Digging Kayla

Photo by Dan Moore, UW-Green Bay photographer

Kayla Lass is the featured student speaker at the 2 p.m. commencement ceremony on May 13, 2023.

Kayla Lass has always been a ‘libero’ at UW-Green Bay and proud of it. For those not fluent in Italian or volleyball, libero means “free” and denotes a back-row ball-control specialist. Libero also describes Lass’ style on the court. “I’m always just scrappy and fling my body places to get the ball.” Furthermore, she adds, “I’m really good at defense.”

What Lass, along with her entire team, have also been really good at is hitting the books— scoring in the top 10% of the NCAA Academic Progress Rate that recognizes top collegiate volleyball teams. Academic honors are not foreign territory to the women’s volleyball team, and Lass credits the coaching staff. “I honestly think Coach Abbey just really emphasizes being a student-athlete. You’re a student just as much as you’re an athlete.”

Lass has worked hard being both, earning Green Bay Volleyball’s Academic and Most Improved Athlete awards. For good measure, she’s graduating in four years with one of the University’s most demanding majors – Human Biology with an emphasis in Exercise Science. Nature and nurture have played a significant role in Lass’ college career. Her parents enjoyed successful high-school athletic careers (Dad a wrestler, Mom a golfer), and her sister excelled in softball. Additionally, both parents are teachers in the Stevens Point area. “I ended up having my mom as a math teacher,” Lass recalls. “It was really funny because I couldn’t call her mom. I had to call her Mrs. Lass, and all the kids knew that I was her daughter.”

Lass has been flinging her body around in team sports since junior high – competing in multiple sports including basketball, softball and volleyball. The results? Early recognition and more than the typical bumps and bruises. “I was playing volleyball in junior high, landed on somebody, and broke my left ankle. Then my first basketball game back, someone fell on me and then I broke my other ankle and had to have screws put in.”

Choosing exercise science as an emphasis may have been influenced by her own injuries, but it was experiencing the impact of helping others that transcended that decision as more than just a career choice. Particularly when she began “shadowing” in the hippotherapy program at Exceptional Equestrians. Hippotherapy uses horseback riding as physical therapy for kids with disabilities like cerebral palsy or MS. “I loved those kids!” Lass recalls. “When the kids asked me when I was coming back, I teared up. It just made my heart warm to know I had an impact.” She also assisted in conducting research at that facility as well.

Her potential for impact shows no sign of waning as Lass continues at the graduate and post-graduate levels in the University of Wisconsin La Crosse Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) program. As far as an ultimate professional focus, she’s keeping her options open. “I can go geriatrics, pediatrics, sports medicine, orthopedics, or neurology.” But if there’s one passion she will not abandon, it’s volleyball. “I know coaches in high schools and local clubs, so I will definitely be reaching out and saying, ‘Hey, if you need a hand, I would love to help out.’” Who knows? She may even discover a future UW-Green Bay libero in the making.

Kayla’s Kudos

  • Tri Beta Honor Society
  • Titletown Sports Medicine Internship
  • Assisted in research on impact of hippotherapy on trunk stability
  • Teaching Assistant for Biology lab
  • Teaching Assistant for Anatomy and Physiology Lab
  • Highest Honors: September 2019-May 2022
  • Peer Mentor for Human Biology Professions course
  • AVCA Honor Roll Academic – Top 46
  • UW-Green Bay Women’s Volleyball (four years)
  • NCAA Team Honor, Top 10% Academic Progress Rate (APR) of all Division I Volleyball Teams
  • Green Bay Volleyball “Hustle” Award
  • Green Bay Volleyball “Most Improved” Award
  • Green Bay Volleyball “Academic” Award

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