Pryor joins UND as volleyball coach

Mark Pryor becomes 12th head volleyball coach at UND, comes from position at Baylor.

Last Friday, Mark Pryor was officially introduced as the new UND head volleyball coach.

With a 15-year collegiate coaching career under his belt, Pryor’s decision to come to UND follows his most recent four-year post at Baylor University in Texas as the associate head coach and recruiting coordinator.

Pryor’s goals for the UND volleyball program may be big, and his determination to follow through is already being displayed.

“I want UND volleyball to be a premier program within the region,” Pryor said. “I do not think that is out of the realm of possibility. I think there is an opportunity for us to recruit local talent, to bring them in and for us to be successful on a regional level and knock off some of the big boys — and I have no problem saying that.

“That’s going to be hard. It’s going to be difficult. But it’s not worth having if its not worth working for.”

Last season, the team captured the Big Sky Conference title — UND’s first league title in any sport in the Big Sky. The championship game also yielded a home crowd of 1,193, which was the most of any Big Sky Conference team since 2006.

While the team reached new heights last season, Pryor looks to continue the team’s climb to the top.

“My job now is to take the next step,” he said. “We won the conference last year, and that was great — but that was last year. We have work to do. That was two months ago. Every team in the conference now realizes North Dakota is a power, and North Dakota is the team everyone wants to knock off.”

UND setter Nikki Husfeldt said she is looking forward to Pryor’s leadership.

“I’ve met him a couple times now,” Husfeldt said. “He seems like a great coach, and I’m really excited to get started with him and see what he has to bring to the program. He was talking through what he wants to accomplish and where he wants to go.

“He said that his birthday wish from us is to be all in the same room on Nov. 30 and find out where we are going in the NCAA tournament.”

It will be a new year, and the team will need a new outlook.

“For us, it’s going to be a huge challenge having the team understand that we are no longer the team that’s chasing,” Pryor said. “Now teams are chasing us, and we’ve got to do a better job of understanding that role and really embracing that role.”

Moving up

For Pryor, embracing the role of his new position comes with a new territory.

Far from his home in Texas, he first visited North Dakota on some of the coldest days the state has seen,  but embraced the weather and thought of the future for his two sons.

“This could be a great place to be to raise a family,“ he said. “If (that cold was) the worst it could be, that’s going to be great.”

But with a summer separating Pryor from leading a volleyball team through the 2014-15 season, he is already anticipating the program’s potential.

“This is a special place, and I would have never thought that I’m moving to North Dakota, and had an exclamation point at the end of that sentence,” Pryor said. “But I can’t tell you how happy I am to be here. I think it’s going to be a special time for the program, a great time for the university, and I’m looking forward to really being involved with the community.”

Elizabeth Erickson is the sports editor of The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].