Senior-driven Bucks Living the 'Dream'

By Wes Morgan
Special for

October 4, 2016

Buchanan may never have another class of volleyball players like the one winding down its final high school season for the Class B third-ranked Bucks this fall.

In her 13th year coaching the team, Lisa Holok isn’t taking it for granted.

“They’re insanely special, said Holok, whose program has produced a number of college players over the years. “We’ve had our eye on this group since the eighth grade just because they are so special.”

Headlining the senior group is outside hitter Franki Strefling, who is headed to Eastern Michigan University next year on a full-ride scholarship. But she’s only one of seven seniors to have raised Buchanan’s profile over the last few seasons.

The squad set single-season records for wins in 2014 (46) and 2015 (48). The Bucks have lost only 23 games over the last four years.

Buchanan did experience a disappointing Regional Semifinal loss in 2015 (swept in three) and a 3-1 loss in the Regional championship match in 2014 — both at the hands of Battle Creek Harper Creek.

But the Bucks, and this senior group in particular, think now is their time. They’re 33-3 and well seasoned after competing (and winning) some of the most talent-packed tournaments on the west side of the state and in northern Indiana.

“They all really love the game,” Holok said. “The communication between them is almost seamless. We always knew we could make a run. We expected it and we work for it. This summer when we had our workouts, it was a different feel. I think it was more of a sense of urgency for them just because it’s the final season.

“Although they are super serious about volleyball, they are also fun loving and goofy. They’re like family; they’re like sisters. They fight like sisters. They make up like sisters. Behind the scenes, the talk of where they want to end up has been very real for them this year.”

Most of the Bucks’ regular-season matches in the Berrien-Cass-St. Joseph League in recent years have been tests of discipline. Winning by large margins, Buchanan had to manufacture competitions within competitions to remain engaged — not allowing another point after building a big lead, not committing service errors, not playing down to a lesser opponent’s level.

That hasn’t been an issue this year, however. Nor has needing extra motivation.

“Leaving regionals last year with another loss to the same team for the second year in a row, we knew we had work to do,” defensive specialist Taylor Reed said. “We set our goals high for our last time around. One major goal we set out for our team was to beat our rival, Harper Creek, which we've already accomplished in an earlier tournament in the season. Winning state, of course, is our overall goal.”

It has been a long road to finally be in the position to possibly achieve that goal.

“Over the past four years, the seven of us have been through everything together,” Liz Kuntz said. “And when I say everything, I mean everything from heartbreaks and hard conditioning days, to devastating injuries. I'm so thankful to not only call them my teammates, but some of my closest friends.”

The personalities are as different as their roles on the court.

Strefling is the one who “keeps it real” and is willing to say the things out loud that might be difficult for her teammates to hear. But Kuntz said Strefling’s “impeccable” understanding of the game makes the advice easy to take.

Alex Tobler is a fierce competitor but is emotionally uplifting when her teammates need it. Setter Britta Mollberg rarely loses her cool as the offense’s quarterback.

Reed takes pride in bruises, and Taylor Strauss keeps everyone focused on daily and long-term goals. Andrea Blair doesn’t let anyone off the hook in practice, constantly pushing her teammates to be better. But she’s the first to provide levity when necessary.

“This team is what we like to call ‘The Dream Team,’" Reed said, “not because of our winning record, but more because of the chemistry we have. We know all of each other's strengths and weaknesses because most of us have been playing together from elementary YMCA ball to club and now high school ball. Five of the seven seniors we have now all started on varsity as freshmen.

“We know exactly whom we are playing next to, and it all just flows together. It's definitely an advantage to have this bond that not many teams can say they have.”

Super Seniors

(Statistics prior to Saturday)

• Taylor Strauss (libero) — 345 digs, 98 percent serving and 4.7 digs per game. All-region player in 2015 and all-league in 2013, 2014, 2015.

• Franki Strefling (outside hitter) — 351 kills, 214 digs, all-region in 2013, 2014 and 2015, all-conference 2013, 2014 and 2015 and all-state in 2014 and 2015; broke school single-season kill record last year, four-year team captain.

• Taylor Reed (defensive specialist) — 185 digs, all-conference in 2013, 2014, and 2015.

• Britta Mollberg (setter) — 239 digs, 845 assists, broke school single-season and career assist records, all-conference in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

• Liz Kuntz (middle blocker)— 200 kills, 48 blocks, all-conference in 2015.

• Andrea Bair (middle blocker) — 19 blocks.

• Alex Tobler (outside hitter) — 225 digs, 365 kills, 39 aces, team captain.

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) Buchanan's Britta Mollberg (8) and Andrea Bair (6) wall off a kill attempt earlier this season. (Middle) Libero Taylor Strauss dives for a dig. (Photos courtesy of the South Bend Tribune/Michael Caterina.)

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.