Undefeated Onsted Finds Winning Formula

September 28, 2019

By Doug Donnelly
Special for Second Half

ONSTED – Rhonda Hubbard teaches physical education and science in the classroom. But, on the volleyball court, she’s become a chemistry instructor.

Her creation this fall has been mixing up a 25-0 Onsted volleyball team.

“We were all so excited for this season,” said Wildcats junior leader Mya Hiram. “We knew we had the skill and talent and were just excited to work together. It’s all about team chemistry. Our team chemistry is amazing. That is a huge part of how good things are going.”

Onsted sits atop the Lenawee County Athletic Association at 7-0 and has beaten every team except Ida at least once in league play. The Wildcats have lost just two sets all season – one to Adrian Madison in the Tecumseh Tournament and one to Mason at the Mason Invitational – in rocketing to the undefeated start. The loss to Mason came in the first set.

“We didn’t get nervous or anything,” Hiram said about the 25-19 setback. “We all just kind of came together, re-grouped and did what we had to do. It pushed us that much harder.”

The Wildcats are experienced with several contributors back from last season’s 35-16-5 team.

Siena Heights University commit Kinsey Wagner leads the senior group that includes Brooke Gorney, McKenna Smith, Randall Strack and Randall Sexton. Hiram is part of a talented group of junior athletes that includes Brianna Benz and Kayla Ross. Kamryn Ross, Ruby Foster and Kennedy Ross are the three sophomores. 

Hiram is one of several Onsted players who play multiple sports. She’s being recruited by dozens of college basketball teams, including some Division I programs. She also plays volleyball year-round.

“This group has played almost endlessly,” Hubbard said. “They play basketball and other sports, but they also play a lot of club volleyball. They put the time in, that’s for sure.”

It’s hard to pin-point one player on the deep Wildcats roster. Through 24 matches, Smith (92.1 percent), Wagner (96.8 percent), Ross (95.6 percent) and Gorney (91.4 percent) were all serving above 90 percent. Hiram averages 3.33 kills a game with Wagner averaging 3.03. Ross has 248 digs with Hiram having 210. Smith has 468 assists, an average above eight per game. Wagner has 42 blocks.

At the Mason Invitational, Wagner, Hiram and Ross all made the All-Tournament team. Hubbard said one thing that makes this group special is the opponent doesn’t know who to focus on.

“They are all very court-aware,” she said. “They move the ball well. I don’t have one go-to girl, although we could have. That makes us harder to defend because (the opponents) don’t know who’s going to get the ball.”

Hubbard is an Adrian graduate who coached the Maples freshman volleyball team 13 years before becoming the Adrian varsity head coach in 2004. This is her 10th season as the Onsted varsity volleyball coach. She also has coached track for 30 years.

“I was a sports nut,” Hubbard said about growing up. “Give me a sport and let me play it. It didn’t matter what it was. I loved the game, loved playing the game and had good mentors. I love coaching and do it because I love the kids. They keep me in it.”

Onsted has this weekend off before returning to the court Monday against Hudson. The MHSAA Tournament starts the first weekend in November. Hubbard isn’t concerned about still being undefeated.

“I think the girls understand it’s more important to be undefeated in the state tournament than the regular season,” she said.

Hiram said while the team is very aware of its record, she and her teammates aren’t resting on it or thinking too much about it.

“When we step onto the court, that doesn’t make us nervous at all,” she said. “It pushes us. We have a lot of confidence.”

Onsted’s most recent LCAA championship came in 2012, while Hubbard’s 2017 team won a District title. Onsted’s only Regional volleyball championship came in 1992. That Wildcats team lost in the Semifinals.

“I think they are capable of going deep into the tournament,” Hubbard said. “It’s just a matter of making sure to focus and do what we are supposed to do. We can do well at the county tournament, District, Regionals … but we all know anything can happen.”

While the victories are piling up, Onsted also faces some tough competition ahead.

The Wildcats still must play LCAA opponent Ida twice, play in the Lenawee County Tournament and will take the court at the Polish Classic Invite at Bronson on Oct. 5. Niles, Sturgis, Muskegon Western Michigan Christian, Edwardsburg and Bronson also will be there. Bronson is the four-time reigning Division 3/Class C champion.

“We put that tournament on our schedule a couple of years ago because we know they are competitive teams,” Hubbard said. “You have to do that to get better. We want to play the teams that are going to push us and make us better. If we get beat, okay, it’s not the end of the world. To be unbeaten right now is awesome, but we know who we still have to play.”

Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at DougDonnelly@hotmail.com with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Onsted’s Mya Hiram (4) moves the ball ahead during a match this season. (Middle) Kinsey Wagner prepares to serve. (Photos by Laura Harvey.)

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.