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NDSU names Cook as soccer coach

FARGO -- The North Dakota State women's soccer program tapped into a regular recruiting pipeline -- for its next coach.

Mark Cook, the director of coaching for the Minnesota Thunder Academy youth soccer program, was named the Bison head coach on Wednesday. The club produced eight current NDSU players and perhaps a few more that have already verbally committed.

National signing day is next Wednesday, and Cook said his first priority is to reach out to 10 players who committed to NDSU under former head coach Pete Cuadrado. He said none to his knowledge have de-committed.

"I'm very familiar with most of them," Cook said.

Under Cook for the last 11 years, the Thunder Academy based in the Twin Cities grew from four teams in 2001 to 65 this year.

But the NDSU opportunity happened fast.

Cuadrado resigned last Tuesday to accept the same position at Wyoming. It was also apparent that Bison assistant coach John Ross, who would have been a leading candidate to replace Cuadrado, was about to get the top job at Northern Illinois.

NDSU women's athletic director Lynn Dorn met with Cook in Sauk Centre, Minn., last Thursday. He arrived in Fargo on Monday night, met with an NDSU search committee on Tuesday and was formally named as the head coach on Wednesday.

He signed a one-year contract for $63,000.

"This has been quite a process," Cook said. "I know I made the right decision."

He was also an assistant at Bloomington Jefferson High School and also was the head coach of the Thunder's 94 Elite Clubs National League team.

Prior to his work with the Thunder, Cook was the head coach at the Academy of Holy Angels High School in Richfield, Minn., from 1998-2000. He was also an assistant at Holy Angels for five years.

NDSU is his first college job, although he said he's "dabbled in" looking at other college opportunities. He's a graduate of Alfred University (N.Y.) and was the starting goalkeeper for two years.

"Living in Minnesota for 19 years, I wanted to stay relatively close to home," Cook said. "This arose and it was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I've known about the (NDSU) soccer program as well as anyone outside of the coaches."

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.