Korie Lebeda's playing career speaks for itself.
The University of Mary is hoping the Creighton University volleyball Hall of Famer can bring some of that success to Bismarck.
The 31-year-old Omaha, Neb., native was unveiled as the new head coach of the Marauder volleyball program on Wednesday. Lebeda, who played professional and semi-pro volleyball following her banner collegiate career as a setter at Creighton, had been an assistant coach at Black Hills State (S.D.) for the past three years. Prior to that she served as an assistant coach at Wayne State (Neb.), NCAA Division II programs both.
"My goal was to become a collegiate head coach and I think this is a great opportunity at the right time," Lebeda said. "I'm really excited to get things rolling and see where we can go."
Lebeda truly was the top choice for U-Mary athletic director Dale Lennon. Initially, the opening drew between 40 and 50 applicants, but Lebeda was not among them. Crediting his search committee's expertise in helping in the process, Lennon then began a recruiting pitch to land Lebeda. Three finalists were brought to Bismarck for interviews before the final decision was made.
"There just seemed to be a lot of connections and dots pointing in this direction to where Korie was the person we wanted to lead our volleyball program," Lennon said. "Her sister used to live in Bismarck, that was one connection. We just felt like this could be a very good fit, and when we brought her up here everything we hoped to see was there."
Lebeda was a three-time all-conference player at Creighton and went on to play professionally in Spain as well as the Premier Volleyball League in the U.S. She said seeing the sport played at the highest level gave her another perspective as she began her collegiate coaching career in 2013.
"I think you just try to absorb and learn as much as you can from every experience," Lebeda said. "Whether it's professional, semi-pro or watching the Olympics, volleyball is such a technical game. Its fun to see it at the highest level and then see what you can take to your level."
While Lebeda's résumé is impressive, Lennon said that was not the defining factor when it came to making the hire.
"What really stood out to me was when she was meeting with our team and they asked her to tell them about her playing experiences. Her answers weren't about being a Hall of Fame Division I player, or playing professionally, it was about her relationships with her teammates and the experiences she had as being a part of a team," Lennon said. "That told me she was the perfect fit for what we were looking for.
"She's very humble. She's very modest and obviously she has a very strong grasp of the sport of volleyball."
Lebeda replaces Thais Franca, who resigned in December to return closer to her family in Brazil.
U-Mary has struggled to gain traction in the NSIC, which is considered among the top volleyball leagues in D-II. Volleyball is the third-oldest sport at the university, beginning in 1976. The last conference title came in 2004 when U-Mary was in the NAIA.
Still, when offered the job, Lebeda said it was an easy decision.
"It was just very impressive seeing the passion everyone here has for athletics," Lebeda said. "There are so many positive things about what we have to offer as a university."
She said there's no easy path to success, but is confident it can be achieved.
"The support of the community is going to be huge. I really believe that can make a very, very big difference," she said. "Success is something you earn every day by working hard. I feel really good about what's possible. I'm excited to get started and feel really optimistic about the future of our program."