Undefeated Calumet Upholding Tradition

By John Vrancic
Special for MHSAA.com

October 22, 2020

CALUMET — Over nearly two decades, Calumet has developed a tradition of excellence in high school volleyball.

First-year coach Kate (Twardzik) Bonacorsi remembers what it was like during the early years.

“We were an unknown,” she said. “Hardly anybody would come to the volleyball matches. Then we won the (Class B) Regional in 2003 and kind of raised the bar.

“A lot of the credit has to go to my mom (Lisa Twardzik) for all the work she put into the program and the passion she had for the game.”

Their multiple-generation coaching connection is just the latest from a legacy that is again producing a team capable of achieving high aspirations.  

The Copper Kings – honorable mentions in this week’s Division 3 coaches poll – are fresh from Monday’s 3-0 victory over Houghton and will take an 11-0 record into Saturday’s Western Peninsula Athletic Conference finals on their home court.

Calumet finishes its regular season at Marquette on Oct. 29, then hosts Hancock in a District opener Nov. 4.

“This is pretty exciting after putting all the time in the gym,” said senior libero Cami Johnson. “We have good chemistry on our team for sure. It’s inspiring too for us to be on a competitive team. We were able to see our older sisters play and be part of a successful program, and that motivated us to work harder. I’m proud to be from Calumet.”

The Copper Kings, who fell to Manistique in Regional openers the past two seasons, hope to go deeper in this year’s MHSAA Tournament.

They hope those defeats pay off when the postseason begins. 

“When we saw them in warm-ups, they looked pretty good and we were a little nervous about playing them,” said senior outside hitter Elli Djerf of taking on the Emeralds in 2019. “There’s a chance we could see them again this year if we win our District.

“We learned quite a bit from those losses. With COVID-19 you never know when your season might end. We’re not as nervous this time. We play every match like it’s going to be our last.”

Among the team’s highlights this fall was a 3-1 triumph over Marquette at home Sept. 14.

“We made a bit of a statement that night,” said Johnson. “Our hitters were executing, and they had a few strong hitters. We were a little worried when we missed two weeks due to COVID, but after the break we came back super fresh.”

Djerf was the West-PAC’s Player of the Year last season as a junior, and Johnson was the Defensive Specialist of the Year. Now-senior setter Kristi Keranen also made the all-league first team.

Also among the team’s leaders is sophomore middle hitter Helen Beiring. “Helen plays well above her age,” Bonacorsi said. “She’s a very savvy player, and our setter is doing a good job.

“We have strong players at every position, and they challenge each other in practice. Just being able to have a season, maintaining a high standard and living up to expectations has been a highlight.”

A member of Calumet’s Athletic Hall of Fame, Bonacorsi went on to play at Northern Michigan University, and her sister Erica played on the 2008 team that finished Class C runner-up to Schoolcraft.

“Erica and Abby Storm were co-MVPs in the West-PAC that year,” said Bonacorsi. “I remember going to the Semifinals and Finals after we got eliminated from the (NCAA Division II Tournament). It was exciting to see them play.”

Lisa Twardzik retired from coaching after leading the Copper Kings to another Semifinal appearance in 2016, and with a record of 625-131-43 over 18 seasons. Matt Laho took over for the next three seasons.

“Matt did a great job maintaining the program and has been gracious enough to help out, and Mom gave me some pointers,” said Bonacorsi. “Matt left me with a full cupboard. Mom is so modest and tells me ‘I don’t want to step on your toes,’ and I tell her ‘I need your help.’”

Djerf pointed to the team’s communication on the floor among areas becoming strengths this season. She also noted the team’s serve-receive and serving as contributors to Calumet’s overall continued improvement.

All have the Copper Kings in position to again thrive into November.

“It feels great to be part of a tradition. When you’re a little girl, you look up to the older girls. We thought they were so cool and wanted to be a part of that,” Keranen said.

“We work hard in practice. So far we’ve gone undefeated, and we want to keep it going.”

John Vrancic has covered high school sports in the Upper Peninsula since joining the Escanaba Daily Press staff in 1985. He is known most prominently across the peninsula for his extensive coverage of cross country and track & field that frequently appears in newspapers from the Wisconsin border to Lake Huron. He received the James Trethewey Award for Distinguished Service in 2015 from the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association.

PHOTO: Calumet's Helen Beiring taps the ball over the net during a match against Hancock in September. (Photo courtesy of the Houghton Daily Mining Gazette.)

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com 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.