In the first installment of our Coaches in College series, we take a look at volleyball head coach Carol Price-Torok’s days at Texas A&M University.
Bradley volleyball head coach Carol Price-Torok holds a distinct claim. Playing two sports at once is a tall order, but to play them both at once in the Big 12 Conference?
In the 2003-04 season, Price-Torok did just that for Texas A&M’s volleyball and women’s basketball teams.
That feat, accomplished during her senior season, was the capstone of a busy tenure in College Station for Price-Torok. Volleyball was of course the main focus for the middle blocker-turned-outside hitter from Fenton, Michigan. Price-Torok was a part of four consecutive NCAA Tournament teams in College Station from 2000 through 2003.
Originally from a small town roughly 100 miles from Detroit and Lansing, Price-Torok’s early career was aided by her familial ties to the sport. The daughter of a volleyball coach, the sport came quickly to Price-Torok as she began to build a recruiting presence.
As it came time to choose a collegiate home, tradition and the opportunity to enjoy a college experience were key to the now-Bradley head coach. An experience at a “yell practice” – a staple of Aggie athletics wherein students gather at Kyle Field the night prior to football games to practice cheering – helped seal the deal during her recruitment process.
“When I went on my recruiting visit, they would go the night before a game… they brought me down to the football field in front of all those people and kind of showcased the recruits that were there that weekend and then we got to go to a football game,” Price-Torok said. “It was insane the amount of tradition and pride that they had for athletics, and that ran into not just the football team but to everybody else.”
Texas A&M is a school steeped in tradition. Gamedays are different in College Station – it’s home of the 12th Man, after all – and Price-Torok was heavily involved in the Aggie experience during her time there.
“I was a horticulture major, so I was in a student chapter for my major,” Price-Torok said. “We had a program called Aggies Can, and that was doing outreach in the community, kind of a community service driven thing, and then I was a part of [Student Athlete Advisory Committee] for two years, just trying to bring up issues to administration that we need to talk to them about.”
On the volleyball court, Price-Torok found great success during her time in maroon and white. Price-Torok and her Aggie squads qualified for four consecutive NCAA Tournaments, a feat duplicated by new Bradley assistant coach Kaysie Shebeneck during her time at Texas A&M.
“The Corbellis [Laurie and John] were my coaches and they were also [Carol Price-Torok’s] coaches,” Shebeneck told The Scout in March. “So we actually played under the same people, which was kind of cool.”
Shebeneck added that her four consecutive appearances in the tournament at Texas A&M – and later two as a coach at Washington State – will allow her to bring a level of focus to a Bradley program seeking its first NCAA Tournament appearance in program history.
Price-Torok credits the Corbellis for instituting a winning culture within the program, which became a foundation for a multitude of things.
“Their program was just like the school,” Price-Torok said. “The traditions ran really deep in our program at A&M, from the players that came before me that came back to camp and just continued to show us how things were done, to the players that came after me … there was a lot of alumni that were [really vested] in us succeeding and us doing well.”
It was the summer of 2003 when Gary Blair became the seventh women’s basketball head coach in Texas A&M history. Now the winningest coach in Texas A&M program history – and the 12th winningest women’s basketball coach in NCAA – Blair inherited a program that was in need of a culture change, having gone 53-86 in the past five seasons.
Enter Price-Torok, who found herself with the unique chance to be a part of that process.
“One of my roommates was on the basketball team,” Price-Torok said. “I was down there for the summer working camps, and they needed some people to help with basketball camp so I jumped in kind of hit it off with the staff.”
Price-Torok had played basketball in high school and soon became a preferred walk-on. She started the basketball season on the bench to avoid an injury that would impact her volleyball season, but she soon was able to direct more attention to the hardwood.
“As soon as volleyball season was done, I transitioned right into basketball and just tried to help that staff establish a winning culture and a winning program,” Price-Torok said. “The volleyball team definitely had that with four NCAA tournament appearances when I was there, but the basketball team had kind of fallen on hard times.”
In 35 seasons of college coaching, the 2003-04 squad was the one Gary Blair team to finish with a losing record at 9-19. The next year, the Aggies returned to the postseason after a 16-15 campaign. In 2011, 8 years after Blair took the reins, the 35-win Aggies were NCAA champions.
Now in her fifth season at the helm of the Bradley Braves, Price-Torok is building a winning program. It all started with a strong foundation at Texas A&M.