Team of the Month: Gladwin Volleyball

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

November 15, 2022

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

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.