Wayne Nelson / Forum News Service, Published January 27 2014
UND tabs new volleyball coachGRAND FORKS – As the associate head coach for the Baylor volleyball team in Waco, Texas, Mark Pryor had reasons to take a closer look at the University of North Dakota when the school began advertising for a new coach.
“I’m from Texas and we’ve heard how good the North Dakota economy is,” said Pryor. “And we heard that North Dakota is producing more oil than Texas. We were wondering what’s going on.”
That piqued his interest about North Dakota. And UND’s volleyball program, one that’s been on the rise the past few seasons, piqued his interest even more.
As a result, Pryor applied for the UND opening. On Monday, the 15-year coaching veteran was named the new UND coach, one who inherits a program that won last season’s Big Sky Conference regular-season title – the first North Dakota program to win a league title.
“When a program is looking for a coach, it usually means you’re going to be rebuilding for a couple of years,” said Pryor. “This isn’t a program that’s rebuilding.”
Pryor takes over a team that finished 22-11 overall last season, 17-3 in the Big Sky. It was UND’s fourth 20-win season in the past five years. UND, a relatively young team, also returns two all-conference players in Nikki Husfeldt and Anna Pioske, the league’s freshman of the year.
During his interview at UND, Pryor said he quickly was sold on the school, the facilities and the program. On his return trip to Texas, Pryor said he and his wife, Amanda, decided to accept UND’s offer.
“I was really impressed with how every person in the community is a major fan of the university and of the athletic program,” said Pryor. “That goes a long way.”
Pryor has been at Baylor for the past four years, serving as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.
“We are excited to have coach Pryor lead our volleyball program,” said UND athletic director Brian Faison said. “He is the real deal and brings a tremendous mix of coaching experience and enthusiasm for the sport. He is an exceptional recruiter, develops great players, connects well with people and is firmly committed to the academic success of the student-athletes.”
In his first three seasons with the Big XII program, Pryor helped Baylor increase its win total from 16 in 2010, to 18 in 2011 and 20 in 2012. Pryor’s 2012 and 2013 recruiting classes at Baylor both were ranked in the top 20 nationally.
Pryor also has coached at Texas A&M-Commerce, where he led the Division II school to back-to-back winning seasons – including a 25-10 mark in his last season. He also was the head coach at Louisiana-Monroe in 2005. Before that, he was the head coach at North Central Texas College and Southwest Baptist.
He is a graduate of Baylor.
Pryor takes over for Ashley Hardee, who resigned late last year after he was involved in an alleged hit-and-run incident during the Big Sky Conference tournament in Portland.
Nelson writes for the Grand Forks Herald