As a child, USF women’s volleyball coach Jolene Shepardson looked up to her mom Sandi Patton.
Patton, a former college volleyball coach at the University of Tampa, has played a pivotal role throughout her life on and off the court – she inspired Shepardson to pursue coaching.
Before USF made the NIVC tournament this year, Shepardson said her mom gave her the courage to believe she could turn the volleyball program around.
“And so she was a developer, she was a teacher, she was an inspirer,” Shepardson said. “And that’s truly why I’m here and what I want to do. I want to be a developer.”
Shepardson, along with other coaches and female student-athletes, shared similar perspectives at the third annual Stampede for Women Luncheon on Wednesday.
The event is a fundraiser for the Stampede for Women fund which originated in 2019 and launched in 2021. It coincides with National Girls and Women in Sports Day every February.
The initiative has raised over $500,000 according to Ally Host, assistant director of signature events and donor experiences.
Donations to the fund directly support the operations of USF’s 12 women’s sports programs. Specifically, it goes towards capital projects, team-building opportunities and networking opportunities for the programs.
Vice President of Athletics Michael Kelly said that each of the women’s programs received facility enhancements and expanded operating budgets to help them with travel, nutrition and health.
He also extended praise to the consistent success of the women’s athletics programs. Kelly congratulated softball coach Ken Eriksen on nearing 1,000 career wins as a head coach.
Kelly was most proud of the addition of two new programs – women’s lacrosse and beach volleyball.
Women’s lacrosse is in training before its inaugural season next spring. Beach volleyball will start its competition in 2025-26.
Beach volleyball coach Pri Piantadosi-Lima said she is proud to be a part of a university that invests in its students like USF has.
“There’s so many opportunities being given to the young players [and] student athletes where they don’t grow just because of us (coaches) on the field when they get to grow outside of the field,” Piantadosi-Lima said.
Junior Sofia Chepenik, a women’s lacrosse player, is someone who personally benefits from the investments.
Chepenik, who also served as a host for the event, recalled the excitement she felt when she walked into the team locker room for the first time. She said that treatments such as shockwave therapy have helped her recovery from on the field injuries.
Cindy Kane, the Stampede for Women committee chair, gave a speech to close the event. She recalled when Abby Ritter, assistant athletics director, approached her with the idea for the event a few months before their first meeting in July 2019.
Kane said she immediately signed on because it presented an opportunity to be a mentor to young women.
“My parents instilled the importance of philanthropy and helping others and I’m fortunate to be able to continue their legacy,” she said.
Kane also said that she is excited for the fund’s continued growth to further scholarship and career development opportunities for female student athletes at USF.
“It’s all about the students,” she said “If it wasn’t for women in leadership, philanthropy and Stampede for Women – I would not be up here today.”