Tony Wetmore hadn’t arrived yet the last time Gladwin’s varsity volleyball team won a Jack Pine Conference championship. But he had a trustworthy witness able to give a first-hand account of what his Flying G’s have been chasing over the last 40+ years.
Wetmore’s mother and junior varsity coach Jane Wetmore, then Jane Huber – played on that last league championship volleyball team. She also was the one who got her son into coaching; he started his Gladwin tenure as the freshman volleyball coach teaching a sport he admittedly didn’t know much about himself.
But Mom clearly was onto something.
Less than a decade later, Wetmore has just finished up his sixth season as Gladwin’s varsity coach – and his team has finished its first league championship season since 1978, earning the MHSAA/Applebee’s “Team of the Month” honor for October.
Gladwin has been hovering in contention much of the last decade, but this team had all the ingredients to end the drought. Start with senior outside hitter Erin Breault and senior setter Delaney Reynolds – Breault broke the school’s single-season and career kills records this season, and Reynolds broke the same records for assists. Additionally, Breault led the JPC in kills, and junior middle Lizzie Haines led the league in hitting percentage.
But that high-caliber talent also was surrounded by several contributors who helped Gladwin push past longtime nemesis Beaverton and into the top spot.
“I felt like the whole season I could split the team in half, and one team could take first in the conference and the other team could take like fourth. I just felt like we were that deep where we were good and we could practice at a pretty high level, which was really cool,” Wetmore said.
“It’s obviously linked together, the assist record breaker and the kill record breaker on the same team,” he added. “And I think the thing that really pushed us over the edge this year is we had so many different attackers that were really, really good. My outside hitter Erin broke the record, she led the league in kills. My middle hitter led the league in hitting percentage. Both of those are reflective of our ability to get the ball to our attackers, which is the setter’s main job – but our back row played really well also all season, so a super-big team effort for all of them.”
The Flying G’s were able to win the Jack Pine in large part because they became the first league opponent since 2018 to defeat annual power Beaverton – Gladwin swept the pair of matches against its rival, and those remain Beaverton’s only league defeats over the last five seasons.
The Flying G’s had been building toward this. They won their District in 2018, and then finished second in the JPC in 2019. The team was only .500 in 2020, but came back to finish 29-5 last season and 29-10 this fall.
Wetmore brought Breault, Reynolds and senior libero Delaney Conley up to varsity as sophomores that 2020 season. Breault, Reynolds and Haines earned all-region honors this season, and Wetmore was named his region’s Coach of the Year by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association. (Conley, a standout softball player, has signed to continue playing that sport at Saginaw Valley State.)
More quickly than hoped, of course, Gladwin made its season-ending exit in District play again. But the Flying G’s don’t plan on the prior good times coming to an end.
True, the seniors who will graduate are part of a class that’s been long-anticipated across all sports – another example this fall has been the football team, 12-0 and playing in a Division 5 Semifinal on Saturday.
Wetmore expects his volleyball seniors’ impact to last as younger players who watched them succeed this fall take their turns on the court with a larger idea of what’s possible.
“(It’s) just getting over the hump. Talk about our goals – every year trying to win the conference championship but we can’t get there. Every year since 2018, trying to beat Beaverton but we can’t do it. Districts, we’d won every once in a while … we won in 2011, so from 2011-15 we couldn’t get over it, but in (20)16 we got a District and then we got the next two,” Wetmore said. “When you break that barrier, it makes it easier to realize you can do things.”
Past Teams of the Month, 2022-23
September: Negaunee girls tennis - Report
Sarah Bradley ♦ Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Junior ♦ Volleyball
The 6-0 outside hitter had 31 kills – tied for sixth-most in an MHSAA Final – with a .419 hitting percentage and 18 digs as Everest Collegiate came back from a two-set deficit to defeat No. 4-ranked Leland in five in Saturday’s Division 4 championship match at Kellogg Arena. The first Finals title in program history capped a tournament run that saw the Mountaineers also win their first Regional title. Everest entered the postseason ranked No. 10 in Division 4 and finished 32-4-2.
Bradley finished the season with 420 kills, adding 15 in a Quarterfinal win over No. 6 Marlette and 25 in a five-set Semifinal victory over top-ranked Adrian Lenawee Christian during which Everest also came back after losing the first two sets. Bradley was named to the Division 4 all-state first team after earning an honorable mention as a sophomore. She also plays basketball, softball and soccer for the Mountaineers and is interested in pursuing a career in the medical field as she begins contemplating her college possibilities.
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Past 2023-24 Honorees
Nov. 17: Kalieb Osborne, Waterford Mott football - Report
Nov. 10: Tekalegn Vlasma, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian soccer - Report
Nov. 3: Colton Kinnie, Birmingham Seaholm football - Report
Oct. 27: Lauren Timpf, Macomb Lutheran North golf - Report
Oct. 20: Alena Li, Okemos golf - Report
Oct. 13: Seth Norder, Grand Haven cross country - Report
Oct. 5: Paige Anderson, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer golf - Report
Sept. 29: MacKenzie Bisballe, Lake City volleyball - Report
Sept. 22: Jhace Massey, Gladwin football - Report
Sept. 15: Kaylee Draper, Sturgis swimming - Report
Sept. 8: Owen Jackson, Traverse City St. Francis tennis - Report
Sept. 1: Rachel Forsyth, Ann Arbor Pioneer cross country - Report
(Photos courtesy of the Clarkston Everest Collegiate athletic department.)