North Dakota volleyball ready to charge into season with new head coach Pryor
GRAND FORKS, North Dakota -- UND first-year head volleyball coach Mark Pryor only had one guarantee prior to his team's season-opening trip to Washington, D.C., to face Arkansas State, Auburn and George Washington.
"I can expect the unexpected," Pryor said.
Pryor, who comes to UND after a stint as an assistant at Baylor University, said his team will be tested with two matches Friday and one Saturday.
UND returns eight letterwinners from a 2013 team that won the Big Sky Conference regular-season crown.
"We're going to play quality opponents on the road and see what we've got," Pryor said. "I think we have a great chance at success, but it'll be about getting the kids in the right spots."
Pryor said Auburn will bring in a national Top 15 recruiting class, while George Washington was picked fourth in the Atlantic 10 conference. The A10 has occasionally been a three-bid league to the NCAA tournament, Pryor said.
Pryor added he's familiar with Arkansas State's head coach, who he believes will have a strong group of junior college players.
UND, which was picked fourth in the Big Sky preseason coaches poll, will be looking to replace 2013 standouts Ronni Munkeby, Lisa Parlich and Ellen Krueger. Munkeby and Parlich each had more than 300 kills last year.
Pryor, though, does return a handful of experienced players. He'll have the services of setter Nikki Husfeldt, hitters Lexi Robinson and Emily Thompson, as well as defensive specialist Lauren Clarke.
Two players UND was planning to count on this year sat out Tuesday's team scrimmage with injuries: 2013 Big Sky Freshman of the Year Anna Pioske and freshman Faith Dooley, of Wheatland, N.D.
Both players are questionable for the weekend.
Pryor was encouraged with Tuesday's scrimmage, despite the absences.
"We absolutely needed this," he said. "We have so many kids playing in different spots and different roles than they're used to."
As far as newcomers, Pryor expects a strong contribution from Julia Kaczorowska, a 6-foot hitter from near Toronto.
Kaczorowska is the youngest player on the team. She won't turn 18 until late in the season.