An Olympic Coach Takes the Helm

Marcio Sicoli (right) on the sidelines with Pepperdine

Marcio Sicoli’s first smack of a volleyball took place many years ago in the bedroom of his home in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. 

Sicoli—the son of Silvio Bertozzi, a former volleyball player in Brazil’s army and volleyball coach—and his godfather pretended chairs were a volleyball net, and initially only hit balloons over the furniture. Then, they grabbed a volleyball. 

“We broke a couple of things,” Sicoli admitted. His mother Lucia Bertozzi, a teacher, wasn’t happy. 

“My mom told me to go somewhere,” Sicoli recalled.

The moment Sicoli hit the volleyball inside his home started him on a journey that featured him playing, then coaching volleyball in Brazil, working as an assistant coach on Pepperdine’s women’s indoor and beach volleyball teams to coaching beach volleyball pairs in the Olympic games. 

Now, Sicoli’s volleyball trek features him almost two months into his tenure as the head coach of Pepperdine’s women’s beach volleyball team. 

Sicoli, a Waves’ assistant coach under recently retired, Hall of Fame coach Nina Matthies for a decade, said becoming Pepperdine’s head coach is an exciting but also scary experience because he is taking the reins of a beach volleyball program that has been a dominate force in the sport since 2013. 

“I think I am up to the task,” Sicoli said. “I have assembled a great team of assistant coaches. We are up to the task. Things that Nina did organically every day, I’m still crawling doing it, but I think we are heading in the right direction.”

The new head coach said working with Matthies, who concluded her 35-year indoor and beach volleyball coaching career at the end of the Waves’ 25-5 season in May, eased him into the top coaching job. Sicoli said the support he receives from Pepperdine’s administration has been key also.

“They trust me,” he said. “They know I will be able to keep the legacy alive.” 

Pepperdine Director of Athletics Dr. Steve Potts in a May 21 statement said Sicoli is one of the top beach volleyball coaches in the world.

“We are so pleased that Marcio will follow Nina Matthies as the head coach of our program,” he said. 

In February, when Pepperdine announced Matthies was retiring at the end of the 2018 season and Sicoli would become the Waves’ new beach volleyball coach, Matthies said no one was better suited for the job than her assistant coach. 

“His passion for volleyball and life is unsurpassed and as I tell everyone who asks, I think he is a volleyball genius,” she said.

Sicoli’s coaching career began in Brazil during the latter portion of his collegiate playing career as a setter for the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro. He finished his college career in 2002 but served as an assistant coach for the Brazilian Olympic women’s beach volleyball team from 2000-04.

Sicoli joined Pepperdine’s indoor women’s volleyball coaching staff in 2008. He was an assistant coach for the team, led by Matthies, until the end of the indoor season in 2013. Sicoli became Matthies’ assistant coach in beach volleyball in 2012.

Sicoli has coached on the international level during his years at Pepperdine. He coached U.S. beach volleyball stars Kerri Walsh Jennings and Misty May-Treanor to a 7-0 record and gold medal in the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Sicoli coached Walsh Jennings and April Ross to a bronze medal in the 2016 Summer Olympics in his home country. 

He has been coaching Walsh Jennings and Nicole Branagh at a four-day FIVB Beach Volleyball World Tour tournament in Ostrava, Czech Republic, since June 20. The Waves coach will coach the professional volleyball pair at another World Tour tournament June 27 to July 1 in Warsaw, Poland. They are seeking points to qualify for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. 

Sicoli never pursued other collegiate coaching jobs and remained at Pepperdine due to the atmosphere at the university and his relationship with Matthies. 

“We had a partnership that was a great collaboration,” he said. “It was both of us working together on our strengths and weaknesses. That was really important.”

The head coach hopes to have a similar relationship with his assistant coaches Jon Daze and Delaney Knudsen. Sicoli said Daze, an experienced coach who has coached for USA Beach Volleyball since 2013 and coached at various levels of since 2001, is adaptable, calm and a great recruiter. He said the sky is the limit for Knudsen, a 2017 Pepperdine graduate and former American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American.

“I’m planning to stay here 20 years, and I hope those two want to stay 20 years with me,” Sicoli said.

Pepperdine advanced to the NCAA Championships for the third consecutive year and grabbed its third straight West Coast Conference Tournament Championship last season.

The Waves also racked up end-of-the-season honors. Numerous players received various All-American statuses. Madalyn Roh, Brook Bauer, Deahna Kraft and Corinne Quiggle were named All-Americans. Roh, Bauer, Heidi Dyer, Gigi Hernandez and Skylar Caputo were tabbed as VolleyMob All-Americans. Quiggle and Kraft garnered AVCA All-American honorable mention recognition, and Sicoli was named the AVCA National Assistant Coach of the Year. 

He said he will meet with the team before the 2019 season starts and ask the Waves what they like about the program and how they envision the program going forward.

“We are all partners on the same level,” Sicoli said. “I’m steering the boat, but they do need to know what sails.”

The coach said when Pepperdine hits the sand for the first time he will feel peculiar because Matthies won’t be coaching with him, but he added that he has butterflies in his stomach every time Pepperdine competes.

“That is never going to change,” Sicoli said. “I think that is a sign that I care, I want the best for the kids on and off the court.”

Sicoli said is staying in line with the Waves’ established core values—100 percent graduation, becoming better people and winning national championships. 

“If we keep those values in check, we are going to be fine,” he said.