Successful duo brings bond to UB
Assistant volleyball coach, junior setter have roots in Lees-McRae
Published: Tuesday, October 15, 2013
Updated: Tuesday, October 15, 2013 18:10
When Buffalo volleyball assistant coach James Goodridge was the head coach at Division II Lees-McRae, he took his team to Zeros – a restaurant the squad traditionally visited following games with rival King College.
One trip was different from most – it followed a loss, something Lees-McRae rarely experienced. To try and cheer the team up, the restaurant made them a tray of hot cookies.
The girls demolished them, but Goodridge wasn’t happy about that. After his team finished eating, Goodridge had only one thing to say:
“I told them cookies taste like failure,” he said.
Junior setter Taylor Pritchett, now at UB, was Goodridge’s setter at Lees-McRae in North Carolina. She was at Zeros that evening.
Pritchett has yet to eat another cookie in front of Goodridge.
The two are together in Buffalo, looking for a new challenge with a Division I program. Around Christmastime last year, Goodridge decided to accept an assistant position with the Bulls.
After Pritchett reassessed her situation and decided Lees-McRae didn’t seem like the “right fit” anymore, she looked into UB and the opportunity to keep building toward success with her old coach.
Pritchett is the backup setter for the Bulls (15-4, 3-3 Mid-American Conference), but due to head coach Todd Kress’ strategy, she is often on the court at the same time as starting senior setter Dani Reinert. Pritchett is second on the team in assists (318).
Pritchett had opportunities to play for a Division I team straight out of high school. She had offers from schools like Marshall and Winthrop, but chose Lees-McRae – the only Division II program with which she spoke.
“A lot of it was the way [Goodridge] said he was going to work with me,” Pritchett said. “His coaching style was more conducive to how I learned. Some of the other coaches I spoke to were very loose with situations.”
Goodridge helped Pritchett adapt to college life and transition from high school student to Division II student-athlete. They formed a bond.
Upon hearing about Goodridge’s decision, Pritchett began researching UB immediately. As a psychology major, she loved Buffalo’s strong psychology program.
She received her release from Lees-McRae and shortly after called Goodridge and began talking about the possibility of joining him.
“I called [Goodridge] one night and said, ‘I looked into the school and I want to try to follow you,’” Pritchett said. “‘I’m going to send [Buffalo head volleyball coach] Todd [Kress] an email,’ and he said, ‘OK, go for it.”’
Goodridge told Kress about Pritchett’s talent and desire to play for the Bulls. He explained to Kress how, out of all the players from his team, she was one who could contribute and play at the Division I level.
After his initial endorsement to Kress, Goodridge tried to step away from the recruiting process. He wanted the other Buffalo coaches to decide her fate.
“I didn’t really have a ton of involvement in the recruiting process for her, just because I didn’t want our prior relationship of me coaching her in the past to hold a lot of weight,” Goodridge said. “I wanted her to be recruited for her own merit and not because I think she should be here.”
Goodridge knew Pritchett had assets to contribute. He saw it all when he was recruiting her to Lees-McRae and through her play after she arrived.
“[Pritchett’s a] very cerebral player, very smart and a headsy player,” Goodridge said. “When I coached her, I knew when she got there she had Division I opportunities and we scooped her up and stole her away.”
The hardest part for Goodridge was leaving his players at Lees-McRae. He was the men’s volleyball head coach for three years. At the same time, he served as an assistant with the women’s team for two seasons, before taking over as head coach in his final year. Goodridge had a lot of success there but was ready to “begin a new chapter.”
Another one of his fears was the possibility of losing some of his authority by accepting an assistant position. Kress assured him this wouldn’t happen.
“Coming in from a head position to an assistant position, I didn’t want to be silenced,” Goodridge said. “I didn’t want my voice to be quiet in the gym. I wanted to be able to come in, teach, have a say, and he said I would absolutely be able to do that.”
Pritchett said she hasn’t noticed any changes in Goodridge’s demeanor. He’s the hands-on coach with the same intense attitude he had at Lees-McRae, Pritchett said.
The biggest adjustment for Goodridge from Division II to Division I has been the size of the school and the amount of facilities, he said.