In the Sunshine State Conference, success on the volleyball court does not come with ease. It's that fact alone that makes Sam Cibrone's long list of accomplishments that much more impressive as he has elevated the Saint Leo University volleyball program from a conference doormat to one of national recognition and conference glory.
A journey that started when he was named head coach on May 17, 2004, fans have seen his teams claim two Sunshine State Conference championships, two SSC Coach of the Year honors, a NCAA Tournament regional championship appearance and countless All-Conference, All-Region and All-America honors en route to becoming the winningest coach in Saint Leo Volleyball history.
While the No. 13 is typically unlucky, it was in Cibrone’s 13th season that the Lions saw much luck fall their way. In the 2016 season, the Saint Leo volleyball team claimed their first out-right Sunshine State Conference title following the program’s first season-sweep of conference rival’s Tampa. Both Saint Leo and Tampa finished with a 12-4 SSC record, but because of the Lions’ sweep of the Spartans, Saint Leo was awarded the title. For his successful coaching, Cibrone was named the 2016 SSC Coach of the Year for the second-straight season. The Lions then went on to earn the No. 2 seed in the NCAA South Regional. Saint Leo saw two student-athletes earn two AVCA All-American honors, and three earn All-SSC Honors.
Cibrone led the Lions to their third-straight NCAA appearance in 2015, winning the first round game, before eventually falling in a five-set match to the eventual NCAA Runners-up in Palm Beach Atlantic. The Lions accumulated a 21-11 record, and a 10-6 Sunshine State Conference record for a second-place finish, for which he earned SSC Coach of the Year. This was just the Lions fourth winning SSC record, all four coming under Cibrone’s tutelage. This was also Cibrone’s fifth 20-plus win season. The Lions saw two earn AVCA All-American honors, and four earn All-SSC honors.
In 2014, the Lions finished third in the SSC with an 8-8 record, and a 19-14 record overall. The Lions faced Valdosta State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament, 3-2. Two Lions earned both All-SSC honors and All-Region honors, and one earned AVCA All-American honors.
During the 2013 season, Cibrone took a team that was picked to finish 8th in the Sunshine State Conference and led them to a 2nd place SSC finish and the team's fifth NCAA tournament bid under Cibrone's tutelage. Though their postseason run was cut short, the squads' postseason accolades continued to flow in. The 2013 season alone boasted one AVCA All-America Honorable Mention, one AVCA All-Region First team selection, one AVCA All-Region Honorable Mention, one All-SSC First Team selection, two All-SSC Second Team selections, two SSC All-Newcomer Team selections, and three SSC Players of the Week. The performances of standouts Jaclyn Mailoto and Yaidimar Santiago also broke three Saint Leo all-time single season records.
The memorable 2009 season saw the Lions lay claim to a 30-4 final record and a Sunshine State Conference regular season title, proving to be the most successful season in Saint Leo history. In addition to sweeping the University of Tampa on the road and qualifying for their fourth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, Saint Leo advanced to the South Region Championship before ending their season with a loss to Tampa. Honored by his peers in the tough SSC as the 2009 Coach of the Year, Cibrone saw numerous individual honors get dished out, including an AVCA National Player of the Week, CoSIDA All-District Team, Daktronics All-Region Team, five All-Conference Team honors and AVCA All-Region awards. Cibrone capped the cherished season by seeing three players, including record-breaking setter Michelle Nogueras, earn All-America honors.
Following up a conference-championship season is always a challenge, especially when one loses the core group of players and assistant coaches that helped the team rise to new heights; but that is another area Cibrone faced head-on. Naming a new assistant coach and rebuilding prior to the 2010 season, Cibrone saw his 2010 and 2011 squads miss the NCAA Tournament by just one game. Despite the setbacks, he still managed to guide individuals to All-Conference and All-America honors, highlighting seasons that still saw success, even with lofty expectations.
2008 saw his team post a remarkable 29-11 record as they competed across the South Region and made their third straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Despite breaking even in conference play (8-8), the season was one of many 'firsts' as the Lions swept the Barry Buccaneers, defeated Florida Southern in their 61st try and won an NCAA Tournament match. It was a season that highlighted the Lions' upcoming success with Cibrone guiding three All-Americans that year.
In 2007, Cibrone guided the Lions to the most successful season up to that point as supporters began to take note of this highly competitive team. The Lions advanced to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive season and established a new program record for wins in a single season with 24, a mark that would only last a year. Cibrone saw his student-athletes take home a number of awards in the region and conference's Freshman of the Year.
Cibrone's 2006 team finished 21-11 overall and 8-8 in the Sunshine State Conference, tying for third-place in the highly-competitive league and winning 20 games for the first time ever, foreshadowing what was to come. As a result of the success, the Lions earned their first-ever bid to the NCAA Tournament.
In 2005 Cibrone led the Lions to a tie for fourth-place in the Sunshine State Conference with a .500 league record in his first year as head coach despite the fact that Saint Leo finished his first two seasons with sub-.500 records. The 2005 finish marked the first time the Lions/Monarchs managed to finish in the top-half of the SSC, solidfying Cibrone's leadership of Saint Leo Volleyball.
A well-recognized name in the Tampa Bay Area, Cibrone came to Saint Leo from Pasco-Hernando Community College where he was head coach for four years.
The native of Pittsburgh, Pa. posted a 137-43 record (.761 winning percentage) at PHCC and advanced to the Junior College National Tournament four straight years. His teams finished 15th in the nation in 2000, 13th in 2001, 11th in 2002 and 10th in 2003.
The Suncoast Conference named Cibrone Coach of the Year twice, while the NJCAA chose him District E National Coach of -the Year all four years he was at PHCC.
In addition to coaching and being a Study Skills instructor at Pasco-Hernando, Cibrone has been heavily involved with club volleyball. He is executive director of Tampa United Volleyball Academy in Tampa, Fla.
Prior to joining PHCC, Cibrone was head coach from 1996 to 1999 at Sickles High School in Tampa. He directed the program to an overall record of 53-10 (.841 winning percentage) and three consecutive state playoff appearances.
Cibrone graduated from Slippery Rock University (PA) in 1994 with a degree in Education (Social Sciences), and earned his master’s degree in Special Education from Slippery Rock University in 1996. The Lions' coach was a starting outside hitter at Slippery Rock on the men’s team for four years and also started four years at outside hitter at Perry Traditional Academy in Pittsburgh from 1985-89.
While serving in the coaching fraternity at Saint Leo University, Cibrone was selected into the first class of Leadership Saint Leo, an elite program designed to help develop the best aspiring leaders at Saint Leo. He graduated from the inaugural program in 2007.
In addition to coaching in the collegiate ranks, Cibrone is also a founder and executive director for the Tampa United Volleyball Club.
Cibrone is married to the former Jennifer Conrad and they have two children. The Cibrone family resides in Wesley Chapel.