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USF didn’t dig too deep for new coach

While USF has hired a search firm to scour the nation for a new athletic director, the search for a new volleyball coach didn’t stray far from home.

Thursday, USF named current assistant coach Claire Lessinger as new head coach of the volleyball team.

Lessinger will fill the void created after Nancy Mueller left USF for the University of Chicago-Illinois in early February.

“This is a tremendous honor and opportunity. It is the perfect situation,” Lessinger said.

Lessinger, a Bulls’ assistant for five years, was part of a coaching staff that won two Conference USA regular-season championships and made two trips to the NCAA tournament in 2000 and 2002, along with winning a C-USA Tournament title in 2002. “Building and maintaining success is at the top of my priorities,” Lessinger said. “I envision great things happening here, and I am excited to get going.”

“I am very excited to have Claire on board as our head coach to provide continuity for our program,” senior associate athletic director Barbara Sparks-McGlingchy said.

“I am confident she will do a tremendous job.”

With those credentials, Sparks-McGlinchy was not shy about hiring an assistant to lead one of C-USA’s top programs.

“Claire stood above all the rest, and Nancy did an excellent job (preparing her),” Sparks-McGlinchy said. “Some people are shy about hiring assistants, but I have never been shy if I believe they can get the job done.”

As a player, Lessinger helped lead t Florida to five consecutive Southeastern Conference titles from 1993-97, along with reaching the NCAA Final Four three times.

With the Gators, Lessinger was named best defensive specialist in the country in 1996 by Collegiate Volleyball Updates.

“Claire was one of those players that we knew early on coaching would be a good choice (for her),” Wise said. “With her passion for the game and understanding of the game, we knew she would do great in this profession and the choice by USF, we think, is a really good one. Those players now and in the future will love playing for her.”