'Corunna' on her Back, Norris Lifts Cavs

November 3, 2015

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

CORUNNA – Meredith Norris has traveled all over the United States thanks to her ability to crush a volleyball and stop opponents from doing the same.

The Corunna junior already knows her college destination, a Big Ten university a few exits down the highway. She’s had a taste of international competition, and is drawing closer to challenging for a spot on the U.S. youth national team.

But home is never far away from the 6-foot-3 outside hitter’s heart.

Her successes took root during afternoons as a ball girl dodging spikes during high school practices coached by her mom, while growing up in this town of 3,500 that her Detroit-area club teammates think is either in Alaska because it’s so far away or Nebraska because of the surrounding rural landscape.

Those who follow volleyball have figured out where Corunna is located. And those who know Norris understand why, despite all she’s accomplished on volleyball courts nearly coast to coast, this month’s opportunity to lead the Cavaliers to unprecedented heights carries so much importance.

“I like to represent my town doing all of these big things,” Norris said. “I like to put Corunna on my back.”

And she literally does – “Corunna” is spelled across the back of her and her teammates’ jerseys.

The Cavaliers will face host Flint Powers Catholic in a Class B District Semifinal on Thursday. Corunna is seeking its third straight District title against a field that also includes familiar league foes Goodrich and Lake Fenton. And if the Cavs succeed this week, they’ll have another shot at history – a first Regional championship.

There certainly are expectations.

Norris is considered by many to be the state’s top junior, an MHSAA record holder after drilling 53 kills in a five-set District Final win over Goodrich last fall who passed 2,000 career kills this season and should next fall become only the second player in MHSAA history to total 3,000. Norris has 757 kills this season and 2,208 over three – with five more kills she’ll move to eighth on the career kills list.

She’s also played plenty of high-pressure matches. Norris competed as one of 33 invitees at this summer’s USA Volleyball girls youth A1 national training team program, the final step before competing for one of 12 spots on the youth national team. As part of A1, she traveled to Iowa in July for five days of training followed by five more of competition at the USA Volleyball High Performance Championships. She made the top U.S. team at the camp, and with teammates from all over the country faced a field that included teams from Canada, New Zealand and the Dominican Republic.

That was just the most recent of travels that have taken her all over the country for additional USA Volleyball training, club tournaments and college visits.

But in the end, she’s always come home to the court she’s made a second home most of her life.

Home on the hardwood

Meredith’s mother, Nikki Norris, is Corunna’s athletic director and also served as its volleyball coach from 1999-2002 and again from 2006-09. From ages 5 to nearly 12, Meredith spent in-season afternoons after school at her mom’s practices.

“It’s weird to think about, because if I didn’t grow up in the gym with her being the coach, I don’t know if this is what I’d still be doing,” Meredith Norris said. “If she was the basketball coach, would I be doing all of this stuff in basketball? Would I even be playing volleyball? So her being the one to introduce me to volleyball is the reason I’m in it. She introduced me to it, made me fall in love with it.”

Meredith was born with ingredients for athletic prowess. He dad, Dr. Robert Norris, is 6-foot-9 and played basketball at Alma College – and Meredith grew to 6-foot by eighth grade. Nikki competed in track and field at Alma – and Meredith’s athleticism crosses over to both of her parents’ college sports. She played on the varsity basketball team as a freshman (she since has given that sport up) and made the MHSAA Finals in high jump last spring while also throwing discus and running an occasional race. 

Nikki, although she didn’t play volleyball at the college level, joined Alma College’s coaching staff for that sport as an assistant right after graduation, and later coached at Carson City-Crystal before taking over at Corunna. Meredith learned fundamentals attending her mom’s youth camps and training sessions for the high schoolers. She picked up an advanced understanding of the game watching all of those practices and then every Corunna home match from the bench, and MSU matches later on.

She talks about playing “efficiently,” which seems advanced as well as she explains, “I as a player think smarter, not harder.”

But there was a point during middle school when Meredith would analyze situations too much, which led her to be timid instead of attacking with her natural abilities – and led to her mom stepping in to light a fire.

“I remember we were in the car, and I told her, ‘When the game is on the line, the winner wants the ball. What’s it going to be?” Nikki Norris recalled. “She’d heard me tell teams that I wanted them to go down swinging.

“She figured out that to be successful at this, (she's) got to be the one who steps up and takes the big swing.”  

'You’ve got to have a good teacher from the start.'

Norris could have been saying that to explain her mom’s influence, or those of middle school club coaches who helped hone her skills early on. Or what she’s tried to be to her teammates, sharing her various experiences with girls she’s known since first grade.

“She has so much volleyball knowledge that she brings to this team,” Corunna coach Kari Carnell said. "She has experienced high-level volleyball, and she knows the ins and out of the game. It’s easy for her to give a teammate a tip or some advice in the moment.”

Most of the time, Norris passes on little things she’s picked up during her variety of experiences – maybe a tip on a shot or an opponent's tendency she's spotted. Carnell said Norris reads things so well on the court that she can make adjustments for herself and her teammates, who are receptive and appreciative of the advice.

Norris isn’t the only player with experience, of course – senior setter Skylar Napier owns the school record for career assists – and together they’ve led the Cavs to a Class B honorable mention and 34-11-5 record heading into this week. 

Norris also carries a 3.9 grade-point average and is interested in studying kinesiology, and might follow her dad into medicine (he’s the team physician for MSU’s volleyball, hockey and baseball teams.).

But seeing the impact she’s had on her high school teammates, it wouldn’t be tough to imagine Meredith following her mom into some coaching as well.

“It means a lot because I know that I’m making my teammates better,” Norris said. “They’re choosing to play high school volleyball, and if they enjoy it and if they’re learning throughout the season, and if I’m doing that, that makes me really proud that I’m teaching them and they’re liking it and they’re understanding what they’re doing.

“And if they make a mistake, they understand what they made and how to fix it. I think it’s really cool.”

Geoff Kimmerly joined the MHSAA as its Media & Content Coordinator in Sept. 2011 after 12 years as Prep Sports Editor of the Lansing State Journal. He has served as Editor of Second Half since its creation in Jan. 2012. Contact him at [email protected] with story ideas for the Barry, Eaton, Ingham, Livingston, Ionia, Clinton, Shiawassee, Gratiot, Isabella, Clare and Montcalm counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Corunna's Meredith Norris attempts a kill earlier this season. (Middle) Norris, left, and a teammate go for a block, their jerseys showing "Corunna" across their backs. (Below) Norris (3) poses with her teammates after the Fowlerville Invitational. (Photos courtesy of Corunna High School.)

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.