St. Phil Makes History with 8 Straight

November 23, 2013

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

BATTLE CREEK – Sierra Hubbard-Neil finished the final roundhouse swing of her high school career and was on the Kellogg Arena floor with the rest of her Battle Creek St. Philip teammates Saturday before the ball hit the floor.

As with many of her swings during a four-year all-state career, this one finished a point – and one of the most historic victories during St. Philip’s heralded run.

That final kill sealed a 25-19 Game 3 win over Waterford Our Lady and another Class D title for the Tigers – their eighth straight, which tied Marysville’s teams from 1997-2004 for the longest championship streak in MHSAA volleyball history.

Although it’s debatable how much anyone believed it, some said St. Philip might have a tougher challenge this fall after graduating seven seniors in the spring including six starters and Miss Volleyball Amanda McKinzie. But despite only Hubbard-Neil as a returning starter, the Tigers simply rolled on with three more seniors taking on bigger roles.

“Everyone looks up to the seniors. The seniors are just like top dogs,” Hubbard-Neil said. “They lead the younger ones, and they try to keep that motivation through them and keep the enthusiasm to keep the tradition going.”

And so it did, in another way as well. The title was the ninth for St. Philip coach Vicky Groat, tying the total won by her mother, former Tigers coach Sheila Guerra, who died in 2006 but is frequently noted by Groat for her enormous influence on the program and its current coach.

St. Philip finished this run 64-7-2 while again playing some of the best from every class in the state – among those victories were wins over the top-ranked teams in both Class B and Class C at the end of the regular season, Hudsonville and Mendon, respectively.

“Marysville always has been a wonderful program. It’s an honor to be up there with them,” Groat said. “It’s pretty special, but I’m just glad we got nine. I wanted this one so badly for these girls, and to match my mom.

“She was an amazing coach, and I learned so much from her. Just to be on the same level as her; we have nine together, 18 as a family, and that’s pretty special."

The last time a team took St. Philip to a fourth game in a Final was 2007. But after beating back nerves during a first-set 25-12 loss, Our Lady gave the Tigers plenty to consider.

The Lakers were playing in their first MHSAA championship game after returning to the Quarterfinals for the first time since 2001. After the team scored only 12 points in the opening set, hitters Allison Samulon, Courtney Wightman and Kristina Krupiak fell into stride.

“They first game was necessary to get the nerves out,” said Samulon, who finished with seven kills. The second and third games we fought hard, and there were a couple of things we could’ve done differently. But I think the first game had to happen for it to work.”

The Lakers three times gained the lead during a 25-22 loss in the second set, and wouldn’t go away during the third scoring three straight points to pull within 23-19 and cause Groat to call an impassioned timeout.

She’d watched Our Lady come back multiple times during the Semifinal against Leland, which the Lakers beat in three sets by a combined eight points.

“You get to that point, and (the players) know what’s in sight. So I just relaxed them a little bit,” Groat said. “And they responded after that timeout.

“Coach (Angela) Williams and I were talking about how much we love this team, how special they are. They just keep battling and working hard and trying to prove people wrong, and they did that today.”

Hubbard-Neil finished with 19 kills on 31 attempts for a match hitting percentage of .516. She’ll be playing next season at Western Michigan University. Junior Emily Schaub capped her season with 26 assists, four aces and six digs, and senior libero Rachel Gallagher had nine digs.

Wightman, a sophomore, led the Lakers with 11 kills, five digs and three blocks. Our Lady (41-6-6) will graduate the rest of its starting hitters and setter, but return next fall with a new expectation after watching a number of other teams at the school have championship success over the years.

“Now we have a measuring point. The girls know how hard they have to work,” Lakers coach Stephanie Swearingen said. “The younger kids have watched as our success has grown. I think it’s really going to excite the school. Hopefully we’ll be back soon.”

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PHOTOS: (Top) St. Philip’s Sierra Hubbard-Neil sends one of her 19 kills during Saturday’s championship match. (Middle) The Tigers celebrate their eighth straight Class D title. (Below) Waterford Our Lady senior Amanda Ludlow returns the ball.

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.