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COLLEGE VOLLEYBALL: UND introduces new coach Mark Pryor

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It didn’t take Mark Pryor long to accept UND’s offer to become the school’s new volleyball coach.

He also hopes to have a short timeline in reaching his goals as UND’s 12th volleyball coach in program history.

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Pryor officially was introduced as UND’s new coach Thursday at the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center, where he said North Dakota’s program is in good position to take another step forward in becoming one of the power teams in the Big Sky Conference.

“My plan is simple,” he said. “I want UND volleyball to be the premier program within the region. I do not think that is out of the realm of possibility. There is an opportunity for us to recruit local talent and for us to be successful on a regional level and also for us to knock off some of the big boys.

“I have no problem saying that.”

Pryor inherits a team that finished 22-11 overall last season and shared the Big Sky’s regular-season title. The bulk of that team returns.

He also wants to help the Big Sky become a more powerful conference in Division I volleyball.

“In the past, the Big Sky has gotten multiple teams into the NCAA tournament; this year it was one,” he said. “It’s my job to see what we can do at UND to make the Big Sky a more elite volleyball conference; to improve the league’s RPI.”

Pryor, who agreed to a four-year contract that is worth $85,000 annually, said he will make no changes on the staff, meaning associate head coach Dan Brown and assistant coach Erin Joki will remain at UND.

The UND position opened when Ashley Hardee resigned the head coaching position late last year after an alleged hit-and-run incident at the Big Sky tournament in Portland.

The Big Sky likely will be a tougher league next season with the addition of Idaho, a program that has had volleyball success, according to Pryor. The league will be split into two divisions, with UND, Northern Colorado, Montana, Montana State, Eastern Washington and Idaho comprising one division. Portland State, Idaho State, Weber State, Southern Utah, Sacramento State and Northern Arizona will comprise the other division.

Pryor spent the past four seasons as the associate head coach at Baylor of the Big XII. The program, however, likely will continue to recruit the Midwest, specifically Minnesota. But Pryor said the program will “cast a wide net” for players as well.

Pryor already has met with his returning players.

“Every team in the conference now realizes North Dakota is a power and North Dakota is the team everyone wants to knock off,” he said. “It’ll be a huge challenge having the team understand we’re no longer the team that’s chasing. Teams are chasing us. We have to do a better job of understanding that role and embracing that role.”

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