Eye of a Tiger, Will of a Champion

November 6, 2012

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

The game was supposed to be fun with a little competition mixed in. That’s the general idea behind students vs. staff volleyball games like the one Vicky Groat stopped to watch during Battle Creek’s Catholic Schools week a few years ago.

But the tallest girl on the court, eighth-grader Amanda McKinzie, showed a little something extra that day – a desire the seven-time MHSAA champion coach continues to admire.

"There were some other kids in her class that were playing that were volleyball players, but (I thought) ‘She’s got it,’” Groat remembered last week. “She understands the game. She knows it’s joking around. But there’s that serious side to her, that competitive side. That’s cool.

 “I remember sitting back (later), standing there going, that’s the competitive drive that I saw in her in eighth grade. Hopefully that continues for years to come.”

The 6-foot outside hitter enters the final two weeks of her high school career tonight ranking among the MHSAA all-time leaders in kills and aces, and as one of 10 candidates for this season’s Miss Volleyball Award handed out by the Michigan Interscholastic Volleyball Coaches Association. The Second Half High 5 recipient this week has helped the Tigers to the last three Class D championships and is a big part why they are considered the state’s best team in any class as they pursue one more title before she heads off next season to Virginia Tech.

That’s a mouthful. But this is a season – and career – that McKinzie began preparing for in first grade.

Like most girls who come through the Tigers’ program, that’s when McKinzie first became part of the St. Phil volleyball family. The eventual stars start early and follow the varsity growing up, attending MHSAA Finals and having their shirts autographed by the players they look up to and someday might replace.

By her admission, McKinzie looked up to everyone who played on those teams – although it was hard for the emerging hitter to not pay special attention to Allison Doyle, who graduated from St. Phil in 2006 and went on to an All-America career at Western Michigan.

The game that sticks out most was Doyle’s last, a five-set loss to eventual Miss Volleyball Alisha Glass and Leland in the 2006 Class D Final. St. Phil has won every Class D title since.

“I just remember that game, how crazy it was,” McKinzie said. “I never really thought, ‘Wow, some day that’s going to be me.’”

But Groat had an idea. She’d watched McKinzie during summer camps and as the junior high athletic director, and brought the then 5-9 hitter up to varsity as a freshman. McKinzie was a little erratic at that point – “I’d have games where I’d hit one out, get frustrated and keep swinging harder and it would not go where I wanted it to,” she said – but has turned into a kill machine.

She’s connecting on 49 percent of her kill attempts for the second straight season – a far cry from her 22 percent efficiency as a freshman – and is approaching her best season of 699 kills. She already has posted career highs of 429 digs, 41 blocks and 130 aces.

And it’s not like she’s built her numbers against meager competition. No small-school team in any sport takes on the biggest powers like the Tigers do each fall. They are 68-2-1, with those losses coming during the second weekend of the season to Class A No. 9 Livonia Churchill and then two weeks ago to Class A No. 1 Richland Gull Lake after St. Phil had beaten the Blue Devils the week before. The tie came against Class B No. 6 Wayland.  

McKinzie also played basketball through her sophomore season, and started, before focusing solely on volleyball. The drive to win that Groat noticed long ago stretches into just about everything, even “the little things.” McKinzie joked that she’d like to win more at ping-pong – but then explained, ‘No, I’m pretty good at that too.”

That scenario mentioned by McKinzie above – the shots sailing beyond her control – still happens sometimes. But she’s learned control. She’s tough to stop because she’s so powerful. Groat said “she’s kinda mean” before laughing immediately. But the confidence McKinzie has built over the last four seasons is obvious every time she takes the floor.

“I just feel it. I kinda get nervous in a way, a nervous exciting feeling,” McKinzie said. “That’s my favorite way to play.”

PHOTO: Battle Creek’s St. Philip’s Amanda McKinzie blocks a hit during last season’s Class D Semifinals at Kellogg Arena.

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.