Volleyball: 'Coach' Never Far from Marysville Title Dreams

November 18, 2011

2011 Volleyball Finals Previews

The same dreams have made their way around the Marysville volleyball team the last two months.

A player woke up in the middle of the night saying “Coach, Coach,” thinking she’d heard the voice of John Knuth.
Another woke up stretched out like she was about to block a spike, perhaps responding to one of his commands from the bench.

The longtime Marysville coach has been on his players’ minds for obvious reasons since leaving the Oct. 1 Mount Morris Invitational in an ambulance after suffering a heart attack.

Although recovering now, he hasn’t returned to the team and won’t for this weekend’s MHSAA Finals – the first championship weekend appearance for the storied Vikings program since 2006. But that doesn’t mean Knuth won’t have a presence at Battle Creek’s Kellogg Arena.

“It’s actually funny. The first couple weeks of practice after he was gone, if I screwed something up and I was thinking I was doing something wrong, instead of hearing my voice say it (in my head), I would hear his voice,” Marysville senior Haylee Booms said. “We became attuned to his voice.”

Class A and D Semifinals were played Thursday, with B and C tonight. Marysville (49-9-4) faces Tecumseh in their Semifinal at 7:15 p.m.

Leading the Vikings will be first-year coach Kristen Michaelis, a former Marysville and U.S. national team standout who took over the program this fall as a co-coach with Knuth – who entered the fall third in MHSAA volleyball history with 1,135 wins, a .935 winning percentage and nine MHSAA championships. 

Although Knuth had previously stopped coaching the team after the 2006-07 season, these players certainly knew the significance of an opportunity to play for him. “Him telling me I did a good job, it’s just a dream come true because you know if it’s coming from him, you’ve done good,” Booms said.

Knuth and Michaelis replaced Paul Levandowski, who coached from 2007-10, and the plan was for Knuth to take the lead role early and progressively transfer responsibilities to his former middle hitter before retiring from coaching completely after the season. 

Michaelis didn’t expect to take full control so suddenly. Knuth said he didn’t feel well after that first match at Mount Morris, and then didn’t return to the floor the rest of the tournament. He left for the hospital, and although the players sensed something was up, Michaelis didn’t tell them what until after the last match of the day. The team came together for a tearful group hug.

“Obviously, it was hard for the girls to deal with, but I told them we’d all work through this together.  He’s on our minds, but he would want us to push forward and have successful season,” Michaelis said. “I knew my role would have to increase. I would not just be a coach, but kind of a mentor for the girls. They are pretty big shoes to fill.”

So far, so good.

The Vikings dropped their first match after Knuth was hospitalized, three days later against Macomb Area Conference Red foe Macomb Dakota. But they bounced back to sweep the rest of their league opponents 3-0 and claim the conference championship. Marysville didn’t give up a game in the District or Regional before falling in the first against Frankenmuth – and then coming back to win the next three.

Michaelis had been a Marysville assistant the last two seasons, and played on the 1997-2000 Marysville teams that won the first of eight straight MHSAA titles. But she brought a variety of experiences back into the program – she went on to earn All-America recognition for Fresno State after high school, and then helped the U.S. team to a bronze medal at the 2007 Pan American Games.

She’s incorporated her own drills and style, and Booms said the coaches bring different approaches both in relating to the players and motivating them to improve. 

“We always knew from the beginning that it was a special team. We knew what the potential was. But whatever happened, something just kinda clicked,” Michaelis said. “Maybe a little more to play for him. Our league is one of the best on the east side, and we knew none of the teams would come out of it undefeated. … We’re still thinking about Coach, but we’ve turned it into a positive thing, not a distraction.”At team dinners the players say a little prayer asking for Knuth to return to good health, and do the same before every game. Opponents and other schools from all over and have sent cards and other well wishes, and at Tuesday’s Quarterfinal at North Branch, Frankenmuth fans hung a sign amid those supporting their team that read “Muth Prays 4 Knuth.”

Michaelis keeps Knuth updated frequently, either directly or through messages to his son. Levandowski and other former players are among those who have come in to lend an extra hand at practices. The team is watching videos of Marysville’s MHSAA championship teams to see the level of intensity and focus necessary to accomplish the same.

Booms said the players have focused on playing with maturity and accepting little mistakes in order to move on and improve. That in turn might’ve helped them deal with this much larger dose of adversity.

And after Tuesday’s Quarterfinal win, they heard Knuth’s voice again – sort of, through Michaelis. She texted Knuth that the Vikings had advanced to Finals weekend, then relayed to her players his message telling them how proud they’d made him.

“As soon as it happened, we knew we had to work harder,” Booms said of Oct. 1. “This was going to make or break out season, but we were going to make our season. … We weren’t expected to make it this far. But the fact is we all wanted it, and we all believed in ourselves.

“We’re all dreaming.”


(TOP) One goal: Marysville's volleyball player join together before the start of Tuesday's Quarterfinal match against  Frankenmuth at North Branch.
(MIDDLE) 4 Knuth: A sign hung by Frankenmuth fans showed their support for Marysville co-coach John Knuth.
(BELOW) Champions: Marysville claimed last week's Regional title and will make its first Semifinal appearance tonight since 2006.
(Top and below photos courtesy of Dusty Johnson.)

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.