Mruzik Set for Season of Opportunities

August 15, 2019

By Keith Dunlap
Special for Second Half

FARMINGTON HILLS – Like a lot of seniors, Jess Mruzik of Farmington Hills Mercy will enjoy a lot of perks that come with the final year of high school.

The first such perk will be that she will get to miss almost three weeks from late August to mid-September. 

A member of the United States Under-18 Girls Youth National volleyball team, Mruzik and the rest of the U.S. squad will be heading to Egypt from Sept. 5-14 to compete at the World Championships.

Mruzik actually will head first to Anaheim, Calif., on Aug. 28 for a couple of days of training before the team flies over to Cairo.

But don’t worry, there will still be a way for her to keep up with what’s going on in her classrooms at Mercy.

“A lot of our stuff for where we turn in our homework, that’s all online,” she said. “So it should be pretty easy for me to keep up.”

But if Mruzik has her way and achieves all that she wants, getting to represent her country and go for a gold medal won’t be the only perk she’ll enjoy over the coming months.

There are rightfully a lot of expectations for Mercy on the volleyball court, since the Marlins return nine players from last year’s team that finished 52-3 and reached the Division 1 Semifinals before falling to eventual champion Lake Orion.

Leading the way will be Mruzik, who is almost like having nine returning players all in one.

“Obviously the national team will be fun playing with girls all across the country, but I’m really excited for this high school season,” Mruzik said. “Everybody is so much better. We are all super hungry this year.”

Having the wondrously talented Mruzik already is a boon for Mercy. But add that she and the rest of the team are beyond motivated to bring home the first volleyball title in school history, and that’s a bad outlook for opponents.

A 6-foot-2 outside hitter who brings thunder from all sides of the net, Mruzik was named the state’s Gatorade Player of the Year last year after collecting 420 kills, a .514 kill percentage, 165 digs and 65 aces.

“Jess is just the real thing,” Mercy head coach Loretta Vogel said. “Her athleticism, she’s just a natural.”

Mruzik comes from a basketball family but found out her gifts were in volleyball after taking up the sport in fourth grade. She already has built up a diverse volleyball resume with her experiences on the world, national, club and high school stages.

Mruzik last year captained the national team that won a gold medal at the NORCECA Continental Championships in Honduras, and she was named MVP of the tournament.

“People really take volleyball serious overseas,” Mruzik said. “Playing with Team USA, you get a taste of that. It’s not the club world. These people are playing for money and will do whatever it takes to win. A lot of times in club, you play the same people over and over again. You know how one girl is going to play and how one team is going to play. Internationally, you have to make changes on the fly because they play volleyball differently than you.”

Vogel said she first saw Mruzik at one of the coach’s camps. But after seeing her perform so well at the camp, Vogel was disappointed to learn that Mruzik was still in eighth grade at the time and not an incoming freshman.

Vogel has seen Mruzik get better and better during her first three years at Mercy.

“She had a very complete package for a young lady,” Vogel said. “But I think the strength of her game each year when she comes back to me in the fall, everything she does is stronger. Her attacking is stronger and very precise on everything she wants to do.”

Mruzik will be graduating early, in December, and will attempt to enroll at University of Michigan in January.

If she can’t enroll early – the university can take only a limited number of athletes who wish to do so – she’ll take classes at a community college and start training with her future Michigan teammates.

Even with her national team opportunities, Mruzik loves the high school experience too much to not play her final season, even adding that if Mercy had won the Division 1 championship last year she still would have come back to play high school as a senior.

“High school season is a fun time of the year,” Mruzik said. “I’m super close with the girls on our team, and we all mesh really well. That’s definitely something that helps, and there’s not a lot of team drama.”

PHOTOS: (Top) Farmington Hills Mercy’s Jess Mruzik takes a big swing during her team’s Division 1 Semifinal last season against Lake Orion. (Middle) Mruzik (33) and her teammates huddle after a point at Kellogg Arena.

2023 WISL Award Honoree Glass Continuing to Create Leaders On Court & Off

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.