Coached true freshman Marta Cvitkovic to the All-AAC first team in 2021
Nine seasons of head-coaching experience before arriving at USF
Engineered dramatic turnarounds at San Jose State and Cal State Bakersfield
Former USF volleyball player who played on two conference championship teams and two NCAA Tournament qualifiers
Began collegiate career at the University of Tampa, where she was Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year, first-team All-SSC and integral member of an NCAA Division II national runner-up squad
While playing at Tampa Prep, was named the Gatorade Florida Player of the Year in 1997. In a four-year high-school career, her teams won three state championships with one state runner-up
Selected to the Tampa Tribune’s All-Decade Prep Volleyball Team in 1999
As a player, Jolene Shepardson experienced individual accolades and championship-level performances. As a head coach, she has a proven track record for turning around programs and building strong foundations.
Shepardson, named head coach of USF volleyball on Jan. 8, 2020, says she will blend all of those experiences to help her alma mater into a new era of prosperity.
“I don’t believe there are any limits to what we can do at USF,’’ Shepardson says. “This program has enjoyed success and I have seen that first-hand. Our goal is to sustain that success, win championships and provide the very best experience for our student-athletes.’’
Shepardson (the former Jolene Patton) enjoyed that experience herself. As a USF volleyball player, Shepardson was part of two conference champions and NCAA Tournament qualifiers (2000 and 2002). Prior to USF, Shepardson was the Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year and an all-conference player at the University of Tampa, which she helped to the NCAA Division II national-championship game.
Meanwhile, during her high-school career, Shepardson earned Gatorade Florida Player of the Year and all-state honors at Tampa Prep, where she was part of three state championship teams and one state runner-up. In 1999, Shepardson was selected to the Tampa Tribune’s All-Decade Prep Volleyball Team.
“I think I’ve gone through a lot of what my players are going through,’’ Shepardson says. “I’ve walked in their shoes. Volleyball is a wonderful sport and it has helped open so many opportunities for me. I want the same thing for my players. We want to attract student-athletes who have a passion for the game and a love for their team.’’
The timing of Shepardson’s USF tenure has been filled with challenges. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was more than a year from her hiring for USF’s first competition, the abbreviated spring season of 2021. With 14 underclassmen, the Bulls finished 6-8 (3-5 in the American Athletic Conference) and true freshman Marta Cvitkovic was named to the All-AAC first team after leading the team in kills and ranking third in the AAC in kills per set. Thirteen USF players were named to the AAC All-Academic Team.
With a quick turnaround into the fall of 2022, the Bulls continued to build a foundation while working through an injury-plagued season. After gaining experience on the court through the 2022 and 2023 campaigns and having the stability of a two true offseasons, Shepardson is more optimistic than ever about USF’s future entering the 2023 season.
That optimism is shared by USF’s administration.
“Not only does Jolene have tremendous ability and a track record for building programs and maximizing student-athletes’ potential, but she has a deep and passionate connection to this university, our volleyball program and the Tampa Bay area,’’ USF vice president of athletics Michael Kelly says. “We are very excited for the future of USF volleyball.’’
Shepardson came to USF with nine years of head-coaching experience at the collegiate level, most recently guiding San Jose State for six seasons and prior to that Cal State Bakersfield for three. Both programs saw dramatic improvement under Shepardson’s leadership. SJSU went from 253 in the RPI prior to her arrival to 130 and posted the first back-to-back winning seasons in 17 years, while Bakersfield went from a winless season and 300 RPI to a program record 21 wins and 133 RPI.
In six seasons at SJSU (2014-19), Shepardson went from four wins overall to 17 and from one conference win to 11. The team posted back-to-back winning seasons in 2017 and 2018, the first since 2001 for the program, and garnered three All-Mountain West Conference selections in 2018. In 2018, her team went 11-7 in the Mountain West, its most conference wins since joining the conference in 2013, and finished fourth, the program’s highest finish in any conference since 2006.
In 2017, the Spartans posted a 17-12 overall record, marking the first winning season for the program since 2006. SJSU defeated Mountain West champion Colorado State at Spartan Gym in 2016 and 2017, the 2017 win stopping the Rams’ 15-match winning streak and giving the Spartans their first win over a ranked opponent since 2001. The 2016 victory over CSU was the program’s first since 1998 and ended the Rams’ 31-match Mountain West winning streak.
Her SJSU teams produced an average of six all-academic team members and a 3.2 GPA each year, with 10 Spartans earning 19 Mountain West Scholar Athlete accolades and 18 players earning 35 Academic All-Mountain West honors in four years. Four Spartan players were honored as Arthur Ashe Junior Sports Scholars, including Jamie Hirai who was a three-time first team selection. Shepardson also initiated fundraising campaigns that enhanced financial support for the program.
In three seasons in Bakersfield (2011-13), Shepardson led the program from zero wins to 21 and to second-place regular season and tournament finishes in the Western Athletic Conference while also starting the beach volleyball program. She took over a program that went 0-31 in 2010 and led it to an 8-18 record in her first year, the sixth-best improvement in the NCAA. The 2012 team continued the upward progression, finishing with a 14-17 record in the team's final season as an NCAA Division I Independent. Her 2013 team posted a 21-12 overall record and 12-4 mark in its first season in the WAC, setting a school record for most wins in a season. The team finished second in the 2013 WAC regular-season standings and advanced to the championship match of the WAC Tournament. Three Roadrunners earned first or second team All-WAC honors and four received Academic All-WAC honors.
Shepardson spent the 2010 season as an assistant coach at Virginia Tech, helping lead the Hokies to their first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance, in which they advanced to the second round before falling to eventual national champion Penn State. Two Hokies, Felicia Willoughby and Cara Baarendse, earned All-America honors. Shepardson served as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at American University (2009), coached with Front Range Volleyball Club in Colorado (2006-08) and was a volunteer assistant coach at Winthrop University (2005) and Regis University (2004-05).
An honor-roll student, Shepardson graduated from USF in 2002 with a degree in psychology. She is also a National Academy of Sports Medicine certified personal trainer.
With USF volleyball, she ranked second on the team with 416 kills, 35 service aces and 377 digs in 2002 as the Bulls advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, sweeping Florida State in the first round before falling to host Florida. Shepardson had a career 729 kills in two seasons, ranking second on the team in both years.
Prior to USF, she played two seasons at the University of Tampa, earning Sunshine State Conference Freshman of the Year, second-team All-SCC and All-South Region honors in 1998. As a sophomore in 1999, she was named first team All-SCC and All-South Region as she helped lead the Spartans to the NCAA Division II National Championship match.
Following her collegiate career, Shepardson played one season professionally (2004) for Jakarta Monas in the PT Pro Liga in Indonesia.
Born in Live Oak, Fla., she and her husband, Aaron, have three daughters Mirabelle, Marielle and Malonne, and two sons, McCoy and Major. Aaron was a member of the USA Men's National Volleyball team in 2000 and 2001. He played professionally in Indonesia and Belgium in 2003.
Brooke Little was promoted to assistant coach on July 1, 2023. Before becoming Assistant Coach, Little was hired as the Director of Operations in April of 2023.
Before coming to South Florida, Little served as a Graduate Assistant at the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), handling travel, cross-campus connections, fundraising, directing camps and clinics, and game stats.
Little is a double graduate of IUP, earning her Master of Science in Sport Management in May 2023 and her Bachelor of Science in Sports Administration in May 2022.
Brooke was an opposite hitter for IUP from 2019-22. In 2022, she was second on her team in kills (226) and kills per set (2.35). Little was named team captain in 2022 and served as the Vice-President of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
Brooke is originally from Columbus, Ohio where she attended Olentangy Orange High School. Her brother currently plays volleyball at George Mason University.
Guerra most recently served as the head volleyball coach at Chowan University throughout the 2017-2018 season.
A former collegiate standout on the court, Guerra is coming off the heels of recent successful club and high school seasons in the Tampa area.
Guerra started his collegiate coaching career in 2016 when he was hired as the second assistant for Nova Southeastern University. He later took part at Chowan University where he was promoted to head coach for the Chowan Hawks in 2017, leading them to back-to-back CIAA Northern Division championships before moving to St. Leo University in 2019.
Since then, Guerra has been heavily involved in the club/high school scene, serving as head coach for multiple Tampa United Volleyball Academy teams and assistant coach for H.B. Plant High School.
In 2021, his TUVA U14 team was crowned champions of the Big South Qualified, earning a bid to USAV nationals in Las Vegas and finished top 10 in the nation. In the fall of that same year, he was an integral piece of the Plant HS team that won the 7A state championship.
During his playing career, Guerra earned a full athletic scholarship, and was the setter at Warner University (Lake Wales, Fla.).
The Ft. Lauderdale native and a Tampa resident since 2018, graduated from Warner with a bachelor's degree in business administration with a focus in marketing. Guerra hopes to bring high energy to the gym and create an effective offensive system while also developing efficient setters.
Leandro Vissotto was named the Bulls’ new assistant coach in June of 2023.
A renowned volleyball player and four-time World Champion, Vissotto had an illustrious career throughout the past decade. Originating from Brazil, he has represented his country at the highest level, competing in multiple Olympics and earning several awards. His professional experience includes playing for top-tier clubs in Brazil, Italy, and Russia, where he showcased his exceptional talent and leadership skills.
Throughout his playing career, Vissotto has achieved remarkable success. He was a key contributor to the Brazilian national team’s silver medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic and their gold medal at the 2010 FIVB World Championship. He has also achieved individual honors, such as being named the Best Spiker at the 2010 FIVB World Championship.
As the new assistant coach, Vissotto will bring his vast experience and expertise to mentor and guide USF’s student-athletes. His understanding of the game intricacies, coupled with his FIVB Level 2 certification as well as his Sport Specific Training certification by the American and Sport Fitness Association, will prove beneficial in the team’s future successes and overall performance.
The addition of Leandro Vissotto to the USF volleyball coaching staff shows the university’s commitment to creating a competitive and inclusive athletic environment. His knowledge, achievements, and international experience will build on to the Bulls’ volleyball program.