fall.

But the resourceful Hornets, led by second-year head coach Heather Bowers, have managed to compete at a high level while simultaneously forming a new identity.

With a dominant offense in 2018 that resulted in an MHSAA postseason run that was nearly perfect (just one set dropped in seven matches) and culminated with a 25-16, 25-21, 25-14 victory over No. 1-ranked Leland in the Final at Kellogg Arena, Bowers’ first year in charge was a smooth transition for the program. This year, without as much firepower, a slew of injuries and players having to learn new and critical positions, a match record of 21-6-6 has required a more blue-collar approach.

“They still have that drive that has been instilled in them,” Bowers said. “They’re not satisfied; they want more all the time. They have that competitiveness this year, too. The talent is there, and it is a very athletic group that’s fun to work with.”

Still, at 6-0 in the Southwest 10 Conference and carrying a No. 2 ranking in the latest Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll, the Hornets have positioned themselves well for a repeat run.

Bowers, who played her senior year at Mendon in 2011 for legendary coach Kathy Trenary before competing for Huntington University in Indiana, has implemented a similar, defensive-minded approach along with a focus on serving.

“We have always prided ourselves on serving,” said Bowers, whose team is operating at a 90.1-percent clip this year with 279 aces. “Serving has been a staple and defense has been a staple, too.”

Senior defensive specialist Juliana Hagenbuch has registered 265 digs so far this year, with four more teammates having made significant impacts in the same category. Junior outside hitter Anna Smith, who has verbally committed to play for Division I College of Charleston (S.C.), might be best known for her offensive prowess, but she’s second on the team with 187 digs. Senior Gracie Russell is up to 157, and sophomore Payton Griffith boasts 150.

“Juliana runs the defense and makes sure people are in the right spots,” Bowers said. “She is really, really good at reading and very good at serve receive. I don’t think I’ve run into another high school player who’s that consistent at serve receiving.”

“We have kind of filled the spots of the people that have graduated, regrouped and found that drive again,” Hagenbuch said. “I think we’re capable of making it pretty far again this year.”

Senior middle blocker Taylor Heitkamp has had the hottest hand at the service line with 67 aces, followed by Smith (55) and Hagenbuch (53). Smith has logged a team-best 43 blocks — which is rare from the outside hitter position — and junior middle Andrea Hoffman has 41 blocks.

That’s not to say the Hornets aren’t well-equipped offensively. Smith, a 2018 all-state selection and the second in her family to attract attention from Division I college coaches (older sister Kaley is a junior libero at Western Michigan University), is a powerhouse at the net with 409 kills this year. Heitkamp is responsible for 149 and Hoffman has 117.

“Anna leads us on our offense every outing,” Bowers explained. “She is a very powerful hitter. She sees the court well, she’s a great leader and a great defensive player as well. It’s amazing to see the kind of power she has in her serves and her hitting. She just reads really well; she’s played so much.”

The common denominator is Russell, who moved from defensive specialist to fill the massive shoes of graduated all-state setter Aubrey Crotser.

“She’s quick and has really good hands,” Bowers said. “Throughout the summer she worked really hard and is doing really well. She is more of a quiet leader with scoring. She makes great choices and is just so quick to the ball.”

Smith’s ability and experience have been invaluable, and the program is thrilled to have her back for another year in 2020. Though the makeup of the squad is different than that of the 2018 championship team, having seen what it takes to be the last team standing, Smith feels another deep run is within reach.

“We knew we had big expectations this year,” she said. “We’re reinventing ourselves. Our chemistry was not the best, but now I think we’re starting to finally get into a groove. We all have the same goals, and it’s to win another (championship). We’ve tried to focus on only what we can control, the basics, and just play our game.”

Wes Morgan has reported for the Kalamazoo Gazette, ESPN and, 247Sports and Blue & Gold Illustrated over the last 12 years and is the publisher of He can be reached at [email protected] with story ideas for Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph and Branch counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Mendon’s Anna Smith sends a serve toward Southfield Christian during her team’s Division 4 Semifinal win last season at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Hornets celebrate a tournament victory this fall. (Middle photo courtesy of the Mendon volleyball program.)

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.