Coach Craig Esbenshade vividly remembers Kim Glass' freshman season of volleyball 11 years ago at Conestoga Valley High School.
"I don't think she had ever touched a volleyball before, let alone played the game," Esbenshade said. "But you could tell she had tremendous athletic ability, and she had a desire to learn the game."
She certainly did. Now a member of the U.S. women's volleyball team, Glass, who turned 24 Monday, is about to become just the second Lancaster County resident ever to win an Olympic medal.
By defeating Cuba in a semifinal match Thursday in Beijing, Glass and her teammates earned the right to play in the gold medal game Saturday against Brazil. At worst, Glass will come away with a silver medal.
To date, the late Barney Ewell, who died in 1996, is the county's only Olympic medalist. Ewell won three medals - one gold and two silver - in track at the 1948 Olympics in London.
This summer, Esbenshade was named head coach of the girls' volleyball team at Conestoga Valley, where Glass graduated in 2001. He coached Glass' junior varsity team in 1997.
Talking by phone during a break in a volleyball tournament Thursday evening in which his Buckskins team was playing, Esbenshade said he has been following the progress of the U.S. women's team through the Olympics with awe.
And he can't wait for Saturday's final.
"It's incredible to think that someone who played here could be an Olympic gold medalist," he said. "Kim is competing on the highest possible level and on the biggest stage of all."
Even though he believes Glass never played competitive volleyball before 1997, Esbenshade is not surprised she's now playing in Beijing.
"If you had asked me back then if she'd be playing in the Olympics one day, I probably would have said 'no,' " he said. "But she was blessed with height and athletic ability, and she put in the work to improve her game.
"So in that sense, no, I am not surprised by what she has accomplished."
Esbenshade said Glass picked up the game quickly during her freshman year. In her sophomore year, she moved up to the varsity squad.
"She just kept getting better and better," he said. "By her senior year, she was playing year-round, and the college coaches really saw something in her."
Glass was considered one of the most sought-after volleyball players in the country that year. She went to University of Arizona, where the 6-foot-3 young woman was a three-time All-American.
Esbenshade said he hasn't talked to Glass since she joined the U.S. team in 2007.
But he said he hopes to change that some time in the next few months.
"I've talked to my athletic director, and I think the district is going to reach out to her to see if she can come visit the school when she gets a chance," he said.