Undefeated Manistique Makes Banner Run

November 9, 2015

By Dennis Grall
Special for Second Half

MANISTIQUE – Finally, the time has arrived to put volleyball on the sports map at Manistique High School.

The Emeralds will play in their first Regional tournament Tuesday when they face perennial power Calumet in Class C at Gladstone High School. They achieved that pinnacle by upending Gwinn 3-1 Thursday, in Ishpeming.

Under coach Amy Nixon, the Emeralds take an 18-0 record into the Regional. Their first District title came on the heels of their first Mid-Peninsula Conference championship, which means a volleyball banner finally will be hung in the high school gym and a couple of trophies will be displayed in the school's trophy case for the first time.

"The girls have become almost like rock stars," said Manistique athletic director Rob Ryan, noting the sport had very little success during the previous 20 years. "It's been a great journey. They now have crowds that are similar to boys and girls basketball, and the community is getting involved."

A fan bus of 50 students attended the District title game, which was a two-hour drive each way. Nixon was told by several people at Ishpeming that her student section was the loudest they had ever seen in Ishpeming. The team received a police escort back into Manistique late Thursday night.

"I'm proud of our students, family and friends," said Nixon. To which Ryan added, "everyone in the community is buzzing about it."

The success is a much-needed boost for the school and the community. The area is still reeling from the closure of its paper mill, its' biggest employer, earlier this year. And athletic success has been rare in most sports over the years as the Emeralds compete in the M-PC, regarded as one of the most competitive conferences in the state, in all sports.

Football was 1-8 in the fall, so volleyball has provided the important ingredient of success in Manistique. "Volleyball is something everybody is talking about," said Ryan.

"For 10 years volleyball has not been on the map at Manistique. We just were not competitive. It was very quiet in the gym. It was dark and depressing. Now we have raucous crowds. It has really done a 360. It is unbelievable."

With seven seniors on the team, including three-year starters Lexi Carlson, Machaela Hinkson and Sydney Chartier, the Emeralds have been groomed to succeed this fall. Carlson, a first-team M-PC standout, had 13 kills and three blocks Thursday while Chartier had 20 assists and Brooke Whiskin had 23 of Manistique's 91 digs.

"Our defense has improved so much," said Nixon, indicating the Emeralds changed formations from a man-up defense to a rotation system this year. "We don't let a whole lot of balls drop to the floor," said Nixon.

While Carlson, who joined the varsity late in her freshman season, is the leader, Nixon said, "we are a complete team. We are so strong mentally and physically. They have each other's back. There is no girl drama. This is really a well-rounded team. We have five hitters who get kills on a consistent basis.

"We are a tough-attacking offensive power."

Nixon, in her eighth season at the helm, is a native of Kingsford and spent two years as volleyball coach at Gwinn before coming to Manistique. She was a student assistant on the Northern Michigan University volleyball team and has used her experience, along with attending clinics, to instill success in Manistique.

"It's been an amazing ride," said Nixon, indicating the journey began with a five-set loss to Gwinn in the Class C District a year ago. "The girls were heart-broken when they lost last year," she said.

With nine returnees from that team, Nixon got the girls together in April and discussed goals and what the future could look like if the players were willing to put in the time and effort.

With her husband Tim conducting strength and conditioning programs, the girls began to reach for this season's success with the help of open gyms and small-scale skill sessions during the four months prior to official practice starting in August, when they "hit the ground running," said Nixon.

"It has been grueling," said Nixon, noting team bonding has been a focus. "For six months, volleyball has been our life. Their hearts have been 100 percent in it every day. They have been so determined to make it happen. They focused on achieving something great this year."

Changing the mind-set after so many years of struggling was vital. "I set high expectations for my team. I would not accept being mediocre," said Nixon, who strived to have the players give their best effort at all times. As the triumphs began building this season, Nixon said, "it proved to them what they were capable of doing."

The experienced core of the team has helped give the Emeralds an edge this season. "Their court vision is very cool for me to see," said Nixon. After being previously happy to just get the ball over the net, now the Emeralds set targets for their shots.

"They put it in specific spots. Their instincts are so good," said Nixon.

Ryan said this squad's success also occurs off the court, noting their team GPA is 3.7 or 3.8. "This is a great group of girls. They never have a discipline problem. They deserve everything they are getting,” he said.

"Getting that first volleyball banner on the gym wall will be very emotional. To finally clear this hurdle (District title) is really rewarding."

The Emeralds have not seen Calumet this season, but Manistique hosted the Copper Country power in the Class C Quarterfinal last year and received some insight into the team.

"The girls are really focused and will stay the course," said Nixon. "We had a motto (when practice began), Battle Creek or bust," she said of the MHSAA Finals site. "It started out as a joke, but as we have experienced success the motto is not so much a joke. It is reality."

Denny Grall retired in 2012 after 39 years at the Escanaba Daily Press and four at the Green Bay Press-Gazette, plus 15 months for WLST radio in Escanaba; he served as the Daily Press sports editor from 1970-80 and again from 1984-2012. Grall was inducted into the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2002 and serves as its executive secretary. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Upper Peninsula.

PHOTOS: (Top) Manistique senior Allie Nagy follows through on a kill attempt during a victory this season over Iron Mountain. (Middle) Lexi Carlson (7) goes high to set up a block. (Below) The Emeralds celebrate during their victory. (Photos courtesy of Manistique athletic department/Jeffrey Bolm.)

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.