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Byrne hired to head Alex volleyball team

Mary Byrne

The Alexandria volleyball team has its new leader in the huddle.

Mary Byrne was officially hired as head coach on Monday night with her approval at the AAHS school board meeting, marking a new era for Cardinal volleyball after Becky Schlichting resigned after this past season.

"I think once a coach, always a coach," said Byrne, who has an impressive resume in her back pocket. "I do definitely have a passion for the sport of volleyball and teaching the game, and just to share that love of the game with the community of Alexandria (is exciting)."

Byrne has spent time as the head coach at Marshall High School, and at the college level for South Dakota State and North Carolina State.

She took over the Jackrabbit program after two years in her hometown of Marshall, seeing plenty of success from the sidelines. Byrne compiled a 175-88 record over eight seasons at SDSU. She led the Jackrabbits to their first NCAA Division II Tournament in 1997, culminating in a 29-4 overall record and the No. 4 national ranking. Byrne was also named North Central Conference Coach of the Year in 2000 while reaching three national tournaments in her last four seasons.

Byrne then moved on to coach at North Carolina State from 2001-05, where she went 33-122 over five seasons.

"She has Division I college coaching experience, Division II college coaching experience (and) just a wealth of volleyball experience and knowledge," AAHS athletic director Bob Brakke said. "You can tell she's passionate for the game and also for the kids. I feel like we're lucky to have a coach of her caliber."

Byrne is a 1985 graduate of the University of Nebraska, where she was All-Big Eight as a sophomore, junior and senior. She was an AAU Junior Olympic All-American in 1983, as well.

After her stint at NC State, Byrne had a hand in several programs ranging from JOs to summer camps. But after moving back to Minnesota to be closer to family and now working as a profile coach at Profile by Sanford, she said she's ready to dive back into a head coaching position with Alexandria.

"I've been getting some of my coaching fix through club and camps, but this opportunity came along, and it interested me," she said. "I think it's pretty exciting to work in Alexandria."

Brakke said he envisions a strong team to come as a result of Byrne's tenure.

"I think she'll add a different dimension to the program," he said. "The wins and losses I'm less worried about than the experience that the girls have. Hopefully, we'll see the team gel and come together."

And while the season doesn't officially get underway until the fall, Byrne is ready to get to work with the Cardinal corps.

"I have done a little meet-and-greet to meet some of the players and parents. I'm really excited. They were all very receptive," she said. "What's nice about Alexandria is that they've always had a strong following in volleyball and a passion for the sport. It'll be fun to be involved in that."

Micah Friez

Micah Friez covers Bemidji State basketball and BSU for the Bemidji Pioneer. A native of East Grand Forks, Minn., he is a 2018 graduate of Bemidji State with a degree in Creative and Professional Writing. Follow him on Twitter at @micahfriez for Beaver basketball updates.

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