The love of volleyball always followed Josimara Pinheiro wherever she went.
When the 5-foot-10 outside hitter from Brazil played for UH-Hilo from 2007 to ’09, she brought joy to the floor and an all-around game.
She was named to the All-PacWest second team her first year and to the first team her last two years. In her senior year, the Vulcans finished 25-2 and won the conference title.
In the Curious case of where are they now?, Pinheiro, 33, is right where she belongs, on a volleyball court in Virginia.
She’s the founder of Loudoun Elite Volleyball Club, which has 500 members from ages 12 to 17 years old.
Tired from jumping and hitting volleyballs all day or stressed from work?
There’s the Elite Wellness Performance and Recovery center, another business the entrepreneurial Pinheiro founded. She credits her hanai aunt Kalei Kailikini for her holistic approach.
“I go back to Hawaii every year to visit,” Pinheiro said. “It’s my second home and I see my hanai aunty Kalei. She’s very holistic and I learned a lot from her. I focus on being healthy and I’ve carried that with me.”
Before Pinheiro landed at UHH, rivals BYU-Hawaii and Hawaii Pacific dominated the Division II landscape with Brazilian players on their rosters.
During coach Bruce Atkinson’s short tenure from 2007 to 2010, he brought in his own pair of Brazilians, Pinheiro and Fabiane Seben, to transform the program.
It’s not the success Pinheiro remembers most but rather the atmosphere.
“I remember the crowds and the general support from the fans. I still have friendships with everyone. It’s unbelievable. I guess you could say it was truly the Aloha spirit.”
Pinheiro still keeps in touch with Seben, an old teammate at Seminole State College in Oklahoma.
“I talk to her almost every day. She lives in Brazil and has a gym. She has two kids and likes to work in fitness. She still plays volleyball.”
When Atkinson left UHH to coach at Towson, a Division I school in Maryland, Pinheiro followed and was an assistant for two seasons. Atkinson took flight soon after and landed at Winthrop, a Division I school in South Carolina, where Pinheiro was an assistant for a year.
The itinerant Atkinson is in his second year at Delaware State. But Pinheiro didn’t follow and found a home in Virginia.
“Coach Bruce was such a big mentor. He’s guided me with all my major decisions,” Pinheiro said. “My family is from Brazil and I looked up to him for guidance and playing in college.
“He taught me how to coach and developed that passion to coach the youth. I used to run the summer camps with the younger kids. It was very rewarding.”
Through her connections, Pinheiro has brought in Olympic volleyball players as guest coaches, constantly looking to develop her players.
“They would stay a month or two to help coach,” she said. “I’ve got a big network from my national team experience to former teammates who played pro.”
She still plays with her team but last played competitively in 2014 at the national championships.
Meanwhile, she’s enjoying her time in Virginia, which is home to a lot of minor league baseball affiliates.
“Virginia is nothing like Hilo,” she said. “It’s pretty great outdoors and doesn’t rain 300 days of the year. The area is close to Washington, D.C. and it’s nice. It’s very diverse.
“Being on the East coast, it’s closer to Brazil. I try to go back every year.”
Like the rest of the nation, the coronavirus pandemic has affected her Loudoun teams.
“We got back to practice a week ago,” she said. “Pretty soon, our summer camps will happen. We’ll have smaller numbers and follow precautions.
“We’ll have our first graduating class next year. We’ll have three or four go to college.”
Pinheiro recently spent an off-day biking the lush hills of Loudoun County.
But she couldn’t stay long. She had to get back to the volleyball court, where she belongs.