Taylor (Lynn) Ungricht slide into home plate while playing softball for the NDSU Bison.
Softball

The “Stanford Life” of Taylor Ungricht

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It’s been a very “Stanford Life” for 28-year-old Taylor (Lynn) Ungricht. Six years ago, the San Mateo, Calif. native began her postgraduate life with an opportunity in Palo Alto, Calif. What was supposed to be a three-month internship at Stanford turned into something she would never have imagined after her softball career at North Dakota State was over.

Ungricht knew right when she got to college in Fargo that she wanted to pursue a career in athletic training. Growing up, she stayed active, played sports and was always on the move. Physical education class just wasn’t a break from the math and history textbooks, she was truly passionate about fitness. From day one at NDSU, she used to pander strength and conditioning coach Adam Hermann.

“I used to joke with him that I was going to take his job from him,” Ungricht said. “He kind of helped guide me along and as soon as I stepped foot onto campus that this is what I wanted to do.”

Prior to her graduation from NDSU, Ungricht’s fitness experience came from the hours in the weight room as a Bison athlete. She was on the softball team from 2007 to 2010 and patrolled centerfield.

Ungricht was an elite defender in college and only committed two errors throughout her career. She started all 57 games during the historic 2009 Bison softball season when they won the Summit League tournament for the first time and advance to the school’s only Super Regional.

During the summer after the 2009 season, Ungricht worked at the Fargo YMCA. She managed and supervised the weight room and taught specialty group exercise classes. Her exercise science degree didn’t recognize her work at the YMCA as intern hours to fulfill her degree so she looked back home, in California.

Over winter break before her final season at NDSU, Ungricht and her father, Craig Lynn, did something unusual for their father-daughter relationship. They went to a Stanford women’s basketball game, just 20 minutes away from their home in San Mateo.

“We randomly go to a women’s basketball game and we’re sitting next to one of the ADs that my dad knows,” remembers Ungricht. “And he (Ray Purpur) went to school at UND. So we have this strange North Dakota tie. He mentioned that they had an internship program at Stanford and that I should apply for it. It was so strange but it was so meant to be.”

The plan was for Ungricht to move home after her senior season, commute 20 minutes to Stanford every day, survive an unpaid internship to meet her undergraduate requirement at NDSU, and move to Boise State that fall to began her master’s pursuit. But like any 22-year old’s plan, it quickly changed course. As a result, Boise State fell through the cracks.

Taylor Ungricht of the Stanford Women's Volleyball team.

“I actually had everything moved there and I was enrolled and ready to go,” Ungricht said. “The Director of Sports Performance at Stanford, he was like, ‘You should consider staying, and we’re considering starting up a grad assistant program.’”

The problem was Stanford couldn’t guarantee the grad program would ever materialize. Ungricht made the risk and decided to stay on a volunteer basis through the 2010-11 academic year.

Her patience paid off and Stanford implemented a graduate path for students looking for an exercise physiology degree. Ungricht eventually earned her master’s at San Jose State, a school that has a close work relationship with Stanford. This allowed Ungricht to work at Stanford and attend graduate courses at San Jose State, in 2013. But while Ungricht pursued her master’s, a position at Stanford became available.

The women’s volleyball team’s full-time sports performance coach left the university during Ungricht’s first year of grad school. The opportunity to land a job before earning her master’s was right in front of her.

“I had a really good relationship with the coaches, and the coaching staff on the women’s volleyball team is awesome. They’re just incredible and I think they do a great job of creating this awesome team atmosphere and they appreciate the work I put into it, and they also wanted me to stick around so that helped,” Ungricht said.

“I told my boss that I wanted the job because I had been working with them and I felt like I was capable, so it took some convincing. They ended up hiring me full-time after my first year of grad school thank goodness.”

Since becoming the volleyball team’s sports performance coach in 2012, Ungricht has been a part of head coach John Dunning’s staff that has led the Cardinal to four consecutive trips to the NCAA Tournament, one NCAA semifinal and a record of 113-19.

Ungricht’s responsibilities reach further than the volleyball court. With Stanford having 36 NCAA sanctioned programs, Ungricht is utilized as the sports performance coach for men’s tennis and beach volleyball teams, too. She was also given the opportunity this year to go back to her roots and help with the softball team.

Handling multiple sports, which can be challenging for sports performances coaches, is nothing new. NDSU lists four strength and conditioning coaches on its website for its 14 programs, while Stanford lists 14 coaches for its 36 programs. Ungricht’s main sport, the volleyball team, also allows her to travel with the team, something only a few sports get to do at NDSU.

“I don’t think a lot of other programs across the country travel,” Ungricht said. “It’s tough because you have a number of sports and, how do you prioritize most of our strength coaches travel with the priority teams? You feel a lot more a part of the staff if that makes sense. You’re not just strength coach that they see when they’re back on campus. You’re with them all the time, so there’s this cohesiveness between the staff and the program.”

Coming to Stanford was a life changing internship opportunity for Ungricht in more ways than one. Not only did she carve out a successful sports performance coaching career, she found the love her life.

Brock Ungricht arrived at Stanford the same year as Ungricht. He was a volunteer assistant for the Cardinal baseball program for four years, before being named an assistant prior to the 2015 season. The “Stanford Life” had begun for the Ungrichts.

The two married in July 2013 at Memorial Church on campus. The reception was at Stanford Stadium, where the football team plays. And the two brought a daughter, Ava, into the world on April 6 at Stanford.

Taylor and Brick Ungricht's daughter, Ava.

Of the hundreds of friends Taylor Ungricht reached out to with a baby photo of Ava, a few among them are tied back to her NDSU days. She said she still considers former teammate Melissa Chmielewski a close friend. Head coach Darren Mueller and former co-head coach Jamie Trachsel were also sent a photo.

“I have such a wonderful relationship with Jamie and Darren,” Taylor Ungricht said. “It gets me emotional thinking about my time at NDSU. I had such a wonderful four years there. The hard work that I learned and just what it meant to be a teammate, and everything that I took away from NDSU, I carried into coaching.”

Ungricht will continue her life back on campus at Stanford in the beginning of August when the volleyball team reports. For now, Stanford is home for her and Brock, but with the fluidity and uncertainty in coaching, the Ungricht family doesn’t know what the future holds. Wherever they end up, in Palo Alto or elsewhere, the Ungrichts will be ready for the challenge.

The “Stanford Life” of Taylor Ungricht
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