Schoolcraft Making Most of Every Moment

By Pam Shebest
Special for

November 3, 2020

SCHOOLCRAFT — First it was the tennis courts, then the softball field.

Finally the Schoolcraft volleyball team got back to its familiar digs in the gym to start this unusual season.

In spite of the unorthodox beginning, the girls were just happy to be playing, said senior libero Kelby Goldschmeding.

After losing in five sets to perennial power Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central in the MHSAA Division 3 Final a year ago, the Eagles are hoping for a rematch down the line.

St. Mary has been ranked No. 1 and Schoolcraft No. 2 in the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association poll all season.

The 31-3 Eagles started their postseason with a 3-0 win against Decatur on Monday and will face White Pigeon on Wednesday in the District Semifinal at Schoolcraft.

“The biggest thing this year is don’t take a thing for granted,” Schoolcraft coach Erin Onken said. “Nothing is a given. It’s day-by-day, and you live or die.

“I think we are successful because we have really great, hard-working kids, too. We play for each other and respect what we’re trying to do.”

The Eagles graduated “a huge player” from last season in Andelyn Simkins, now playing volleyball at Western Michigan University.

“The question early on that everybody asked was how do you replace that,” Onken said.

“I said you don’t replace that, you hope that the qualities that were instilled in the group carry over, like being grateful and working hard.”

In her ninth year coaching the Eagles, Onken has taken her team to the Finals twice, losing to St. Mary both times.

Last year, “we tried to keep everything in perspective: if we win, we win. if we lose, we lose, but we want to go down the way we did,” she said.

“It was hard. Just getting there was pressure enough, then going five sets, I think they were just grateful for the experience and that definitely transferred over to this year, having so many return.”

Four starters are back from last year’s team: Allie Goldschmeding, Maggie Morris, Kayla Onken and Anna Schuppel. All are seniors.

Setter Kayla Onken said making it to the Finals last year gave her perspective.

“You have to take every moment in, soak it in, and make the most out of every situation,” she said. “Whether it’s a win or a loss, it’s still a very big part of my playing career.

“It teaches you to give your full-out effort, no matter what, even if you’re exhausted mentally, physically. It’s emotionally draining because it’s such a big atmosphere.”

Special bonds

A four-year starter, Kayla Onken said being the coach’s daughter was a challenge her freshman and sophomore years.

“I definitely got more backlash from it, mostly my freshman year, being the new kid and being the coach’s daughter,” she said. “It taught me you have to work for what you get, and I’ve always wanted to prove myself because I knew that this is what I wanted, this is what I have to do to get there.

“I thought I had to prove myself even more because of my position. There was some resentment sometimes, but that got me to where I am today.”

Erin Onken said her daughter overcame some teammates who did not feel she should play because she did not earn it.

“The thing I respect the most about (Kayla) is that she has absolutely made that her point,” Erin Onken said. “I want to start, I know I can, I know I’m talented, and if that’s who I have to beat out, then I’m going to go beat them out.”

Kayla Onken said having that special bond with her coach mom is something a lot of people never experience, but “It’s definitely a topic of conversation at the house.

“I don’t really get an off moment from being a coach’s kid,” she added. “It’s nice, but it can be draining sometimes, too.”

Talking about these seniors, the coach gets a bit wistful, more so than other years.

“It’s hard because I have seven seniors now and they’re (Kayla’s) friends,” she said. “It’s always hard to say good-bye to a group of seniors.

“These kids I know even more because I see them all the time.”

Taking nothing for granted

Kayla Onken joined Simkins on the all-state first team last season, while Morris and Schuppel made the second team and Kelby Goldschmeding earned honorable mention.

Looking back to the start of theis season, Goldschmeding said she is just happy they are having one this fall.

“First we practiced on the tennis courts, and then our maintenance crew made a court on the softball field for us, in the grass in the outfield,” she said.

“We were all happy just to be out there playing again, but we were doing a bunch of ball control and all that. We were just happy to have an actual net and actual court lines because then we could serve and hit.”

Goldschmeding has an additional reason to be grateful for this opportunity. As a sophomore, she sat out after suffering minor concussions.

“It was really hard for me,” she said. “I think I just came back stronger from them, knowing that I’m just thankful to be back on the court and be able to play still.”

Onken said Goldschmeding is mentally tough.

“She never came back timid,” she said. “The team is always so supportive and happy to have her back. I think that helped.

“It was never from getting hit from an attack. It was always from hustle play. She’ll run through these bleachers to get a ball and even now, there’s no hesitation in her, which is really cool.”

Senior middle Maggie Morris also missed a year after suffering a broken ankle her freshman season, and she said it was an eye-opener.

“It helped me as a player realizing that I can’t take anything for granted,” she said.

Getting back to the Final has been the team’s goal all year.

“Having the chance to play at Kellogg (Arena in Battle Creek) was an amazing experience,” Morris said. “We’ve been working at it every day off and on the court.”

She said a key to the team’s success is the team identity: “Grateful, family over everything, nothing is a given, positive and constant communication and holding each other reliable and accountable.”

Other seniors on the team are Lilli Curtis and Hannah Grochowski.

The lone junior is Sophie Ridge and sophomores are Abbi Curtis, Allison Bailey, Camden Bruner and Cassidy Bruner.

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Schoolcraft’s Allie Goldschmeding digs a ball during a match this fall. (Middle) Anna Schuppel gets high over the net to send back a volley. (Below) Clockwise, from top left: Kelby Goldschmeding, Maggie Morris, coach Erin Onken, Kayla Onken. (Action photos by John Curtis; head shots by Pam Shebest.)

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.