Breaking Barriers and Building Legacies

From the early days of community gatherings to contemporary organized sports, women have played pivotal roles. They have defied stereotypes and carved out a space for themselves in various disciplines. On the playing field or coaching sidelines, the collective story of Northern Michigan women in sports is a narrative of resilience, dedication, and a steadfast commitment to breaking barriers.

Elizabeth “Betty” Emry

Elizabeth EmryElizabeth “Betty” Emry, born on January 20, 1923, and passing away on April 18, 1995, left an enduring mark as an infielder and pitcher in the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Standing at 5 ft 4 in and weighing 130 lb., she demonstrated both prowess and versatility, batting and throwing right-handed. Hailing from Manistique, Michigan, Emry’s journey into professional baseball began with the Keller Girls softball team in Detroit before joining the Racine Belles for the 1945 season.

Initially starting as a shortstop, Emry’s strong throwing arm led to her conversion into a pitcher. Despite grappling with a knee injury, she contributed significantly to the 1946 Belles, posting a 7–4 record with a 2.15 earned run average in 15 games. Her resilience was evident even in the postseason, where she pitched four innings, allowing three unearned runs without a decision. Following her baseball career, Emry transitioned to work at the Briggs Aircraft plant as World War II drew to a close.

Emry’s legacy endures as part of the Women in Baseball exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Unveiled in 1988, this permanent display honors the entire All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. Betty Emry passed away at the age of 73 in New Port Richey, Florida, leaving behind a remarkable contribution to the history of women in professional baseball.

Alisha Glass

Alisha GlassAlisha Rebecca Glass Childress, born on April 5, 1988, is an accomplished American professional volleyball player, currently serving as a setter for the Vegas Thrill in the Pro Volleyball Federation. Glass boasts an impressive collegiate career, having played volleyball for Penn State, where she led the team to three consecutive NCAA championships. Her prowess extends beyond the college level, as she clinched a gold medal with the national team at the 2014 World Championship and secured bronze at both the 2015 World Cup and the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

Hailing from Leland High School in Michigan, Glass honed her skills under the guidance of her mother, Laurie Glass, who also served as her coach, and her grandfather, Larry Glass, her high school basketball coach. During her high school tenure, Glass achieved remarkable feats, earning recognition as a four-time first team all-state, all-region dream team, and all-conference player. She holds National and State High School records in season aces (296), career aces (937), and career kills (3,584). Notably, Glass was bestowed with the titles of “Michigan Gatorade High School Player of the Year” and Miss Volleyball for the state of Michigan.

Becoming a Nittany Lion

Continuing her athletic journey, Glass pursued collegiate women’s volleyball at Penn State University. Over her four-year stint, the Nittany Lions dominated with a remarkable 142–5 record (.966). They secured three NCAA titles (2007, 2008, and 2009) and clinched four Big Ten Conference titles. Glass, a three-time All-American and first team All-Big Ten, played a pivotal role in directing the Penn State offense to a record-setting .390 hitting percentage.

Her international success further highlights Glass’s impact on the sport. She clinched a gold medal at the 2014 World Championship, where her national team triumphed over China with a 3–1 score. Additionally, Glass received recognition as the tournament’s Best Setter. She continued to shine on the global stage, contributing to the United States women’s national volleyball team. In Rio she helped to secure a bronze medal, and earned the title of Best Setter.

Glass’s career statistics reflect her excellence, concluding her collegiate journey in 13th place in hitting percentage (.336) and blocks (448), fourth in assists (5,800), and fifteenth in sets played (465).

Alisha Glass pic – By Grzegorz Jereczek from Gdańsk, Poland – Alisha Glass, CC BY-SA 2.0,

Liz Shimek

Liz Shimek-MoeggenbergElizabeth Ann Moeggenberg, formerly known as Shimek, entered the basketball scene with a remarkable journey that unfolded from the small town of Empire, Michigan. Born on May 25, 1984, she carved her path to the WNBA, initially drafted by the Phoenix Mercury. Shortly thereafter, she found herself in the roster of the Houston Comets, only to be swiftly traded to the Chicago Sky, where she showcased her skills for two seasons.

Her basketball prowess traces back to her college days at Michigan State University, where she graduated in 2006. The WNBA took notice, selecting Moeggenberg as the 18th overall pick in the 2006 draft. Notably, she represented the United States at the 2005 World University Games Team in Izmir, Turkey, leaving an indelible mark. In a game against China, she led her team in scoring with an impressive 23 points. The semi-final clash against Russia saw her once again at the forefront, contributing 25 points in a decisive 118–67 victory. Moeggenberg’s stellar performance, averaging 7.3 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, played a crucial role in securing a gold medal for the team with a flawless 7–0 record.

MSU Hall of Fame

In 2021 Liz was one of 8 inductees in the Michigan State University Hall of Fame. She joined 3 previous female basketball player honorees, Mary Kay Itnyre, Diane Spoelstra and Kisha (Kelley) Simpson.

Liz Shimek Moeggenberg returned to her roots with a coaching role at her alma Mater Glen Lake High School. In 2023 she was one of the assistant coaches that led the Laker’s girls Varsity basketball team to a state title.

Beyond the courts, Moeggenberg embarked on a new chapter, marrying Lucas Moeggenberg in October 2006. The couple now shares the joy of raising their family down the road from where she grew up. Rumor has it the Shimek’s still have the best sweet corn on the peninsula.

Suzy Merchant

Suzy MerchantSuzy Merchant, born on July 26, 1969, emerged as a prominent figure in the world of basketball, both as a player and a coach. Her journey began at Traverse City High School (now Traverse City Central). In high school she excelled not only in basketball but also in volleyball and softball. Garnering accolades such as honorable mention All-America honors by USA Today and earning multiple all-state selections. Suzy’s prowess on the court paved the way for her induction into the Traverse City Central High School Hall of Fame in 2010.

Transitioning to collegiate athletics, Suzy continued to shine at Central Michigan University, where she left an indelible mark as a guard. As a four-year starter and three-year captain, she etched her name into the Chippewas’ record books, boasting impressive statistics such as holding the record for career assists and single season assists. Her outstanding performance on the court earned her recognition as one of the top players in the program’s history.

Following her successful collegiate career, Suzy embarked on a coaching journey, starting as an Assistant Coach at Oakland University. Her tenure at Oakland saw remarkable success, with the Golden Grizzlies achieving a 64-23 record under her guidance.

Becoming a Head Coach

In 1995, Suzy assumed the role of head coach at Saginaw Valley State University, where she transformed a struggling team into a formidable force. Over three seasons, she led the Cardinals to a winning record of 54-29, culminating in a remarkable 20-7 season and national ranking.

Her coaching prowess continued to flourish at Eastern Michigan University from 1998 to 2007. There she steered the Eagles to multiple winning seasons and postseason appearances. Suzy’s leadership propelled EMU to unprecedented success (147-91 record). They clinched the MAC West Division and Tournament Championships for the first time in school history.

In 2007, Suzy accepted the head coaching position at Michigan State University. This marked the beginning of a legendary tenure with the Spartans. Over 16 seasons, she amassed an impressive record of 327-186. She guided MSU to numerous NCAA Tournaments and secured two Big Ten Titles. Her achievements solidified her status as one of the most successful coaches in MSU women’s basketball history.

Beyond the collegiate realm, Suzy’s coaching acumen extended to the international stage. She achieved gold and silver medals with USA Basketball at events such as the World University Games and the Pan American Games.

Suzy Merchant’s collegiate coaching career culminated in an extraordinary overall record of 592-329, underscoring her exceptional impact on the sport. Her record as a head coach was 528-306. Her legacy as a player and coach exemplifies the resilience, dedication, and unwavering commitment to excellence. Everything that defines Northern Michigan women in sports.

More than Skill

Women athletes in Northern Michigan’s history stand as a testament to the enduring spirit, skill, and resilience. From the heart of vibrant communities, these athletes have not only shattered records but also shattered expectations.

 This is our final article for Women’s History Month! We’ve delved into the lives of incredible women from different periods in Michigan’s history. These are women who didn’t just make waves for themselves but truly uplifted their communities. They shattered stereotypes, aimed for the stars, and guess what? They caught them! 😊 If you’re curious and want to catch up on all the stories we’ve shared this month, check out the links below to read them all. Happy reading!

Image Attributions:
Elizabeth Emry – Baseball Card – By All-American Girls Professional Baseball League official website, Fair use,
Alisha Glass – By Grzegorz Jereczek from Gdańsk, Poland – Alisha Glass, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Liz Shimek-Moeggenberg – By Patroklis – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,
Suzy Merchant – By Sphilbrick – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,