Betty Wroubel began coaching as a middle schooler during the mid-1960s, when she organized, found a sponsor for and coached with a summer softball team that competed against surrounding cities.
She’s coached something every year since – and a whole lot more.
This week she’s leading Pontiac Notre Dame Prep’s volleyball team as it chases what would be a fourth MHSAA Finals championship – the Fighting Irish take on Detroit Country Day tonight in a Division 2 Quarterfinal. She’s the third-winningest coach in MHSAA volleyball history, with a record of 1,634-327-132 since beginning her varsity coaching career at alma mater Clawson during the 1978-79 winter season.
But that’s just the start, and Wroubel has been part of Michigan’s girls sports rise and growth since the beginning.
She played basketball, volleyball, softball, tennis and ran track at Clawson before graduating in 1971, a year before Title IX was enacted. She then played volleyball, tennis and field hockey all for multiple seasons at Central Michigan University, graduating in 1975.
Wroubel returned to Clawson and coached basketball, volleyball and softball, then moved on to what was then Pontiac Catholic and later Oakland Catholic, and then Pontiac Notre Dame Prep when that school was formed beginning with the 1994-95 school year.
She’s led Notre Dame Prep’s volleyball team to Finals championships in 2007, 2013 and 2017 and coached Pontiac Catholic to the Class C softball championship in 1983 – the same year she earned her master’s degree from Michigan State University. Wroubel has led teams to a 908-310-41 record on the diamond, ranking among the state’s all-time winningest softball coaches as well.
But again, her coaching contributions – which are incredible – are only part of what Wroubel has given to athletics.
After previously serving as athletic director at Pontiac Catholic, she has served as athletic director at Notre Dame Prep since Fall 1994 and over the years has filled roles as assistant principal and co-chairperson of the health and physical education department, and taught sports medicine and leadership classes. She was named the state’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2020 by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. She also received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 2016 and an MHSAA Allen W. Bush Award in 2010 for her behind-the-scenes work in school sports.
Wroubel has received various national Coach of the Year honors, including from the American Volleyball Coaches Association in 2007 and National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) Coaches Association in 2019. She is a member of various Halls of Fame – she’s been inducted by the Detroit Catholic League, Michigan High School Softball Coaches Association, Michigan High School Coaches Association, Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association and the Michigan chapter of the United States Specialty Sports Association.
Second Half's weekly Title IX Celebration posts are sponsored by Michigan Army National Guard.
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Sept. 7: Best-Ever Conversation Must Include Leland's Glass - Read
Aug. 31: We Will Celebrate Many Who Paved the Way - Read
PHOTOS Betty Wroubel confers with her team during the 2017 Class B Volleyball Finals weekend at Kellogg Arena. (MHSAA File Photo.)
BATTLE CREEK – Natasha Bickel had an up-close look the last time North Branch won a Finals volleyball title. As a ball girl, she was able to watch the Broncos take home a championship at Kellogg Arena.
On Saturday, Bickel got to experience being on the court to win one.
“I remember when I was a ball girl one of the years we won states (2016) and one of the years we didn’t,” Bickel, a senior middle hitter, said. “Except for last year, we haven’t really came this far. Coming back here, being in the Finals and winning it? It put the cherry on top.”
Bickel and the Broncos defeated Cadillac 31-29, 25-18, 25-17 in the Division 2 Final. It was the fourth title for the program, and first since 2016.
“We put a lot into this,” Bickel said. “We’ve poured our lives into this sport. It’s really awesome. This was our goal since we were little. As we were going up every year we were pushing for it, and last year we came so, so close to doing it. We added a freshman and she’s amazing, and everybody is healthy this year. It was just really, really awesome.
North Branch was the Division 2 runner-up a year ago, losing to Pontiac Notre Dame Prep in the Final. The Broncos downed the Irish in the Regional Final this year, and didn’t drop a set the rest of the way, sweeping Mount Morris in the Quarterfinal and Grand Rapids South Christian in the Semifinal.
So it may have caught some off guard when Cadillac had some early success Saturday night.
Cadillac had North Branch (53-7) on the ropes quickly, jumping out to a 16-9 lead in the first set and forcing the Broncos to take a pair of timeouts over a five-point span.
Vikings middle hitter Carissa Musta, who stands 6-foot-4, was a major reason for that. She had three straight blocks, four total, and two kills during a 10-point run.
While North Branch scrambled to find a way to hit around her, it struggled to get into its offense, and went down 10 before starting to dig out.
“I just said, keep battling guys, keep battling,” North Branch coach Jim Fish said. “That’s the mark of a good team that they’re not going to give up. We didn’t panic, which was good. That’s a huge comeback.”
When the Broncos did dig out, it led to an epic end of the set. North Branch fought off eight Cadillac set points before finally taking the lead back at 29-28.
Freshman Aubree Deshetsky, who kept the Broncos alive initially with four straight high-pressure serves, had the final three kills of the set to put it away. She had eight kills total in the set.
“Aubree Deshetsky’s a stud,” Fish said. “She’s a stud, she does a lot for our team. We had everybody back, and she forced her way into our lineup. She’s just a great player. She’s going to be heard for the next three years.”
While the first-set defeat could have been a back-breaker for a Cadillac team looking to pull an upset, it did not wilt. The Vikings stood toe-to-toe with the Broncos in the second set, despite playing from behind for nearly all of it.
Cadillac (34-11-4) even tied the set at 18 before Bickel helped North Branch rattle off the final seven points to take it. Bickel had three kills in the final stretch, showing off power and finesse in the process.
The Broncos flexed their muscle in the third set, building a 20-8 lead with eight straight points – seven on Bickel’s serve. Her block then put North Branch a point away, and the match was won on a service error.
“If we could have just gotten one of those set points (in the first set), who knows what would have happened,” Cadillac coach Michelle Brines said. “I was really proud of my team, because I don’t know that people gave us much of a chance at all. And, we just played really tough. We played pretty tough for the first set and a half, then it kind of seemed like we were running out of steam a little bit and they were asserting their will.”
Deshetsky finished with 13 kills and 14 digs for the Broncos, while Clara Gyomory had 12 kills and Bickel had 11. Alana Deshetsky finished with nine kills and 22 digs, Hailey Green had 25 digs and Adrienne Greschaw had 45 assists for the Broncos.
Musta led Cadillac with 16 kills and seven blocks. Brooke Ellens had 23 digs, and Cassie Jenema had 30 assists and 17 digs.
PHOTOS (Top) North Branch celebrates its Division 2 championship Saturday at Kellogg Arena. (Middle) The Broncos’ Adrienne Greschaw (1) sets as Cadillac awaits the kill attempt. (Below) Cadillac’s Carissa Musta (9) powers a hit toward a North Branch block.