St Philip Adds to Record Title Total

By Paul Costanzo
Special for

January 16, 2021

BATTLE CREEK – For most programs, a five-year gap between MHSAA Finals appearances is a sign of incredible strength. 

For Battle Creek St. Philip volleyball, it must have felt like an eternity. 

The state’s winningest program made its way back to the top Saturday, defeating Auburn Hills Oakland Christian 25-8, 25-15, 22-25, 22-25, 17-15 in the Division 4 Final at Kellogg Arena. It’s the 21st title for the Tigers, and first since 2014. 

“I think it’s about time we got another one for Coach (Vicky) Groat,” St. Philip senior Harleen Deol said. “It’s been a dream since fifth grade, so it’s a dream come true my senior year.” 

St. Philip dominated the sport after the turn of the century, making 15 straight Finals appearances and winning 10 titles – including a record nine straight – from 2002-15.  

“I think in the past – I don’t think our team would take it for granted – I think our supporters took it for granted,” said Groat, who has now won 11 titles as St. Philip coach. “I’ve had many people say, ‘Oh, you’re always going to win state. St. Phil, we’re tired of St. Phil, they recruit.’ We don’t recruit, our numbers are going down – we have 10 total players in our program. … We preach about it at the start of every year, our goal is to win a state title. That’s what you want to strive for, and these kids believed in it.” 

It took everything the Tigers had to get No. 21, as Oakland Christian pushed them deep into the fifth set. The back-and-forth final frame ended with a Lancer attack going long, followed by St. Philp jubilation. 

“It was mentally and physically draining,” said St. Philip junior Brooke Dzwik, who had 37 kills in the match. “But at the end of the day, when you work your tail off and leave it all on the court, it makes the reward so much greater. We were able to do it for our senior, Harleen, and we reminded the youngers of that multiple times in the huddles. Everybody just was working, and that helped.” 

Groat looked to the sky before being embraced by her assistant coaches.  

“It feels like the first time,” Groat said. “I’ll never forget (2005), that was my first title as coach, but this is extra special, with the break (because of COVID-19).

Volleyball teams, and all fall sports teams, paused activity for nearly two months because of rising COVID-19 metrics. Teams returned to practice two weeks ago and restarted the tournament with Quarterfinals on Tuesday.  

Early on Saturday, it didn’t appear as if St. Philip would have much trouble collecting title No. 21. The Tigers rolled through the first set, winning 15 of the final 16 points. While the second was tighter, it was never in doubt, as Oakland Christian didn’t have any answers for the Tigers’ attack. 

Midway through that set, after a back-row attack found a hole in the back of the Lancers’ defense, Dzwik had her 13th kill of the match. Oakland Christian, meanwhile, had scored 14 points as a team. 

“She did all right,” Groat said with a laugh. “Brooke has been our main hitter this year, and today we kind of relied on her a lot. Besides Brooke, Harleen in the middle played a great game … to complement Brooke. But Brooke is an outstanding volleyball player. She sees the court so well, she wants it so bad, she pushes her teammates. I preach we’re a team, it’s not about individuals. We have 10 girls out there who bust their behind and help Brooke out.” 

Oakland Christian flipped a switch in the third set, however, winning a back-and-forth affair to extend the match. They kept that momentum going in the fourth, turning what had looked like a St. Philip walkover into a toss-up. 

“I didn’t want them to go down like this,” Oakland Christian coach Brian Theut said. “We’ve been through a lot of stuff this year, and this wasn’t how we were going to end it. Today, what was that final chapter going to be in the book that we wrote this year. I knew our seniors deserved a better way out, so I just kept telling them to hang in there. That third game, I knew if we could just get one, get a couple points in a row, I knew we had it. I just wanted to give us a chance, and that fifth set, it was anyone’s game. I wanted us to compete and show that we could.” 

Oakland Christian was led by senior libero Olivia Colletti, who had 36 digs. Katie Hopkins had 27 assists, guiding a balanced Lancers attack, led by Anna Frazee’s 10 kills. Kylie Morga added nine kills, while Kaylee Page had eight.  

“I am extremely proud of my team,” Page said. “This has been our dream, our goal, and we got to where we wanted. We may not have gotten the outcome we desired, but we laid it all out on the floor, every single girl – our whole bench, all our fans, our parents. We are so incredibly blessed to be where we are now, and that’s all I could ask for. Of course I want to win, but I’m proud of how we played.” 

Dzwik added 32 digs to her match-high kill total. Rachel Myers had 51 assists, while Bailey Fancher had 29 digs, Kate Doyle had 20, and Deol had 16 kills. 

Click for the full box score.

PHOTOS: (Top) Battle Creek St. Philip’s Rachel Myers controls possession for the Tigers during the Division 4 Final. (Middle) Abigail Franey serves for Oakland Christian. (Click for more from Hockey Weekly Action Photos.)

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.