LELAND — Milestones for Laurie Glass aren’t exactly those of other coaches.
Aside from Final Four appearances or state championships, the legendary Leland volleyball coach doesn’t really keep track of records.
Players picking up life skills is just as big as regular-season victories.
Both are very commonplace in the Comets program.
So it’s not a surprise that Glass knows more about how former players are doing in college than how close she’s getting to that next wins milestone.
Glass is within reach of 1,000 career victories at Leland alone.
“I am?” said Glass, who has led 11 trips to the Final Four, resulting in three state championships (2002, 2006, 2015). “Who knew?”
Glass hit 1,000 wins by prevailing over Mount Pleasant Sacred Heart on Nov. 15, 2016.
Each postseason run turns into digging for Glass’ info that’s required by the Michigan High School Athletic Association for the Final Four’s program and media notes.
“And there’s really no clue about how many wins,” assistant coach Travis Baker said. “We really have to dig when we have to submit stuff for the MHSAA.”
Since the Sacred Heart win, she’s tacked on 87 more.
That puts her 38 victories shy of 1,000 at Leland (125 of her 1,087 career wins came in a four-year stint at Traverse City Central from 1991-94). Glass’ Comets teams have recorded 38 or more wins 14 times in the last 16 seasons.
“That just means I’ve been around a long time and I’ve had a lot of great kids at a great school,” Glass said. “I’m old.”
That’s about the exact same line she uttered to a reporter back in 2016 when she hit 1,000.
Only 12 coaches have won 1,000 games at one school in Michigan high school volleyball history. That’ll likely become 13 soon enough, with Rockford’s Kelly Delacher sitting at 996 coming into this season. (Forest Area’s Ron Stremlow sits at 944, all with the same program, but just retired after last season; Kingsley’s Dave Hall is at 924, all with the Stags; Cadillac’s Michelle Brines has amassed 770 wins since 2001).
Glass sits only 23 wins shy of one of her best friends, Battle Creek St. Philips’ Vicki Groat. She gained nine on Groat last season.
Glass stands at 22nd nationally in total victories, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Eight of those 21 ahead of her hail from Michigan, and five of those eight remain active at the varsity level.
All this despite the fact that the Comets haven’t been blessed with a 6-foot-tall player in Glass’ tenure. They’ve come close, with Alisha Glass and Eva Grobbel, but middle blocker Sarah Elwell on the current Leland squad may snap that streak. Elwell is 5-foot-11, and only a junior.
Still, the Comets have been long on victories, if not in the height department.
“In the beginning, I was responsible for some losses,” Glass said. “I’m sure I cost us a district one year. I got that team so pumped up during warm-ups that we ran out of gas.”
A lot of things haven’t changed over the years.
There’s still the same notes for her annual preseason parent meeting (most notably updated to include cell phone usage guidelines). The same practice drills, team building, mental preparedness and life lessons.
But she’s learned to draw different things from each assistant coach. Jane Lang — referred to with a smile as the Director of Operations — became the program’s logistical manager, taking a lot of that off Glass’ plate and allowing her to focus on actual coaching.
Baker brings energy, added some wrinkles into the drills Glass has run for 30 years and incorporated music into practices.
“They’ve allowed me to do a lot of great things,” said Glass, who took three years off when her daughter Alisha was playing at Penn State. “It’s been a really grateful experience to be at Leland in a great program.”
Glass can be an imposing figure, to opponents and her own players alike.
Former Leland standout Madison Trumbull was used to intimidating opponents with powerful hits, but that wasn’t the story as a freshman.
“She’s definitely a tough coach, but she knows what she’s doing,” said former Leland standout Madison Trumbull. “As a freshman, I was terrified of her. The first time she yelled at me, I was terrified. She has an insane knowledge of volleyball. I not only learned volleyball skills, but also life skills. That was a great four years.”
Glass would pull Trumbull out of games and not talk to her on the bench, letting the all-state outside hitter stew. Other times, she’d tell Trumbull she was “easily replaceable.” That obviously wasn’t the case, but it worked. Trumbull helped lead the Comets to the 2015 state championship and three Final Four appearances in four years on varsity.
“She knew exactly what to say to make me just mad enough that I’d say, ‘Oh yeah? Well, I’ll show you,’” Trumbull said.
Trumbull knew full well that she played better with a chip on her shoulder. A little anger put an extra charge on her already-powerful hits.
Trumbull said Glass changes up practice routines to keep players on their toes.
“She would always put me on the side she knew I’d struggle with — with players I didn’t normally play with,” Trumbull said. “Once I was done with volleyball, I realized that was all to make me better and challenge me.”
Two-time all-state player Eva Grobbel said Glass makes it a point to create a personal relationship with each of her players. It helps learn strengths and weaknesses on and off the court.
“Her level of tough love, mixed with encouragement makes you want to be the best you can be for the team,” Grobbel said. “She has a special way about her. She takes you to a whole other level, because she already knows what you can do.”
Grobbel said Glass’ “motherly type” of tough love makes all the memories generated at Leland even more special, recalling seeing Glass on the court right after the 2015 state championship match ended.
“I was bawling tears of joy and she walked up to me and was just so happy,” said Grobbel, now a junior at the University of Michigan. “That’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her, and it made me cry even more.”
Grobbel’s younger sister, Gillian, will be a senior this season.
“I hope to she gets to experience that (milestone) with Laurie,” Eva Grobbel said. “I’m proud to have played for her and Travis Baker and everybody that has made that program what it is.”
Glass said she absorbed a lot from watching her father’s teams. Larry Glass, who passed away Aug. 12 at age 84, coached for six years at Northwestern University (1963-69) and later guided the Leland girls basketball program to three state championships.
She also described herself as a “consummate thief,” willing to “beg, borrow and steal” whatever drill, saying or tactic she thinks could be beneficial.
“People may see her yell at games, but no fan knows what’s been going on up to that point,” Lang said. “She’s in tune to know how they need to be motivated.”
Practices are intense. Glass runs a litany of drills. Each practice is followed by another session of weight training and other workouts to improve speed, agility and core strength. The team has weekly in-season meetings where a volleyball isn’t even present. The topics range from mental preparation to academics to discussing quotes from other coaches to talking about what needs to be improved.
“The big thing is, are we applying the things we learned in practice?” Baker said. “Are we getting better? I think the wins are a byproduct of that.”
Coaches at tournaments will ask Glass for advice, whether it’s how to correct a hitter’s flaws, setting a rotation or handling certain situations.
“They do the same thing all the time,” Kingsley’s Hall said of Leland’s plays and sets. “I scout, but it could be a tape from five years ago and I wouldn’t know, because it’s all the same.”
Hall noted Glass is the only coach he knows who does private lessons for players at opposing schools.
If Glass does get No. 1,000 at Leland this season, it’s a good bet it won’t be in Leland’s home gym.
The school is undergoing some massive renovations, and the team is doing some of its preseason workouts at Northport. The Comets have only three home dates on their schedule, something that just worked out because they had a very home-heavy slate last season.
Leland starts the season with five consecutive Saturdays of tournaments — all on the road. The Comets don’t play at home until Sept. 24, hosting Buckley. An Oct. 17 home date with Suttons Bay is Parents Night and Senior Night by necessity, and the Oct. 26 Leland Invitational will be played at Northport.
And it’s not just what happens on the court that’s a priority. The Comets have been academic all-state as a team every year under Glass.
“What always impressed me most about Laurie is that it isn’t about wins and losses,” Lang said. “It’s about teaching young women life lessons. She wants them to be strong women. It’s a privilege, it really is a privilege, to be part of this program.”
All those wins are a nice bonus, though.