Saint Francis Athletic Director Mark Pope didn't have to look far to find his next volleyball coach. He knew he had the right person already on campus.
“I have known Fabi since she came to the (United States) in 2002 and have continually been impressed with her character and maturity,” Pope said of Fabiana Souza. “She's going to be a great coach.”
With that confidence, Pope announced the promotion of Souza from assistant coach to head women's volleyball coach at USF on Tuesday.
“I've always loved coaching and Saint Francis is a great school,” Souza said of what piqued her interest in leading the Cougars. “It's more like a family feel. You can get close with all of the athletes.”
Souza was a spectacular player at IPFW, where she was named Most Valuable Player in each of her four years. The native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, has been active in the club volleyball scene in Fort Wayne since her graduation and has spent the past three years coaching at the collegiate level, two at IPFW and this past year as an assistant to Hector Kiely.
“It's going to be a hard transition for the girls because they've had a male coach and this is going to be a little bit different,” Souza said. “We've already changed a lot of stuff.”
Souza has placed a priority on conditioning and has her student-athletes working not just in the weight room, but developing their core strength through Pilates.
Replacing Kiely won't be an easy task. The former Bishop Luers coach led the Cougars to three consecutive 20-win seasons, as well as the school's initial Mid-Central College Conference regular season championship before resigning in 2008 for personal reasons.
Through club volleyball, Souza has already traveled all over the Midwest looking at players, but she is very impressed with the local talent.
“There are great club teams here in Fort Wayne,” Souza said.
With youth comes exuberance and that is something that should be in abundance on the USF sidelines next fall.
“Even though I am young and have a lot to learn, I am very excited,” Souza said.