Leland Preps to Defend State Title
LELAND – After ending Battle Creek St. Philip’s decade of dominance last fall, the Leland volleyball program has its sights set on winning consecutive state championships for the first time in its storied history.
With a straight-set sweep last November, Leland became the first school not named Battle Creek St. Philip to claim an MHSAA Class D state title since the Comets last won it all in 2006, avenging their loss to the Tigers in the 2014 title match.
Ranked third in the latest Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association Class D poll, Leland is no stranger to competing on center stage, winning five state titles and having six runner-up finishes to its credit.
"My hope is, that when the girls come in the gym and they see their names up on that board, they have that same flashback memory of the times that they spent with the girls that they worked so hard with,” said coach Laurie Glass, who is in her 22nd year at Leland.
"It took a while to sort of convince some of the earlier teams that winning is a possibility, that going to the state finals is really not some story you hear about but something that is possible and I think that now we have established that that’s possible, that that’s what they want and I think that’s the sign of a good strong program seven through twelve."
Despite graduating a trio of all-staters in Eva Grobbel, Maddie Trumball and Vianna Hennig, the Comets returned four, including sophomores Ella Siddall and Allie Martin, and haven’t skipped a beat.
"I feel like we’ve just kind of picked up from last year, not like starting fresh,” senior Julie Bardenhagen said. “Right where we ended off last year, we’re almost the same team."
"They understand what it takes to get there and this group does no less than any other group that has walked in here,” added Glass.
With a young rotation, Leland is relying heavily on its defensive play this season.
"I think it’s probably one of our better defensive years,” Glass said. We dig a lot of balls. We annoy people by, you know, keeping the ball in play a lot and we have aggressive serving. We’re just sort of getting into the flow of trying out some new things offensively."
The Comets begin their title defense on Oct. 31, hosting Suttons Bay in a district opener.
"The point of the program is, that given the right circumstances, that, you know, you always have to have a little luck, the draw sort of has to work in your favor, but you still have to beat the best to get to win the whole thing,” Glass said. “I think that they have had an experience with it and I think they’re eager to have another experience with it."
Leland continues Northwest Conference play at Suttons Bay on Tuesday.