North Texas Daily

Returning to Texas, Gurnell brings new perspective to volleyball’s coaching staff

Returning to Texas, Gurnell brings new perspective to volleyball’s coaching staff

April 04
23:56 2018

Before the volleyball team is even in the gym to practice, assistant coach Carrie Gurnell is out hitting a ball against the wall to herself over and over again.

Overjoyed to be coaching the sport she loves, Gurnell is ready to bring her ample experience and energy to a North Texas volleyball program coming off of a conference championship and a 29-4 record.

A native of Katy, Texas, Gurnell was a two-time all-state honoree at Cinco Ranch High School. She was ranked the No. 11 recruit in the nation by and was also listed among Volleyball Magazine’s Fab 50 players.

Gurnell had offers from major universities, including University of California, Los Angeles, University of Minnesota, University of Florida and University of Texas. She was even recruited by current associate coach Geno Frugoli while he was at Baylor. She eventually set her sights on Purdue University. At the time, Purdue was an up-and-coming program, but Gurnell knew she wanted to be a part of something great there.

“When I went to Purdue, we were a growing program at the time, which was a little bit of a shocker for some people, but I thought the culture and atmosphere was amazing there, and it was just a perfect fit for me,” Gurnell said.

Gurnell started for Purdue from 2006 to 2009, totaling more than 1,000 kills as an outside hitter for the Boilermakers while earning a spot on four all-tournament teams during her senior season. The four-year starter played in 127 matches during her career at Purdue and posted at least 10 kills in 50 contests, including 24 as a senior.

After her college career ended, Gurnell decided to play overseas in Innsbruck, Austria for the Volleyball Club Tirol as a middle blocker for three seasons. During her stint with VC Tirol, Gurnell helped the team to back-to-back second place finishes in the Bundesliga Damen regular season standings.

While overseas, Gurnell got a chance to travel a lot and enjoyed the thought of playing volleyball for a living.

“I absolutely loved it,” Gurnell said. “Playing college sports is very hard and really demanding so just imagine being freed up and just focusing on volleyball. I thought that was a great experience and just being able to travel and explore Europe was great as well.”

While playing, she ventured into coaching young children in the Austrian public school system during her time with VC Tirol for two years.

Her playing career eventually ended, and after that brief experience teaching kids, she knew she wanted to go into coaching full time.

Gurnell started sending her resume out to several places where she would be interested in coaching and thought of it as a random occurrence when she was reached out by Leo Sayles, the head volleyball coach at Gardner Webb University in Boiling Springs, North Carolina.

“I heard great things about coach Sayles, and we connected and kind of took off from there,” Gurnell said.

She spent two seasons at Gardner Webb, and while the team had below a .500 record while Gurnell was there, she took away much more from her experience as a first-time coach than winning matches.

“Obviously [it helped] having my first college coaching experience and learning how to interact with players from the coaches perspective,” Gurnell said. “Especially being a female coach learning that balance, what that relationship looks like and managing the sport and players as opposed to the volleyball aspect.”

After the volleyball season ended for North Texas, there was an assistant coach opening when former assistant Vinh Nguyen accepted the head coaching position at the University of Hartford.

The team put out a national search and reached out to several people for interviews. After the process, Gurnell came out on top. It helped that head coach Andrew Palileo knew her former coach at Purdue, who spoke highly of her.

“He talked quite a bit about her and what I was looking for and what she could bring to our program,” Palileo said. “It seemed like a good fit.”

Gurnell believed that as well and knew she had plenty to offer in the position.

“I’ve played for a long time and overseas, so I’ve played with different techniques, whether it would be from my European game or taking what I learned while playing in college,” Gurnell said. “I bring something different to the table. Maybe a different mindset or just having someone who played collegiate sports as a female, I kind of bring that mentality to the table.”

On Feb. 14, Gurnell was officially brought on as the new assistant volleyball coach at North Texas.

While changing locations is usually the hardest part about changing jobs, Gurnell loved it. She was finally able to return to her home state.

“If you’re from Texas, you love Texas,” Gurnell said. “I wanted to go somewhere else and experience other opportunities, but once you move around and figure out where you wanna be, you kind of just realize you want to be back in a place where you were happy.”

Gurnell’s family lives about four and a half hours away, so they will be able to come to games—something they were not able to do while she was overseas or in North Carolina.

Besides coming home, Gurnell believes North Texas is an up-and-coming team she wanted to be a part of.

“Obviously they had a great season last year, and the university’s been growing,” Gurnell said. “I’ve been away from Texas for a long time so it’s nice to come back to the state that I love and be a part of a growing program that has been successful.”

Gurnell has already started to make a coaching impact for the team as well.

Jordyn Williams, a junior middle blocker, has built a strong connection with Gurnell considering she was middle blocker during her professional days.

“She has a very strong presence, and that’s good to have around, especially with her playing experience,” Williams said. “It helps her relate to us, and she’s also bringing a lot of new techniques to our play, and that’s helping us out a lot.”

In this spring season, Gurnell has primarily been focusing on the defense and passing, but hopes to get involved more on the offensive end.

“They have a very unique and complex offensive system, so I’m very excited to learn more about that,” Gurnell said.

Palileo said it is too early to for her to make a full impact yet as she continues to learn their style, but he likes what he sees so far.

“She’s done a good job,” Palileo said. “There hasn’t been a lot of time for her to make a full impact yet, but just her being in the gym with the girls and doing some of our passing drills has helped them quite a bit.”

Now back in Texas, Gurnell hopes to learn in her new position at North Texas as Mean Green volleyball comes off a championship season with hopes of repeating.

“Andrew [Palileo] treats me like he understands this is something that I’m passionate about,” Gurnell said. “He kind of gives me extra knowledge about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it and why it’s important to the program. Just helping me [learn] as a coach and possibly having a team of my own one day.”

Featured Image: Carrie Gurnell, the new assistant volleyball coach, comes from Gardner Webb University in North Carolina. This is her first season at UNT. TJ Webb

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Deondre Jones

Deondre Jones

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