Southern Illinois University named North Dakota State’s Kari Thompson as its new volleyball head coach on Wednesday. Thompson led the Bison to two NCAA Tournament appearances during seven seasons as the school’s head coach. She becomes the ninth head coach in the 57-year history of SIU’s volleyball program.
Thompson recently completed her 11th season overall at NDSU, where she served as the program’s assistant coach from 2006-10, before taking the head coaching reigns mid-season in 2010. She has a 102-98 career record, including a 66-38 mark in the Summit League.
“We feel fortunate to attract a head coach of Kari’s caliber to build upon the recent success Saluki Volleyball has experienced,” said SIU Director of Athletics Tommy Bell. “During the search process, I was impressed with her passion for coaching and the commitment she has demonstrated to developing young women as students, athletes, and people.”
As an assistant at North Dakota State, Thompson was instrumental in recruiting the program’s 2009 class that was ranked No. 30 in the nation. The Bison proceeded to post a 20-11 record in 2010, captured their third-straight Summit League championship, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2011, Thompson won Summit League Coach of the Year honors by guiding the program to a 26-9 mark and a fourth-straight Summit League title with a 16-2 record. The Bison climbed to a program-high No. 42 ranking in the NCAA’s RPI index and again advanced to the NCAA Tournament.
“I am grateful to North Dakota State for the opportunity they gave me to build the Bison program,” Thompson said. “The success we achieved and the lessons I learned along the way will be invaluable as I begin an exciting new challenge at Southern Illinois.”
Thompson, 36, is highly regarded in the collegiate volleyball community. She was a 2010 recipient of the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s “Thirty Under 30” award recognizing the top young coaches in the country. She also served as head coach of a USA Athletes International team that competed in the 2011 European Smash Tour in Italy and Austria.
“Kari is a seasoned, experienced head coach with a history of winning championships,” Bell said. “In addition, her midwest recruiting ties and defensive-minded approach to volleyball are perfect fits for SIU and the Missouri Valley Conference.”
A native of Amherst, Wisconsin, Thompson began her collegiate volleyball career at Division II Concordia-St. Paul, where she was named the team’s Most Improved Player in 2000. She transferred to Division I Green Bay, where she lettered three seasons and earned a scholarship as a senior. She graduated from UWGB in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in Communication and the Arts. After graduation, she served as a graduate assistant on the volleyball staff at Alabama, where the Southeastern Conference powerhouse posted a 44-20 record during her two seasons.
“I was fortunate as a student-athlete and GA to have great coaches who taught me how a successful program works,” she explained. “Success requires complete buy-in, talent, and training, as well as intangibles such as respect, loyalty, and integrity. I was surrounded by so many great teammates as a player, and they inspired me to coach. I couldn’t give up volleyball because of those experiences.”
Thompson replaces Justin Ingram, who resigned in April to accept the head coaching position at UIC. The Salukis return 11 letter winners, including seven seniors in 2017 of last year’s team that posted a 21-12 record and finished fourth in the Missouri Valley Conference. In 2015, the Salukis made the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance.
“I had a chance to visit with the current players during my visit to Carbondale and have seen them on film,” Thompson said. “They are passionate about Saluki Volleyball, and I’m excited about the future of the program because the foundation for continued success is in place.”
Thompson continued, “when our fans come to Davies Gym, we’ll give them their money’s worth. They can expect to see a team that emphasizes fast transitions to hitters, an intense, scrappy defense, long rallies and players who really fight hard for every single point.”
News courtesy of Southern Illinois Athletics.